What’s one of the biggest pet peeves that your neighbors have about you? Your pets and, more to the point, their poop.
In a LawnStarter survey of more than 700 homeowners in five U.S. metro areas, 9 percent named pets — mostly dogs — as the top complaint about their neighbors. “Pets” were the top pick in the “other” category for our question about pet peeves. Meanwhile, another 20 percent of the homeowners mentioned noise from pets, children, parties and other sources as the major gripe about their neighbors.
Our survey respondents have plenty of company. A survey taken in 2010 by Consumer Reports found that dog poop tied for sixth place on a list of Americans’ biggest everyday annoyances. Americans actually hate Congress more than they do dog poop, though. In a 2013 survey by Public Policy Polling, registered voters had a higher opinion of dog poop (47 percent) than of Congress (40 percent).
‘Major Source of Friction’
Photo: Digital Trends
Put it all together, and your neighbors might not be so fond of Fido. Andrew Kirby, professor of social and behavioral sciences at Arizona State University, says LawnStarter’s survey data suggests that dogs, and especially their poop, are “a major source of friction” in American neighborhoods.
“As we know, dog waste is unlike other forms of litter. It is unpleasant, it smells and it can foster disease,” Kirby says.
One homeowner in the LawnStarter survey grumbled that neighbors are “letting their dogs use my front yard for a bathroom.” This homeowner was among several respondents who singled out dog poop as a concern. Other homeowners complained about pets — namely dogs — running loose in the neighborhood or being walked without leashes.
On a more serious note, one survey respondent claimed a neighbor killed his or her dogs, while another respondent accused a neighbor of poisoning his or her pooches.
Millions of Mutts
No matter what the trigger, it’s clear that man’s best friend causes lots of consternation in American neighborhoods. Data from the American Veterinary Medical Association shows more than 43.3 million U.S. households own nearly 70 million dogs. It’s estimated that those households fail to pick up more than 4 million tons of dog poop each year, according to PoopBags.
Kirby, the Arizona State professor, says he understands why some homeowners in Chicago and elsewhere are frustrated by out-of-place dog poop.
“It would be a strange family that was not in some way upset by neighbors who allowed their canines to mess up sidewalks or lawns,” Kirby says. “Even placing poop bags in a neighbor’s trash barrel could be considered an invasion of privacy, although it is less offensive than the other options.”
Achieving Neighborhood ‘Cohesiveness’
Kirby says the presence of dog waste, or lack thereof, indicates the level of a neighborhood’s “cohesiveness.”
“Locations where no one picks up cans, bottles or dog waste have no investment in the collective quality of life,” he says. “Paradoxically, many residential neighborhoods don’t actually offer any way to maintain appearances. Except around any parks or pools, there are usually few trash receptacles on the street, and most HOAs don’t permit trash receptacles to be left out for more than a few hours a week.”
Kirby says dog-poop bags and dog-poop trash containers should be available not just in traditional areas like dog parks but also along neighborhood sidewalks and in other spots where people routinely walk their pups.
“It may be not add to the aesthetics of the neighborhood,” he says, “but the alternatives are way worse and even more expensive.”
Bagging the Poop Problem
So, how do you handle the messy issue of a neighbor’s poop-on-your-lawn dog?
Certified professional dog trainer Robin Bennett, chair of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, recommends that if you know the parent of the pooch, you should bring up the problem “gently” in conversation. If you don’t know the owner of the offending dog, urge your homeowners association or neighborhood association to issue a pick-up-the-poop reminder, Bennett suggests.
“I would also make sure you are setting a good example by cleaning up after your own pet,” she says. “If you see someone who has a dog and they don’t clean up, you might offer them a bag as a friendly reminder.”
To be a responsible dog-owning neighbor regarding fecal matters and other matters, Bennett suggests signing up for canine training.
“I also think pet parents should work hard to build relationships with their neighbors and deal with concerns at the early stages before they build up into something huge,” she says.
See related story: Why do dogs eat grass?
Top photo: Flickr/Michael Simmons