5 Rules of Picking Up Dog Poop

I asked a professional pooper scooper to help me put together these rules of etiquette for dealing with dog poop. Picking it up is just the beginning.

Wendy Newell  |  Apr 7th 2015


As a dog sitter, I clean up a lot of poop. I’m always in awe of the amount one dog can produce. And, my daily multi-dog hikes can’t even get going until everyone has spent the necessary time finding and utilizing the perfect poop spot.

Because of my occupation, I consider myself a poop expert. Turns out, there are actual animal-waste specialists who know far more than I do. I asked Timothy Stone, co-founder and treasurer of aPaws: The Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists, to help me put together these rules of etiquette for picking up dog poop.

1. Always pick it up

Seems fairly obvious, and yet we all know dog owners who choose not to exercise this common courtesy. Somewhere in my neighborhood, there is a pup who seems to only find release on my front yard, and his owner consistently skips the “pickup.”

If you regularly ignore this rule, and often the law, consider why it’s important to pick poop up in the first place.

The most important issue is sanitary cleanliness,” Timothy explains. “Next would be the higher concentration of parasites like giardia, roundworm, hookworm, and all those other intestinal worms [that can accumulate in areas where poop is not picked up]. Pet waste also has an effect on groundwater from urban runoff and can contaminate it if left unattended.”

I say pick it up because poop is disgusting. I don’t want to walk down a sidewalk or trail and smell an offending odor, only to realize I’ve stepped in your dog’s mess and will now have a reminder of your poor poop manners for the rest of my walk. Don’t even get me started on the pups who stay with me who like to eat poop they find on the trail. Gag!

2. Responsibly dispose of poop

So, how exactly should a person responsibly dispose of dog waste, I asked Timothy.

“The greenest way to dispose of dog waste would be to compost it and throw it in your garden,” he says. “However, due to the chemical makeup of dog waste and the associated parasites, this would be detrimental to plants. That being said, you should check with your local municipalities as to the preferred method of pet waste disposal. Most scoopers simply bag it and throw it in the trash can. As for biodegradable bags, due to recent FTC rulings, no plastic bags in the U.S. can be classified as biodegradable.”

Honestly, I’m just happy if you pick it up. Where it goes after that is of little concern to me. I read once that the best way to dispose of your dog’s poop is by flushing it down the toilet. I suppose this is true, but I’m afraid with the amount of poop my guests produce I’d have the plumber on speed dial.

3. Deal with diarrhea by preventing it

Timothy offered these tips for dealing with the dreaded loose stool.

“The best way to deal with loose stool is to avoid it to begin with by keeping your pet healthy and feeding him healthy foods,” he recommends. “Once that ship has sailed, what we do is sprinkle a little dirt or sand on it before scooping it up.”

That’s really great advice there. Solid good person, that Timothy, doing the right thing, offering suggestions. I say run, and I realize that makes me not the Emily Post of poop.

4. Pick up and dispose of poop even when in the great outdoors

When hiking, can you just kick it over the side, I asked Timothy.

“When you’re out on the trail, the old adage ‘pack it in, pack it out’ also applies to pet waste,” he says. “You don’t want to hang it in the bushes like some folks do. That’s just plain rude.”

I agree with Timothy, you have to pick it up. I realize it doesn’t seem fair that the coyotes, squirrels (I’ve never seen squirrel poop, that I know if, but I assume they do poop somewhere), and horses don’t have to have a human following them around and scooping up their excrement, placing it in a hand-dandy plastic bag that they pulled out of a plastic bone-shaped container, but life isn’t fair. The sooner you accept that, the better off you will be!

5. Seek professional help if necessary

If you need to hire a professional to help with picking up your dog’s poop, do so!

“The best time to call in a pro is when you’re sick of picking it up, you don’t have the time to pick it up, you’re too lazy to pick it up,” Timothy says, adding “or due to health reasons, like a bad back or gag reflex when dealing with dog poop.”

What he said.

Let’s hear from you, readers. Do you always pick up after your dog? If not, why not? Do you have neighbors who turn your yard into a poop minefield? Please share your stories, as well as any other etiquette rules or tips for picking up poop, in the comments.

Read more about dog poop on Dogster:

About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.