Note: This post was updated July 2014.
I understand loving your dog so much you want to have a keepsake when they’re gone. But does it really have to be their poop?
If you don’t want dog poop as a keepsake, what is the most convenient, affordable, and environmentally responsible way to deal with it?
Dog Poop 101
Okay, let’s go back a step to make sure we’re all in the same place.
Everyone has a poop management system so they’re not leaving their dog’s waste on the sidewalks or trails on a walk and a way to clean up your backyard if you have one. Right?
Because if you don’t, I don’t want to be your friend anymore.
No, that’s not true. I’ll still be your friend. But friends don’t let friends be a poop punk. And I will nag, beg, even click and treat to make you scoop and dispose of your dog’s poop responsibly.
If you don’t know why you should scoop, check out Sugar the Golden Retriever’s 5 Reasons Why You Should Scoop Your Dog’s Poop. She’s more concise than I am.
But you’re a smart bunch. So let’s go onto the advanced material.
Get Rid of the Poop After You Scoop
I’m the eco-Nazi Fox News warns you about.
So besides getting rid of my car, buying nearly everything used, and questioning American food production, I’ve spent many years pondering dog poop. Specifically, what is the best way to get rid of it without damaging the environment?
I know several ways to get rid of dog poop and they all have pros and cons.
Revenge Poop Disposal
My aunt became so frustrated with a neighbor who let his dog poop on her lawn that she picked it up in a plastic bag and smeared it all over the neighbor’s door knob. I hear that setting dog poop on fire is another popular revenge technique but I have no family members (that I know of) with firsthand knowledge.
Pros – You only need to do this once to eliminate dog poop from your neighbor’s dog.
Cons – It doesn’t help you get rid of your own dog’s poop. At least not if you don’t want to end up in jail.
Picking Up Poop in Reused Plastic Bags
This method is where most of us start—reusing plastic grocery bags. Just pick up poop and transport it to the nearest garbage can.
Pros – It’s the easiest way to pick up and get rid of dog poop. In some places, plastic bags are plentiful and you can often borrow one from someone else if you forget yours.
Cons – As I noted above, you’re preserving poop forever in layers of conventional plastic buried in a landfill. And some communities are banning plastic bags which will make them harder to find in the future. Finally, we only put out garbage once every month or two. You don’t want to know what two months of dog poop smells like in the summer.
Picking Up Poop in Biodegradable Bags
Many municipalities suggest biodegradable dog waste bags(affiliate) are the best way to get rid of dog poop while still not being perfect. It gets the poop (and its bacteria) off the ground and away from the water supply and will, hopefully, break down in a million years instead of the billion years it will take a conventional bag.
Pros – It’s as easy as using conventional bags. Perhaps easier, since some pet supply companies are packaging them in convenient carrying cases. And if you pair your poop bags with biodegradable trash bags, you’re increasing the likelihood of it breaking down in the landfill. Someday.
Cons – You have to pay for them, unlike grocery bags (although you pay for them too in the cost of your groceries). And in terms of breaking down in a landfill, they probably don’t make a huge difference.
Throwing Poop Into the Woods
When I was a child, my mother taught the dog to only poop in the woods. Clever, huh?
Some people with rural acreage will fling poop into the woods so they can enjoy their yard. But is that a good idea?
The Greenville County South Carolina Soil and Water Conservation District claims that the natural ecosystem can break down the waste of two canines per square mile. So if you and your rural neighbors all do the same thing, you may be overwhelming nature’s ability to break down the waste.
Oh, and if the nearest woods is across Central Park West in Manhattan, it might be a bit antisocial to fling poop across lanes of moving traffic.
Pros – It sounds kinda fun to fling poop over the fence. And if you’re a hockey fan, you could even use the turd burglar to increase your scoring skills.
Cons – If you’re located near water, you may still be contributing to bacterial pollution in local drinking water. Nature is unprepared to deal with the amount of waste your dog generates. And it doesn’t score you many points to tell your admirers you got those awesome guns from flinging heavy shovels full of poop over the fence.
Composting Dog Poop
Our local dog park composts dog waste at a commercial facility. The resulting compost comes back to the dog park to cover the ground around newly planted trees.
Our multi-stream recycling program allows us to recycle nearly everything. Food waste is picked up from local restaurants and the farmer’s market for composting. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before we can buy compostable dog waste bags and have them picked up curbside.
But in the meantime, some people choose to compost their dog poop at home. The folks at LowCarbonHome posted a video of how they created a home composting system.
You can also buy a kit such as the Doggie Dooley 3000 Septic-Tank-Style Pet-Waste Disposal System (affiliate link). I bought a Doggie Dooley when I lived in Philadelphia but was not able to use it since the instructions (not found on the outside of the box) said it had to be installed in a four-foot hole surrounded by well amended soil. I didn’t want to risk it in our small yard with clay soil so we returned the product.
Pros – Composting at a commercial facility is ideal. If your dogs poop mainly in your yard, a home composting system takes only a little more work than tossing poop in the trash while keeping the smell down.
Cons – If you don’t have commercial composting facilities in your community, it will probably take hundreds of thousands of dollars to build one. And even a home system isn’t ideal if you still have to bring poop home from a walk in plastic bags that then have to be thrown away anyway.
Flushing Your Dog’s Poop
I knew this was the best method of getting rid of my dog’s poop for years before I actually did it.
I live in town and have city water and sewer. The city water system is set up to deal with bacteria in poop. They are accountable to the health department who publishes tests of local water quality.
But if your dog does most of her pooping on a walk, how do you get it home to your toilet? A plastic pail and shovel work when your dog has no trace of diarrhea. You just dump the poop and disinfect the bucket.
But carrying a leash, treats, a bucket, and a shovel is a bit much. If your dog ate a bit of rubbish, you have a big mess on your hands. And that’s before adding in a foster dog or two.
Flush Doggy bags are made from polyvinyl alcohol, the material used to make the kid’s toy, Slime. It breaks down in water, but not before you get your dog’s poop home from even a long walk.
I love them. They’re convenient, cheaper than paying for trash (Ithaca charges $3.50 to dispose of a bag of trash), and they work great with my toilet and septic system (I don’t even own a plunger, so that let’s you know how well they work for me).
Pros – As convenient as any plastic bags and cost-effective if you pay for trash removal. You can order samples to try before you buy (click the affiliate link in the sidebar to visit Flush Doggy).
Cons – Only recommended for use with city sewer systems, not private septic. Can cause plumbing problems if you have tree roots clogging your pipes (but if you do, get it fixed!) or if your toilet trap has an awkward shape.
The Best Way for YOU to Get Rid of Dog Poop
Who’d have thought something so soft, squishy, and smelly could cause so many problems?
I’ve outlined the most common options above along with the pros and cons as I see them. But you’ll make your choice based on convenience, cost, whether your dog is large or small, whether you live in a city or rural area, or dozens of other considerations.
But make a smart and careful decision about how to get rid of your dog’s poop.
Because when we reach our goal of becoming a no-kill nation where every dog has a home of his own, we could find ourselves drowning in dog poop.
Note: Some of the links are affiliate links which means I’ll earn a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking the link. I only recommend products I have or would be willing to use myself. Thank you for your support.