Faith WoodWhen my husband and I set out to find a new home in a new community, we were delighted to buy a wonderful acreage that backed onto a municipal trail head.

It seemed perfect. Since I work from home, I’d be able to get a daily walk in without ever having to jump into the vehicle and head to a dog-friendly area.

That was before we started walking the trails. They’re certainly beautiful, unpaved, rustic and tree-lined (also weedy in places, but that simply adds to the ambiance) – and, unfortunately, they’re covered in dog feces.

Working on fence repairs has become an exercise in careful manoeuvering to avoid stepping on the offending matter that was left for someone else to cope with.

Every municipality seems to have a similar challenge. Signs are everywhere imploring people to pick up after their dog. Sponsors often donate bags that are available on trails to make removal swift and pain free. Yet somehow it seems to accumulate and linger beyond the best-before date.

I might be talking about the trail behind my house, but lots of neighbours seem to have issues with yard accumulations, sidewalk spotting and front lawn adoration as well.

I’ve spotted signs threatening to take neighbours to court with video surveillance. Now that’s frustration.

Having come from the city where, for 15 years, I worked as an enforcement officer listening to all those complaints about irresponsible pet owners, I’m perhaps a bit more aware of this problem than most. If you want to have bad neighbour relationships, this is a great way to initiate it.

It’s a fascinating foray into the human psyche to attempt to understand what leads otherwise responsible people to treat the environment with this level of disregard.

Is it entertaining to leave the feces for another pet to roll in?

And what about the folks who bag it and then refuse to put it in the waiting garbage can, tossing it aside instead (or simply leaving it where the offence occurred). I don’t get it – isn’t the dirty work done already?

Perhaps these are the same folks who throw their fast-food bags out on the highway assuming that someone else ought to be paid to clean up for them.

I’m a dog lover. I’ve always had dogs. I get it, they poop a lot!

However, it truly takes seconds to clean up. So why don’t you?

I hate it when I see dog poop in the middle of the path.

(I also hate it when non-dog owners assume that all dog owners just leave their dog’s mess behind.)

After walking through the landmines in my area today, I thought I’d surf the Internet to see what others had to say about this annoying pet problem that creates conflict in their neighbourhoods.

I was shocked by the sheer volume of posts on this subject. There was even some quoted research (it seems you can get credits for researching nearly anything these days).

Here’s what I found out:

  • The earlier in the day, the less likely people were to make the effort to bag it.
  • Some hypothesize that people who pick up their dog’s poop in crowded places do so only because they want to be seen as responsible dog owners.
  • Some owners pretend to be absorbed in a phone call, chat with companion or look at the scenery so they can avoid ever detecting that their dog had a poop.
  • Some don’t pick up because they forgot a bag and the bin at the entrance was empty.
  • Some folks will pick up the feces but then grow weary and simply throw the bag on the ground, on someone’s lawn or right next to the trash can even if it isn’t full.
  • Then there are those who pick up the poop and dispose of it appropriately.

Sadly, no one seems to have discovered a fail-safe way to address the problem.

Clearly signs don’t work; threats of video surveillance aren’t effective; handing the culprit a bag from your own pocket only works if you witness the event (and they don’t run away); and bylaw enforcement is hit or miss due to identification challenges and actually being present when the offence occurs.

So, although it’s socially unacceptable to leave your feces behind, apparently there are still plenty of dog owners who couldn’t care less. Perhaps we should resort to begging.

Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. 

© Troy Media

dog poop

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.