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How Do Dogs Help the Environment? Vet-Verified Facts & How to Join Them

Written by: Elizabeth Gray

Last Updated on July 3, 2024 by Dogster Team

beagle dog walking with her owner

How Do Dogs Help the Environment? Vet-Verified Facts & How to Join Them


Dr. Ashley Darby Photo


Dr. Ashley Darby

BVSc (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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We know that owning dogs has many physical, social, and emotional benefits for people, but how do our canine friends impact the world around them? Unfortunately, dogs can negatively impact the environment in several ways, which we’ll touch on briefly in this article.

Thankfully, some dogs are working to balance the equation by helping save threatened plant and animal species. Keep reading to learn how dogs help the environment and the steps you can take to make pet ownership more sustainable and earth-friendly.

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How Pets Harm the Environment

According to a 2017 research paper, dogs (and cats) contribute to climate change through their eating habits.1 Producing meat for pet food increases greenhouse gas emissions in the United States significantly. Dog feces can also pollute water sources and carry parasites and diseases.

In addition, dogs are known to have a disruptive impact on local birds and wildlife, even when kept on a leash. The mere presence of a dog can scare away birds, for example.2 Dogs are thought to have caused extinction, threatened status, or potential harm to almost 200 species.3

bluetick coonhound dog standing on grass outdoor
Image Credit: Mary Swift, Shutterstock

So How Are Dogs Helping the Environment?

Thankfully, some dogs are making up for their species’ damage to the environment. Here are a few ways dogs make the world a better place.

1. Saving Endangered Species

Researchers often use dogs to help them obtain accurate population counts of threatened wildlife species.4 Several conservation groups train dogs to sniff out poop from multiple species to help scientists determine how many are living in a particular area.

By searching for the feces instead of the animals, the dogs can keep disruptions to a minimum.

2. Finding Invasive Species

Dogs can also be trained to sniff out invasive plants, insects, fish, and wildlife species. Invasive species compete with native species for resources and can threaten local ecosystems. Well-trained detection dogs can even smell weeds before they pop out of the soil!

3. Tracking Poachers

The illegal wildlife trade is a lucrative global business that threatens multiple species and has ties to other crimes like weapons trafficking. Dogs play a crucial role in protecting wildlife from poachers and other environmental criminals.

They can sniff out the tools of the illegal wildlife trade, from weapons to snares. Dogs can also quickly find illegal items like ivory so they can be confiscated. Some dogs can track the poachers through rough terrain to prevent them from killing more wildlife.

Anti poaching dog and handler
Image Credit: Etienne Outram, Shutterstock

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How Can Dog Owners Make the World a Better Place?

As a dog owner, here are some steps you can take to reduce the environmental impact of your pet.

1. Pick Up After Your Dog

You can reduce the amount of pet waste in the environment by picking up after your dog. When you do, you can use a compostable pet waste bag. This helps decrease the number of plastic bags in landfills.

2. Choose Sustainable Pet Products

As the pet product market has exploded globally, our choices as dog owners have never been richer. One way to help the environment as a dog owner is to purchase sustainable pet products.

If possible, avoid buying plastic toys. Instead, look for recycled, green, and biodegradable items. You can also shop for products that use recyclable or compostable packaging materials. Even better, you can repurpose your household materials into homemade pet toys.

3. Make Better Dog Food Choices

As we learned, the pet food industry contributes significantly to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Dog owners can reduce this impact by looking for brands that use sustainable protein sources, like fish or insects!

They can also select companies that prioritize sustainability throughout their production process. One simple way to reduce waste is to not overfeed your dog.

Obesity is a chronic problem in American pets, and giving your dog less food is healthier for them and the planet. However, before you change your dog’s portions, check with your veterinarian to confirm the proper amount.

beagle dog having treats
Image Credit: Artsiom P, Shutterstock

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Like humans, dogs can have a destructive impact on the natural world. However, canines and their owners can take steps to reduce their carbon footprint and help the environment in more hands-on ways. You and your dog might not be tracking poachers in Africa, but you can still do your part to make the world a better place.

Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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