Should I pick up other dogs' poop while walking my dogs?
November 1, 2012 1:23 PM   Subscribe

Should I pick up other dogs' poop while walking my dogs? I pick up my own dogs' poop but I don't pick up other poops when I am on walks. Am I being clueless when I step over another dog's poop without picking it up?

While out walking today, an angry woman ran out of her house in her bathrobe to demand that I pick up poop on the sidewalk in front of her house. I was already a few houses away but I started to walk back towards her so I could hear what she was saying.

I told her that it wasn't from my dogs, pointed to the big roll of orange dog poop bags dangling from my leash, and let her know that I pick up all my dogs' poop the second it comes out. If I ever run out of bags, I walk all the way back with a bag later to get it.

I was just about to pick it up out of courtesy when she started accusing me of lying, how my dogs had been lingering there and it was obviously their poop. I explained that it wasn't mine and went on my way because I don't like dealing with crazy people pointing at a dried up old poo and yelling.

My question is about etiquette--is it wrong for me to just walk past another dog's poop without picking it up? I stepped right over the one in question today without a thought. There isn't a huge problem in my neighborhood but you still stray poops around.

I don't even think about it for some reason, I'm sort of concentrating on my own dogs. If there's one right next to my own dogs' poop, I'll grab it too but I don't tear off a new poop bag for every poop I pass. Am I being impolite? I don't want to be rude.
posted by dottiechang to Pets & Animals (35 answers total)
Fuck the heck? No way are you expected to pick up foreign poo.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:26 PM on November 1, 2012 [12 favorites]

My question is about etiquette--is it wrong for me to just walk past another dog's poop without picking it up?

Absolutely not. This woman was crazy.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:26 PM on November 1, 2012 [21 favorites]

I never pick up poop from other dogs. I only bring enough supplies for us, I'm not equipped to help cleanup the rest of the neighborhood. And FWIW, some crazy yelled the same thing at me once and I responded pretty much like you did (except that I yelled back at him until he starting running away from me).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:26 PM on November 1, 2012 [7 favorites]

You have my permission to ignore the angry woman you encountered.
posted by saeculorum at 1:26 PM on November 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

Crazy lady is crazy. Picking up other dogs' poop would qualify as your Good Deed For The Day, but isn't expected by sane people.
posted by ook at 1:27 PM on November 1, 2012 [9 favorites]

Should you pick up every piece of litter you see? Should you always produce change when the person next to you doesn't have enough to pay their bill?

Life has a thousand, tiny, mostly trivial moral tests. Do it if you feel like it would make the world a better place, at no serious effort/cost to yourself. Don't bother if you don't feel like it; it's not your personal responsibility to make up for everyone else's failings at perfection.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:27 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

That would be a no. You are not responsible for the world's supply of dog shit.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:28 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies, I just wanted to make sure dog ownership had not warped my judgement about dog poo etiquette!
posted by dottiechang at 1:30 PM on November 1, 2012

As a dog walker in NYC I would pick up stray poops in the dog park but that was for a couple of reasons; 1, that I spent a lot of time there every day and so it was better for me if it was cleaner, and 2, dog poop karma - if one of my charges snuck off and pooped behind a bench or something and I didn't see it, I was still always well in credit at the pooch poop karma bank.

As to stray poops on the street? Not your problem. Crazy people love to talk shit.
posted by merocet at 1:38 PM on November 1, 2012 [16 favorites]

If my dog poops right next to some other pile of poop I will sometimes pick it up, because I figure this is good karma for the inevitable rare time when I am out of dog bags or leave mine at home or whatever. But are you obligated to pick it up? Nope.
posted by bradbane at 1:39 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Leave the foreign poop for that crazy woman to step on.
posted by oceanjesse at 1:41 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

If I get caught out without enough baggies and have to leave a poop behind (heh! but seriously three baggies should be enough!) I make my penance by picking up three random turds on my next walk. But normally? Hell no - you're not obliged to pick up random turds.
posted by workerant at 1:42 PM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

You are definitely not responsible for other's poop. Even crazy lady (assuming she honestly believed that the poop came from your dog) didn't appear to believe that, since she was yelling at you for not picking up "your dog's" poop, despite the evidence (the poop being dried).
posted by Qberting at 1:49 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's a matter of feasibility, if not anything else. Imagine yourself really doing this. You'd get no sleep ever again.

(It's actually a bit of a Father-Christmas-job-type of calculation. Mind-blowing. Gross)
posted by Namlit at 1:50 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sounds like even the angry lady didn't expect you to pick up another dog's poo. BECAUSE IT WAS ~*oBVIoUsLY* YOUR OWN!!!1!21! (That's crazy-person-style typing.) You were right to ignore her.

If there were a societal expectation for dog-walkers to pick up all random poops, there would be a lot more sneaky dog-walkers who would just leave their dogs' product for good citizens, and a lot more fights over poop responsibility. No need to feel obligated here.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:50 PM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

No. Sometimes, people lump together in their mind all members of a class of which they are not themselves a part, and mentally distribute blame across the whole class for the observed or perceived infractions of some class members. Drivers and cycliists, for instance.

This lady has that for dog owners. Carry on.
posted by gauche at 1:51 PM on November 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think this woman was having a bad day and took it out on you because you were in the area and had a dog with you.

But, really, you only need to worry about your own dogs and pick up after them (which you already do). It's also pretty gross picking up after other dogs especially when you don't know how long it's been there for...blah!
posted by rylan at 1:52 PM on November 1, 2012

I've picked up dog poop that is on the sidewalk a couple of times, but really only because I'm walking on the sidewalk and I know on the way back I'm not going to remember it is there and then I'm going to step on it. But it is you responsibility to pick up after your own dog, and that is where your responsibility for dog poop ends.
posted by magnetsphere at 1:56 PM on November 1, 2012

Agreeing with everyone, but I'll add that next time she starts yelling at you, just ignore her. No eye contact, no acknowledgement of her existence, nothin' at all.
posted by griphus at 2:00 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks for asking this! It's one of the many questions I've pondered since becoming a dog owner. I haven't been yelled at for poop, but I have been yelled at by two different people for walking my dogs past a house and "making" their dogs bark.

I'm in line with the majority of responses here. I will sometimes pick up foreign poop if it's near where my dogs have stopped, or if I'm inspired to do a little neighborhood clean-up, but there's no way I could stop for every dump we pass. We'd never get anywhere!
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:05 PM on November 1, 2012

I have to admit that I was that lady one day. Her dog was pooping in the gutter in front of my house and I had just had it with these assholes that don't pick up their dogs poop. Her defense was that it was it the gutter not the lawn. WTF...its shit in the street...she stopped walking her dog by our house for a while.

I always pick up my dog's poop and I sometimes pick up other poop if it's in the middle of the walking path. I as a rule do not let my dog poop on my neighbors yard's if I can help it.

I take this whole not picking up the poop as a sign of the decline of our civilization . It makes me completely nuts if I think about it for more than a few seconds.
posted by cairnoflore at 2:06 PM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

I agree, not your job. That said, at the dog park I will pick up other dogs poo when I see it, because I know for a fact that once in a while MY dog poos and, no matter how much I look, I can't find it because I was 100 yards away when she did it.
posted by HuronBob at 2:30 PM on November 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

Something similar happened to me once--except the complaint was that I had allowed my dog to pee on my neighbor's bushes.

The problem was that it wasn't my dog. It was a different neighbor's dog. We called that dog The Mayor, because he was always loose and would join me on my walk and then go visit someone else in the neighborhood.

But ever since then, I've worried when my dog lifts his leg on someone else's bushes--that its an offense of some kind.
posted by vitabellosi at 2:41 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

That woman was experiencing a moment of This Shit Cray and you did nothing wrong. Had you picked it up and thrown it at her, it might have been very very slightly minorly inconsequentially wrong.
posted by elizardbits at 2:46 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty much inline with Huron Bob.

You are by no means obligated to pick up another dog's poop.

I do it occasionally if:

1. I'm reaching down to pick up after my dog and there's another one nearby,
2. Can't find my dog's poop so I figure any one would work.
3. If I'm walking and see an egregious mess in the middle of the sidewalk while armed with extra bags I'll sometimes pick one up.

I do this just because unfortunately all dog owners tend to suffer because of a few assholes who don't pick up after their dog, so while its not my crap to deal with it can end up my problem down the road so I might as well.
posted by bitdamaged at 2:46 PM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

I pick up any poop I see. No skin off my nose, makes my downtown tiny street much nicer, and I'm sure other people have picked up my dog's droppings upon occasion. If I have the bags, why would I walk by?
posted by Ideefixe at 2:54 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

We call it the Law of Conservation of Poo. At the dog park when you can't find your specific dog's poop, any poop will do. As long as there is a one for one poo pick up relationship. But, randomly picking up poop? That would throw the world out of balance.
posted by rachums at 3:05 PM on November 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

There's only one time in which I pick up another dog's poo: if my own dog has pood at the park/on the walk and I did not pick it up, I will pick up a Good Karma Poo.

I will only not pick up my dog's poo if

1. I can't find my dogs poo
2. Thunderdog has decided to poo under a thick bramble of thorny vines and I cannot get to said poo without injury
3. Thunderdog has managed to poo off a cliff (which actually has happened)
posted by Elly Vortex at 3:15 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

For a contrarian view: folks in my neighborhood let their (adorable!) dogs shit on the sidewalk outside my house every day. I love dogs! They are adorable! But I am constantly picking up dog crap, and I have no dog so I get no compensatory unconditional love. On bad days, this can lead to a level of jaundiced-ness in my view of dog owners.

If you'd like non-dog-owners to feel less resentful towards dog-owners, picking up poo even if it is not your own dog's poo would be one strategy.
posted by rdc at 3:44 PM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Maybe write her a letter or next time you see her suggest she leave a sign up to other dog owners to please clean up the mess. She sounds mad for sure accusing you, but as a non-dog owner I also get frustrated when dog-owners don't clean up after their own in shared spaces.
posted by Under the Sea at 4:15 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Woman was crazy, but it is hard to blame the woman for acting crazy, because clearly, there are plenty off assholes who don't pick up after their dogs.

Are you responsible for picking up after people who don't pick up their dog's crap? Well, strictly speaking, of course not. On the other hand, from the point of view of enlightened self-interest: Your life as a dog owner will likely be easier, if you pitch in to help mitigate the impact of people who do not pick up after their dogs. You will have less crap to step over, and there will be less crap to make people pissed off about "dog owners."

Actually, I'll even go further than that. Not every asshole who doesn't pick up after their dog is the same as any other, and any given asshole who doesn't pick up after their dog isn't necessarily going to behave the same way in every circumstance. If there is no other dog crap around, then a person who leaves their dog crap behind has very little room to argue that it must have been someone else's dog's crap. On the flip side, if there is lots of dog crap around, people who might otherwise pick up their dog's crap have less incentive to do so, because if they do, there is still going to be lots of dog crap around.

Oh, but I'm not done yet. Let's remove all judgement. Let's sidestep the moral hazard of enabling bad behavior by assholes. Dog crap can end up on the streets without anyone being a big asshole. Maybe someone was walking their dog and rushed to the aid of an accident victim and didn't notice that their dog took a crap while they were administering CPR. Maybe they forgot that they'd given their spare dog-crap bag to another dog owner last night. Maybe a gust of wind blew a their last bag out of their hand as they went to pick up their dog's crap. Maybe, rarely, you don't pick up your dogs crap for some reason. I've personally had situations at the off-leash dog park where I can't find my dog's crap in tall grass. Point is, no one is perfect, and because no one is perfect, dog crap gets left un-picked up by the person who should have picked it up. If no one ever does more than they strictly should do, then dog crap will accumulate and we'll all be holding our noses and stepping over dog crap.

In conclusion then: Yes, you should pick up crap from other people's dogs, in addition to picking up your own dog's crap, but you don't have to do it all the time. If you set a good example, and other people follow that example, then you make things easier for yourself, for other responsible dog owners and for non-dog-owners. It will also make it easier for people to do the right thing and be responsible dog owners. This might seem like a huge responsibility, but I don't think it needs to be. When it comes to dog crap, I don't generally go out of my way to pick up crap I'm not responsible for, but if I have a bag out to pick up after my dog, and I spot a neglected pile nearby, I pick it up too.
posted by Good Brain at 5:14 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

It is nice if you pick it up, as it is nice if you pick up someone else's garbage, but not mandatory, and so I'd pick it up if I noticed it, but if a crazy person insisted I do it, I'd refuse just as if they insisted I clean up aluminum cans from their yard that someone else threw there. Crazy person who accuses you of lying and insists you pick up some other dog's mess is no different from crazy person who comes out of their house and yells at you for parking in front of their house.
posted by davejay at 7:23 PM on November 1, 2012

Absolutely not. The lady is out of her mind and very rude for accusing you of not picking up your dogs poop. As a side note occasionally I will pick up another dogs poop but it is in no way your responsibilty or what most good dog owners do. Sounds like you are a responsible dog owner and a nice person for even thinking you should pick up other dogs poop.
posted by ljs30 at 8:16 PM on November 1, 2012

Poo karma is always good, but it's not your job to pick up random dog poops.

If there's a stray poop next to my dog's pile when I'm scooping, I'll usually pick it up. And also if I find a pile at the dog park, so no one steps in it. But otherwise, no.
posted by snailparade at 8:56 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I dont mind picking up my own dog's warm poo on a cold morning.

But picking up some other dog's cold turds?

No way man. No way.
posted by tonylord at 2:17 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

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