How to Keep the Dog Poop Under Control in the Back Yard
Every time Ruby goes out to play, I feel compelled to say, “Watch out for caca!” It comes out as automatically and naturally as “Stop making that noise!” and “Clean up your mess!” Because even though I pick up after our big dog Viggo almost every day, I inevitably miss a hidden pile, and there’s no bigger drag than scooping dookie out of the treads of your kid’s shoe with a stick every time they go out to play. It’s not easy to keep the yard clear of dog poop, especially if you’ve got a pack.
Dog poop is classified as an environmental pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency, which estimates that the average dog excretes three-quarters of a pound of poop each day, adding up to about 274 pounds a year, give or take. Left in the yard, dog poo can pollute surface and ground water, attract flies and other pests, and stink your yard up to high hell. Worse, it can transmit parasites and infectious diseases to you and yours. Keeping the back yard poo-free is paramount for keeping your kids safe while they play.
Now, I’ve been picking up dog poo the same way for years: I use one plastic grocery bag as a glove and another as the receptacle, and I just go around the yard picking up the poo with the one hand and dumping it in the bag in the other. Thankfully, Viggo’s poop is generally firm, and I can usually get it all in one handful without leaving anything behind. The worst, though, is when it’s squishy or wet, and it smears the grass as I pick it up.
TMI? Maybe, it’s in my nature, but I’ll bet you can relate. My point is, what if there’s an easier way to control dog poop in the back yard that doesn’t feel like such an endless, thankless, odoriferous drag? Today, I’m curious about the different ways people go about keeping the dog poop under control in the back yard. I’m here to share my findings with you.
How to Pick Up Dog Poop
Basically, you have three options for lifting the dog poop up from the surfaces in your yard so that you can deposit it somewhere: Pick it up by hand, scoop it up with a pooper scooper, or vacuum it up.
Pick it up by hand.
What led me to this topic in the first place is that we stopped getting our groceries in plastic bags eons ago, and I’ve been using the several hundred million bags we’d saved up to that point for the dog poop duties. But my supply is dwindling, and I’m sure as heck not going back to our old “plastic, please” ways just to get free poop bags. So, if I decide to continue picking up poop by hand, I’ve sussed out my top three poop bag options:
These Eco-Clean biodegradable poop bags break down in the environment. Considering that America’s pet dogs produce 10.6 million tons of poop every year, even if only a quarter of dog owners use two plastic grocery bags a day to clean up poop in the yard, that’s 5.3 million plastic bags that won’t decompose for many, many decades heading to the landfill each year. These bags are inexpensive, unscented, and leak-proof, and best of all, they come with a lime-green, bone-shaped dispenser that you can clip to your leash or belt loop on walks.
These biodegradable and compostable poop bags are a little more expensive, but they’re called “Give a Sh!t,” so they’re kinda worth it. But srsly, they’re made from cornstarch, and if you decide to compost your dog poo, which we’ll discuss a little later in this article, they make easy work of picking up the poop and tossing it in the bin.
Finally, these fun biodegradable, unscented poop bags by BarkBox remind me of Hershey’s bars, which must be intentional. They have huge slogans on them, including “MAKE LOGS, NOT WAR!” and “DO YOUR CIVIC DOODY.” So that’s cute.
Scoop it up.
If you’d rather not get your hands anywhere near your dog’s fecal matter, your other option for picking it up is the ubiquitous pooper scooper. Here are some of the best-rated poop scoopers on Amazon:
The Doody Digger Pooper Scooper (3.8 out of 5 stars) is a single-component poop scooper that consists of a tube with a handle in the middle and a shovel-like shape on the business end. You attach any type of bag to the top end, scoop up the poop, and then raise the tube vertically to send the poo tumbling down into the bag. Now, my first thought is, Can this device handle hefty piles of poop from a 100-plus pound dog without the poop causing a traffic jam in the tube? Apparently so, according to purchasers. Not only that, but surprisingly, many report that the inside of the tube doesn’t become a putrid stink tunnel after a while. “And if it does,” says one reviewer, “just hose it out.” Well, okay, then.
This one-piece jaw scoop (4.3 out of 5 stars) is lightweight, and it picks up poop from all surfaces, including gravel and concrete. It’s made of durable, non-stick plastic. You simply position the jaggedy jaws over the poop and pull the smaller handle to close them around it. The poop comes up easily. You’ll need a receptacle to release the poop into, such as a bucket lined with a plastic bag.
This three-piece pooper scooper set (4.6 out of 5 stars) comes with a metal rake, flat shovel, and dustpan-like tray, all attached to adjustable, stainless steel handles that reach 38 inches in length, making it great for tall folks. It handles all jobs on all surfaces, it’s easy to hose down, and it won’t rust.
Vacuum it up.
I’m really only adding this one because I like to be thorough. Someone actually makes a cordless dog poop vacuum. The Pooch Power Shovel (2.8 out of 5 stars) boasts a 30,000-rpm motor that purportedly quickly suctions dog waste from grass, concrete, or snow. A plastic bag fits inside the canister and is positioned over the intake tube so that no poop touches any part of the vacuum. The reviews aren’t very good on this, mostly citing sucky suckage and a terrible battery life. This dog poop vacuum also requires the use of Pooch Power Shovel waste bags, which are ridiculously expensive.
How to Pick Up Runny Dog Poo
If your dog diarrheas in the yard, or the poop is too squishy to pick up without it schmearing everything it touches, you have a couple of options.
You wanna hear something really gross? (If not, skip this paragraph.) When Ruby was a baby, we’d wrap her diapers up and put them in the garbage. But guess who would dig them out and eat them? No, not Daddy. The dog. Viggo would go to great lengths to procure this tantalizing delicacy, and his diaper proclivity resulted in squishy, lumpy piles of dog poo swollen with the pulpy, poopy diaper filling. It was a truly disgusting sight to behold. We finally solved the problem with a heavy-duty, lidded trash can, but until we did, there were too many instances where picking up the poop meant scooping it up in big, gelatinous handfuls and dropping into the receptacle bag in hot, heavy dollops.
If only I’d known then what I know now about freezing poop.
Super Cold 134 freeze spray chills whatever it touches to -60 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s actually made for “diagnosing thermally intermittent faults in electronic device components,” whatever the hell that means, but spray it on soft or runny poop, and Super Cold 134 will turn that caca rock-hard in seconds, making it easy to pick up in one frozen, solid poopsicle.
Sometimes, it’s best to just point the jet sprayer at a pile of dog diarrhea and dilute the everlovin’ crap out of it. Just don’t do this near your vegetable garden or, say, in the sandbox.
How to Dispose of Dog Poop
If you pick up dog poop using non-biodegradable bags, your only real option for disposal is to toss the poo in the garbage, preferably the one outside. But that can cause quite a stink as the poo festers and sprouts big globules of maggots between trash pickups.
The best way to dispose of dog poop is any way that doesn’t involve a) letting it fester, grow maggots, and stink up the place or b) sending it to the landfill in a plastic grocery bag. (Guilty!) Here, then, are some other, more interesting—and more eco-friendly—options for disposing of dog poop.
Burying your dog’s poop puts it out of sight and out of mind. But you can’t just dig a hole and dump the poo in it, because it’ll leach into the soil and ground water. Instead, invest in a Doggie Dooley septic tank.
You simply bury the 16” x 16” x 18” tank in the ground up to the lid, which has a foot pedal for easy, hands-free opening. Then, you dump the poo in the tank, and add some Doggie Dooley digester powder each week to break it down and control the stank.
No, do not take the dog poop inside and flush it down the toilet. Rather, get this Doggie Doo Drain, and screw it into your three- or four-inch septic or sewer clean out.
When it’s time to dispose of the poop, remove the built-in plug, deposit the poop, and rinse it down the drain with the hose or a bucket of water.
The general rule of thumb I’ve always heard is that no, you can’t compost dog poop, what were you thinking? But that’s not what the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service says. In fact, they offer a handy brochure that lays out, step by step, exactly the right way to safely compost dog poo for use in the garden, although using it on plants you’re going to eat is not recommended. But it can shore up the soil in your flower beds to help your garden grow healthy and strong while keeping the doggy doo off the grass and out of the landfill.
In a nutshell, to compost dog poo, you need nitrogen-rich materials like the poo, green grass clippings, and vegetable scraps. These are also known as “green” or “wet” materials. You also need carbon-rich materials, such as sawdust, shredded newspaper, or fallen leaves. These are also known as “brown” or “dry” materials.
For every two parts of poo you dump in the compost bin, add one part of carbon, and mix thoroughly. Add a little water to moisten the mixture. Cover the bin, and soon, microbes will begin breaking down the organic materials (including the poop,) generating heat that ultimately kills the microbes in the poop. After a couple of weeks, the temperature of the compost will decline, and you’ll turn the entire pile so that what was on the outside of the pile is now on the inside, where it’ll heat up again to do its magic. Repeat this entire process for several cycles, until the compost won’t heat up any longer, which means it’s done. Move the compost to another bin and let it cure for about six months before using it.
Composting works best if you have several dogs, but you can certainly compost fewer dogs’ poo, as long as you add lots of carbon-rich materials (leaves, grass, newspaper) and bulk up the nitrogen-rich ingredients.
Here’s what you’ll need if you want to compost your dog poop (along with your kitchen scraps and yard waste):
A compost bin. A wire bin is ideal because it allows the most air to reach the compost, which results in higher temperatures and more thorough pathogen destruction. This small wire bin is ideal for composting a little bit o’ poo, but it comes in larger sizes in case you want a bigger compost pile. You can also build your own wire compost bin with some wood supports, a staple gun, and some wire fencing.
A compost thermometer, which has a 20-inch stem that you stick deep down into the compost to monitor the temperature.
A garden fork, like this five-tined manure fork, which you use to turn the compost.
A shovel to measure and add ingredients. This square point shovel will do the trick nicely.
Be sure to refer to the above-linked USDA-NRCS brochure to get the full picture so you can do it up right.
How to Keep Your Yard Poop-Free Always
Here are a few good ways to make sure you never again have to go around the back yard playing Easter Egg Hunt with your dog’s poo piles.
Follow your dog around when it’s time for him to lay cable.
Picking up fresh poop is stinkier than letting it age a little, but if you remain ever vigilant and pick it up immediately after your dog lays it down, you’ll always rest assured the yard is 100 percent poop-free at all times.
Walk your dog and let him drop the kids off on someone else’s lawn.
The other option for keeping your yard pristine and poo-free (and your body fit and trim) is to take the dog out for a walk right around poop time. Let him do his caca in someone else’s yard, right? Lolz. But seriously, for the love of God, be sure to clean up after your dog.
Train your dog to pinch his loaves in the same place every time.
Wouldn’t it be glorious if you could train your dog to do his poopin’ in the same spot every time, like over behind the shed or behind the bushes way in the back of the yard? Well, as the nature of the canine brain would have it, you can train Fido to poop in the same place every time. Depending on the age and breed of your dog, this training may be a piece of cake, or it may be a bit of an ordeal. Either way, success means that you only have to clean up one little area of the yard. Here’s what to do:
First, clean the whole yard so there’s no poop to be found anywhere. Soak the grass with a sprinkler, and hose down the sidewalks and patios. Decide where you want the poop zone to be. When it’s show time, put your dog on a leash, and walk him to the designated spot. Choose a command, such as “Go poo!” and use it consistently every time you take him out. As soon as he does his business, lavish him with treats, hugs, kisses, and praise.
Keep the first pile of poo in the designated spot. Next time he’s ready to go, walk him to the spot and let him sniff around for the old pile. He’ll poop, you’ll give him love and a treat. Repeat again and again and again. Once your dog becomes familiar with the drill, keep the area clean so he won’t have to step on his poop to get around, because he won’t, and the whole game will be over.
Now, since you’ll have to do this routine every single time your dog needs to poop, it’s a good idea to get a handle on his digestive schedule. Training your dog to poop in the same place each time may take a few weeks, or it may take a few months. But once he’s got it down, your life gets a whole lot easier.
Happy Poop Scooping!
So, what are you thinking? Are you going to change the way you manage the dog poop in the back yard? Or are you going to stick with your current methods? Let me know what works for you, and be sure to share all of your gross dog poop horror stories in the comments.