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Mind Your Pees and Poos – A Guide to Dog Poo Etiquette 

Can you get fined for not picking up your dog’s poo? How do you report dog fouling? Why are pet owners hanging poo bags from trees? These are just some of the questions pet healthcare experts Bob Martin explore as they dive into dog poo etiquette, exploring the latest guidance for dog owners and most importantly, highlighting what the law says about this highly contentious topic.

It is estimated that local authorities in England and Wales receive around 70,000 complaints about dog fouling every year. The internet is awash with articles about local beauty spots being blighted by irresponsible dog owners not clearing up after their pets, infuriating local residents and visitors alike.

Weirdly one of the latest trends sweeping across the UK is dog walkers bagging their dog’s poo and then bizarrely hanging it from branches of trees like the world’s worst Christmas tree! Yuck!

Why is it so important?

Joking aside, dog poo is a highly contentious and emotive topic. We’ve all been in the unfortunate position of stepping in it whilst nipping to the shops or whilst enjoying a nice walk along the towpath of our local canal on a sunny afternoon. Usually in our brand new expensive trainers!

Canine excrement is not only deeply unpleasant, but it can also pose significant health hazards. Dog faeces are often heavily contaminated with bacteria that can be harmful to other animals and also humans. In rare cases, contact with dog faeces can cause toxocariasis, a nasty infection that can result in dizziness, nausea, seizures, respiratory issues, and even in some cases blindness.

Dog poo can also be contaminated with worm eggs, so regular worming treatments are always advisable, especially if you’re walking your dog in an area that you know has a dog poo problem.

What is the law around dog fouling?

Not picking up after your dog can land you in deep doo-doo. While most dog owners are caring, responsible individuals, there are still some who do not clean up after their canine companions. 

Dog walkers who fail to pick up their dog’s poo can be issued with a fixed penalty notice of up to £100, rising to £1000 if the case goes to court.

Dog walkers should be aware that excuses like “I didn’t see them doing it” or “I didn’t have a bag on me” are not deemed by law to be reasonable justifications and would not get them out of having to pay the fine. 

Most councils provide dedicated dog waste bins so you can easily dispose of the bag, however, if there isn’t one around, simply double bag it and discard in a normal litter bin.

If you are aware of a particular ‘repeat offender’ who refuses to clean up after their dog, you can contact your local council who will be able to provide more information about how to report it and what information you’ll need to provide. 

What is being done to improve the issue?

This issue isn’t anything new, with various initiatives over the years having mixed results. Keep Britain Tidy has campaigned very successfully on this issue, with their 2010 campaign message ‘There’s no such thing as the dog poo fairy’ leading to massive reductions in dog fouling across the UK. They reported that some communities saw a decrease of up to 90%, with a national average of 43% recorded across the 94 participating local authorities.

More recently Surrey County Council has been trialling ‘poo bag trees’ in a bid to reduce discarded dog poo bags in the countryside. Inspired by the unusual trend of dog walkers hanging poo bags from tree branches, these so-called ‘trees’ are accompanied by a sign inviting dog walkers to use the tree to avoid having to carry the bag around with them, requesting that they return to the tree to take it away before they go home.

“This is one example of a local authority taking an innovative approach to reducing the environmental contamination of discarded dog poo bags, many of which are not biodegradable,” said Chris Socratous, Senior Brand Manager at Bob Martin. “We feel that it’s important for pet owners to have the same care for the environment that they have for their pets.”

What about the ‘stick and flick’ initiative?

You may have already heard about this, but if you haven’t, the clue is very much in the name. After being debated by MPs in Westminster, the Forestry Commission has recommended that in rural woodland areas dog walkers brush or sweep the dog poo into the undergrowth (e.g. away from public footpaths) rather than bagging it up in a plastic bag. Another solution is to cover it with leaves if you cannot find a nearby stick that looks up to the task.

The ultimate aim is to reduce the number of poo bags being discarded or left behind, as often there are fewer waste bins available than in urban areas. MPs have been campaigning for better signage near the entrances of open rural spaces and parks, advising dog owners about the stick and flick method.

So how can I be a responsible owner?

It’s simple really…

  1. Make sure you’re always carrying plenty of poo bags when you take your dog out on walkies. Nobody likes to be caught short. If for whatever reason you forget them, don’t be embarrassed to ask a fellow dog walker if they have a spare.
  2. Use biodegradable poo bags, even if they’re not the cheapest ones. Just remember that ‘biodegradable’ doesn’t mean they will magically disappear if you sling them into a nearby hedge. Often even the biodegradable bags will take several years to fully biodegrade.
  3. Employ the ‘stick and flick’ method when in open rural spaces. Use your own discretion here. If you suspect your dog has worms for example, then always pick up after them regardless of the location, as you wouldn’t want them infecting other dogs that come sniffing along.

Unveiling the Poo Pandemic

Dog poo etiquette is a topic that affects us all, whether we are dog owners or not. The issue of irresponsible dog owners not cleaning up after their pets has become a widespread problem, blighting our local beauty spots and causing frustration for residents and visitors alike. We want to hear from you – have you encountered the consequences of this “poo pandemic”? Share your stories and comments below.

For more helpful advice on caring for your pet’s healthcare needs, and tips to avoid fleas on dogs head over to Feeling social? Follow us to flea-dom on Facebook (@BobMartinUK) and Instagram (@bobmartinpets).

Bob Martin can be found in pet aisles of all major supermarkets, pet specialists, and independent pet retailers, and is now available to order direct from


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