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June 6, 2010 7:41 PM   Subscribe

What's the best method of finding my dog's poop in a large field so that I can clean it up? Dog-motivated question, but I think the answer has more to do with something learned in Boy Scouts.

My dog often poops in a large field near our house that is owned by neighbors. I always do my best to clean it up because I appreciate that they let me use the field. Not only does their house overlook it, but they hay it during the summer and don't want feces in the hay. (So please don't answer that I should just pretend to pick it up.)

The problem is that my dog often runs ahead to do her bidness. By the time I catch up, she's moved on, and I have lost track of the exact spot she was at, and hence the poop as well. It sounds like I should be able to spot it, but it's harder than it sounds.

So I have two questions. First, what is the best strategy to keep track of a spot that is far away in a flat field of monotonous flora and too few features? No trees, no bare spots, etc. Second, if that strategy fails, what's the best search strategy? Right now I spiral out from where I thought the poop was but that never seems to work.

Thanks for your help!
posted by Tristram Shandy, Gentleman to Science & Nature (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Keep her leashed until she poops and then let her loose. That'll cut it down at least. My dog usually does it after 10 minutes walking
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:45 PM on June 6, 2010

take her out on a leash for this purpose.
posted by HuronBob at 7:47 PM on June 6, 2010

They make doggie diapers, if you're looking for 100% reliability there's that option.
posted by waxboy at 7:48 PM on June 6, 2010

What about some kind of infrared goggles? The poop should be warmer than the surroundings, yes? At least if you're there immediately?

I'm not sure how well they'd work, but here are some Homemade Infrared Goggles for under $10. They are not meant to be night vision only, as far as I can tell, but you apparently have to be careful not to look directly at the sun.
posted by amtho at 7:54 PM on June 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

Look for flies.
posted by dws at 8:04 PM on June 6, 2010

Seconding to keep her leashed until she goes. At least then you'll have a fairly good idea of distance and direction.
posted by desuetude at 8:23 PM on June 6, 2010

Seconding DIY infrared goggles.
posted by thylacine at 8:35 PM on June 6, 2010

Those IR goggles are awesome. But the poop would have to be way, way hot to see it glowing brightly. If that's the case, you've got way bigger problems with the dog than finding her poop.
posted by 6550 at 9:19 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Those DIY IR goggles are gonna be useless. They 'work' (if they work at all) by blocking visible light - your eyes become dark-adapted, and then occasionally an odd near-IR photon may trip the odd receptor protein in your eye.

An incandescent light may put out enough NIR to do it; warm dog shit won't.
posted by Pinback at 10:26 PM on June 6, 2010

Keep the dog on leash until she poops, or ideally, have her go before you take her to the field.

You're a guest. Appreciate that privilege. You wouldn't drop a deuce in your neighbor's living room, and you shouldn't let your dog do so in their field ever, let alone "often". You're only allowed to be there because they let you, so have some respect.

The only thing I learned in the Boy Scouts that would be applicable was patrolling a campsite--getting the whole troop to line up an arm's length apart and walking across the site a minimum of twice. If you don't have enough people to cover the site, you can't do it responsibly.
posted by DarkSock at 11:50 PM on June 6, 2010

I really think the op is looking for creative and/or scientific ways to systematically scan a large area for a small object, not for critiques of his dog ownership.

TS,G, could you tie a long piece of yarn or string to your dog, keeping the other end with you? Then at least you'd have a sort-of trail to follow, and thus an idea of where to narrow down your search.

Some kind of LoJack-y thing attached to her collar? Maybe stick your iPhone in a doggy backpack, and activate the whatever-feature-it-is that lets you see where it's physically located? Anywhere that the signal stops for more than a few seconds would be a good place to look.

In my experience, dogs tend to return to one small-ish area for their bidness. So (assuming people don't actually use this field on a regular basis), maybe you could wait until there is a build-up of poopies. Then you could crisscross the field in a pattern, like they do on crime scene shows, to find the (s)pot(s) of gold all at once.

Some dogs, like my beagle, have a built-in flag at the end of their tails, specifically for the purpose of seeing them in a field during a hunt. So you could tie something very visible to your dog's collar (a helium balloon?), although I think that has the potential of freaking her the heck out, but who knows.

Get someone to watch from the second floor of a nearby house, and radio down to you the location of where she stops?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:59 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

What about something like a bright yellow bean bag, maybe with a longish streamer attached. When the dog stops, you throw it as close as you can, then use that as your start point for the spiral search.
posted by CathyG at 6:33 AM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

You could just follow your dogs path exactly until you find the poop. But CathyG's solution seems to be a winner as well. Although the simplest and most guaranteed way to do this would be to keep the dog on a leash until he/she does his/her business as other have said.
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:17 AM on June 7, 2010

On leash until the dog has done its business is the simplest solution.
posted by zippy at 8:01 AM on June 7, 2010

At the dog park, which is several acres, we all run to the spot as soon as we notice our dog squatting. Also, since we tend to hang out in a group, if the owner can't find the poop, the other group members will try to direct the finder so maybe take some one with you?

Some times I can locate by smell. I also have trained my dog to find things and I will elicit her help as well (with varing success).

We also practice conservation of poop. If you can't find your own dog's poop, pick up other poop. Maybe you can walk around and look for litter or old poop?
posted by rachums at 9:00 AM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

I wanted to add, my advice above is not a critique, but rather what I think is the easiest solution. The dog I know gets the pooping over with in the first 5 minutes of the walk. So walking on leash so you can find the poop means a few minutes on leash and then free.
posted by zippy at 11:52 AM on June 7, 2010

Are you sure there are no ways to differentiate the sea of grasses? At least in summer time can you keep checking a hummock or certain flower or something to keep your "heading" (a la a boater's navigational system?).

Your scouting and spiral comment make me think you're looking for search and rescue patterns.

Here are six different search patterns for marine search and rescue, other links came up using a google search for "search and rescue patterns". Maybe they'll help you rescue that dog poop!
posted by ldthomps at 12:44 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

If only there were a way to get dogs to ingest fluorescent sprinkles! (Note: Do not try this at home. But one of my cats ate some tinsel once, and ... sparkly poop.)
posted by vickyverky at 12:58 PM on June 7, 2010

Thanks, CathyG, SuperSquirrel, everyone else that offered answers my question. The ball and streamer approach is innovative. I'll have to get one that's washable just in case :)

Keeping her on lesh is a way to avoid the problem, yes, but she'll occasionally poop twice, with a break in between, and I'm back to square one. And, gee, I consider the ethics admonishment/lesson on using the field a derail. My neighbors know I use it and are ok with it. Clearly I care about my use of the field otherwise I wouldn't post the question. I often (almost always) find the pop but I feel I am wasting a lot of time looking for it. (@dws: thanks for the noise. very helpful.)
posted by Tristram Shandy, Gentleman at 8:30 AM on June 8, 2010

Also, the search and rescue patterns are worth a try!
posted by Tristram Shandy, Gentleman at 8:31 AM on June 8, 2010

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