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Posted on Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 11 a.m.

Spring thaw may reveal negligence in dog duty - cleaning up pet waste a difficult but necessary task even in winter

By John Spieser

Bradley Gordon.jpg

It might get buried now, but it'll be there when spring rolls around!

Photo by Bradley Gordon, courtesy of Flickr

Although it barely seems plausible right now, if Mother Nature performs with any degree of consistency, in a few weeks we will likely experience quite a melt off from all of this snow. Along with all of the compelling spring-like energy this annual event brings, and the desire to finally “look up” while you're walking along, relishing the balmy breeze on your cheeks....

it may behoove you to continue looking down and watch where you step!

I know, I know: “I always bring a bag (or three) and clean up after my dog.” “It disgusts me how lax other people are about their dogs poop!” Everyone claims it's the other guy to blame. (If you really are a die-hard poop-scooper, I commend you and thank you!)

I think that the real truth is that, for many of us, cleaning up after the dog does become more difficult in the wintertime. The snow, the cold, as well as the human tendency to rationalize our behavior, result in a higher percentage of missed or shrugged-off bowel bombs. My favorite line is, “It will disappear with the snow.” But, as we all know deep down, it doesn't disappear!

No, it's not like the movie Envy in which Jack Black portrays a man who invents a spray that magically makes poop vanish; all the snow does is preserve it. This sets the stage for a fecal fiasco come early spring when winter's treasures are revealed, posing a serious health risk to ourselves and our dogs.

I remember a couple of years ago, I was doing a training session in a neighborhood in town. I had to call off the training because of the amount of dog waste that was littering the edges of the sidewalk and flowing with the melt. I refuse to work with a dog in that environment.

Meanwhile, it being mid-afternoon, kids were filing down the street, heading home from school. They were doing what kids do with their spring fever energy: chasing one another, running and splashing through puddles, giggling with joy! I must admit, it gave me the willies.

I don't want to lay a heavy guilt trip on anyone, but if you are reading this and know that you've been guilty of leaving your dog's waste layered into the snow in a public area, it's not too late to retrain yourself to be a conscientious “canine's good citizen.”

Just get a handful of plastic bags, stick 'em in the pocket of every coat, set some next to the back door, or tie a few onto the end of the leash. Remembering bags is more than half the battle!

For night walks, a pocket flashlight can be helpful.

If you have a child who is supporting the family's dog care, then teach him or her about the importance of cleaning up, and set a good example.

Also, if misbehavior is interfering with clean-up, consider training your dog to a sit/wait so that you can pick up safely and without interruption.

If you do find yourself out there without bags and your dog does the deed, well, don't just pretend it didn't happen. Make a mental note of the spot, and use it as an opportunity to extend your dog's walk and swing back home to get some bags.

I know it's slippery, sloshy, blustery or bitterly cold at times, and none of us are perfect. But just remember, those spring crocuses will look a lot prettier without the added fertilizer!

John Spieser is a professional dog trainer and owner of Dogheart. He can be reached at


John Spieser

Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 6:04 p.m.

@John B, I looked into your question by contacting the Scio twp office and Washtenaw environmental health. Both were a bit baffled by my inquiry and the answer is that there is nothing specific on the books. Looks like this is one that, by default, gets passed on to neighborhoods and neighbors. @Lorrie, I have been in your "shoes" and a lot of people don't understand that this can become a real business impedement for people who earn their living by providing care for dogs.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 11:07 p.m.

Picking up is fundamental to community health. We pick up after our own and the miscreants who don't. I can always find our dogs' poop because I pay close attention to where they deposit it. On bad days I may not see the others because I am legally blind. On good days it gets picked up! I do not want to step in it later or have my dogs or anyone else get sick. Our dog walkers are pretty good. There is a park in our neighborhood with homes flanking it. Some of the homeowners let their dogs into the park unattended. It would be nice if they followed to clean up "Bowsers" business. Thank you Jon & Liz for reminding people of the accumulated incriminating evidence of their neglect.


Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 1:27 a.m.

Great article. To my neighbors at Woodbury Gardens -- it is a privilege to have a dog in an apartment complex. And it is spelled out very clearly in your lease that you must clean up after your dog. And that does not mean you can then walk your dog in the adjoining public parks instead and not clean up. There are bags provided FOR FREE throughout the walking routes. To the 95 percent of my neighbors who clean up after their dogs like I do with mine, thank you! To the 5 % who do not, you are not only making it disgusting for the rest of us, but potentially putting ALL dog owners in this apartment complex at risk if it continues...that includes those folks in the Townhouses on Astor that just let their dog out the front door and turn a blind eye while they do their business in the front yard (rain, snow, or sun). Please clean up your dog's mess.

Steve Burling

Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 10:26 p.m.

I'm getting ready to install surveillance camera in an attempt to identify, and eventually shame, the dog owner whose (apparently good-sized) dog has left us a large number of "gifts" this winter...


Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 9:59 p.m.

Pick up the poop so I don't, on my shoes! By the way it's dog doodie not duty. Ha Ha


Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 9:50 p.m.

People who don't clean up after their dogs.....makes me want to go to their houses, use their bathrooms and not flush.

Lorrie Shaw

Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 9:33 p.m.

As a dog walker, I see a lot of waste on sidewalks and the like and there is no excuse. I always keep a stash of waste bags in my vehicle and a few in my pockets due to the nature of my work - and because I'm a dog owner. I would think that there is nothing more embarrassing than not being "prepared". I was reading the other day that other people have a tendency to be more friendly to the person on the other end of the leash if there is an empty poop bag that's visible. I would have to agree. Great topic, John.


Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 7:48 p.m.

If you can't take responsibility and invest the time required to take care your pets properly you shouldn't have them. Same goes for kids I suppose.

John B.

Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 7:07 p.m.

Well said. As a long-time dog owner that always cleans up after my dogs, well, you know, it really irks me when others don't. Plus it can (rightfully) anger non-dog owners towards dog owners in general. In my neighborhood, it's only perhaps 5-10% of the people that don't clean up consistently (or at all), but that makes it difficult for everyone else, and in the Winter that means it really 'piles' up.... John, what are the applicable laws about this, and whom should we call to report flagrant violators? I am in Scio Twp.


Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

This should serve as a reminder to all pet owners that we have a responsibility to look after our pets. It's important to remember that we share public spaces with others and to leave them in the same (or better) condition that we found them. The area surrounding the playground at Carpenter school is one area where the failure of dog walkers to clean up after their pets creates a bad situation for children who play there.