Where’s A Pup to Poop?

What's proper etiquette for neighborhood walks?
By Caitlin Crawshaw, January 2009
Where should dog poop on walks

While returning home from a dog walk one night, I spotted a woman loitering outside of my house. Since I didn’t have my glasses on, it took me a moment to realize she had a Shih Tzu on an extendi-leash pacing back and forth across my lawn, as he chose the perfect place to poop.

I called out to her just as her dog squatted down to do the deed. “Excuse me, is he going to the bathroom on my lawn?”

I had to repeat this a second time before the woman turned to acknowledge me. “Oh, this is your house?”

I was incredulous: Did it really matter whose house it was? It was my house. In fact, I’m a new homeowner still busting with pride—and I was right there! I never allow Truman do his business on people’s lawns, especially not in a neighborhood like mine, with all kinds of public parks. In fact, my own house backs onto a large park, and if she’d turned the corner, her dog would have had blocks of greenery on which to do his thing.


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“No harm, no foul,” she said dismissively, pulling out a plastic bag. I paused for a second, hoping for an apology, before correcting her.

 “No,” I said, attempting to be diplomatic. “This is my home, this is my lawn, so don’t ever do this again. I don’t let my dog do that on someone’s front lawn. That’s really rude!”

“I’ve picked it up, relax,” she spat.

I felt my grip tightening on the leash as she slowly sauntered down the street. Truman, my Shepherd-cross, growled in solidarity.

My neighbor and I aren’t the first to get into an altercation over dog doo. Last fall, a 47-year-old Washington woman named Linda May Johnson went to trial after being charged with trespassing, harassment and disorderly conduct. She had allegedly allowed her two miniature poodles, Ollie and Hershey, to poop on her neighbors’ lawn, repeatedly. The neighbor, who’d frequently asked the woman to let her dogs poop elsewhere—and who’d been verbally berated as a result—was also a dog owner, but disagreed with Johnson’s assessment that the first few feet of her lawn were actually public property.

Unfortunately, the judge dismissed the case. During an interview with The Washington Post, Johnson said she’s considering filing a formal complaint against the police service and suing her neighbor.

These struggles aren’t limited to regular folk. According to TMZ.com, comedian Dane Cook was evicted in September from a West Hollywood apartment after failing to pick up his Miniature Pinscher’s droppings. That same month, Adrianne Curry—of “America’s Next Top Model” fame—filed a restraining order against a woman whose dog was decorating her lawn. Of course, the woman—whom Curry accuses of stalking her—had also allegedly posted creepy messages on Curry’s MySpace page and even sent her a pair of designer shoes in her favorite colors. (I hope she checked inside them before putting them on.)

If you raise the subject of dog-break etiquette in a mixed crowd, you’ll probably hear everything from moral outrage to tolerance. But whatever side you’re on, it’s probably best to err in the direction of the curb. Next time Mr. Boggles yanks you towards your neighbor’s begonias, why not give the leash a tug and lead him toward the road or sidewalk? Better yet, reward your dog for pooping in a particular spot, and he’ll quickly comprehend that there are some places he can go and others he can’t. Conflict averted.

And for those who suffer rage blackouts when your neighbor and her canine companion dump on your turf, take a deep breath and zip it. Do you really want to make an enemy out of the nut-bar next door?

Bark Off: Is scooped poop different than no poop at all? Is the edge of a lawn better than the middle? Be honest, as a dog-person, a lawn-lover or both: Share your best and worst neighborhood pet waste experiences.


Photo: Bianca Ackermann / Unsplash

Caitlin Crawshaw is an award-winning Canadian freelance writer and animal lover, whose articles have appeared online and in newspapers and magazines across North America.

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