Hiking with Your Dog? Pick Up Your Dog Poop Please

Photo Courtesy ell brown and Flickr Creative Commons

Yes, yes they do. Do you pick up after your dog? You should. Here is why and how.

One of my many hats is a Water Quality Specialist – the streams and lakes kind of water. I help keep the world’s waters clean. This makes me very passionate about poo, or more specifically, what you do with it. I am not afraid to speak my mind about but either. It makes me cringe when I see a pile of dog poo left on the trail or nicely placed in little baggies that have clearly been out in the elements for a while just sitting there.

Dog poo contains pathogens and can contaminate our water supplies. Before you start your argument yes, bears and elk and stuff poo in the woods but not by the hundreds that some trails see in doggie traffic a day. No, it does not break down and become harmless on its own. When it “disappears” it is because it has broken down into millions of tiny poo particles and washed into our streams. You say have other reasons why you leave it on the ground? Ask me and I can probably tell you why it is not good for the environment.

The best thing you can do is pack it out. Ok, I know, what if you just started out on the trail and you don’t want to have to pack it up to the top and back down. There are three things you can do about that.

1) Make your dog poo before you even start up the trail to lessen the chances of it happening along the hike. Dispose of it in the trash can at the trailhead.

2) Pick it up and carry it with you on the hike. You can cut down on the yuckiness by bringing a freezer Ziplock bag and sealing the poo bag inside that. You can strap that bag to the outside of your pack if you have one or just carry it – but at least it won’t smell.

3) If you absolutely must, you can pick up the poo and then stash the poo bag on the side of the trail IF you will remember to pick up on the way back down.

Photo Courtesy of Virginia State Parks Staff

That is a big IF. Don’t forget. That is worse than not picking it up in the first place. Now not only have you left the poo but you have left plastic too and that doesn’t break down.  I don’t care what you have to do to remember to pick it up. Tell your friend to remind you, set a cell phone alarm, sing poo songs the whole time so you don’t forget.

I know, it can be hard to remember exactly where on the trail you left it. Even if you remember where you left it, the black or brown bags can blend in with the vegetation. There are two things you can do so you can be sure to see it.

You can switch to using brightly-colored poo bags. It can be hard to find colored biodegradable (that biodegradable thing – a whole other issue I will save for another rant) bags so there is another option. You can carry some flagging with you. You can pick up fluorescent flagging at any hardware store. When you leave a bag on the side of the trail, tie a small piece of flagging to it.

I don’t know how or why people leave their bags on the side of the trail but I see it all the time. I admit that every time I see a bag on the side of the trail all alone I assume it has been forgotten. However, I do realize that I might be unfairly raking the poo bag owner over my mental coals. They could be on the way back down the trail and intending to pick up their poo bag (I doubt this is usually the case though because I didn’t see another soul on the trail).

Yeah, I know, it is stinky and sometimes you have to carry it for a while before you can throw it away. Well, I think that is just tough! It’s part of the responsibility of being a dog owner. So pick it up, pack it out and throw it in the trash.

Do you pick up your poo?

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.


    1. I have not used that brand. Interesting that they carry the flushable poo bags. Not feasible when out hiking but it brings up an interesting issue for me. I know that several sewer companies actually don’t want you flushing your dog’s poop. However, I am not sure I feel good about sending to a landfill either.

  1. Always pick up the poo. I too am a small dog who loves to hike for miles and miles, we spend alot of time out in the middle of nowhere hiking. Or hiking, were there are more people. Nothing worse than walking in someone else’s poo. That is an interesting point about the water quality, I had honestly never thought about that. More reasons to pick up the poo.

    1. Really small hiking dogs that kick butt unite! Roxy, you are one of us. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on your blog. We checked yours out too and we like. We’ll put you on our Feedburner list.

  2. Thats good information! A lot of people probably think if they leave their poo behind nobody will know about it and it won’t hurt anyone… but if you think of it as an environmental issue, thats a big reason to clean up after your dogs!

    1. Yeah…I understand I think about it differently than most people becaue of my job. Part of what I do is public education and I am always a little suprised that people don’t know or think about the environment. They think it just “goes back to nature”. If one dog pooed in the woods then maybe no biggie but when hundreds to it you have a problem.

  3. I realise I’m a wee bit late in the game here, but I just had to add to this thread. The people who pick up their dog’s poop only to leave it on the ground on the trail or even on the road – What the hell?! In my opinion, the actual picking-it-up is the worst part… why on earth would you do the gross part and then ditch it?! And no, most of the people who do this in the trails and streets near me aren’t actually coming back for their packaged poops. When we took Gwynn out skiing this winter, we brought an old icecream container or yogurt container so that we could put the poop bag in there and then into the backpack (so that, even if i fell, i wouldn’t end up with exploded gross poop bag smeared all over the inside of my bag.
    We’re lucky in our area that we’ve got a compost-bin pickup, and they accept dog poop (though not dog fur, unfortunately) in the green bin.

  4. This is a very late addition to this post but Inhave just found your blog. Here in the UK we have a massive problem with dog poo littering our streets. I have bought a “dicky bag” from a company named Duck Soup, this is a neoprene bag which caries dog poo bags in the lid and the bottom of the bag is a sealable container to carry used poo bags in until you can dispose of them. You can buy several sizes of dicky bag dependent on the size of your dog, or more importantly the size of his/her poo. I keep the dicky bag clipped on the handle of my dog’s lead so that it always with me whenever we go out. I have a mini dachshund and the small dicky bag easily holds two bags of poop if needed. It seals with a zip and therefore any smells are contained and also the filled bags are tidily hidden away rather than being swung by your side as you walk. I would highly recommend these and am constantly surprised that I have never seen another dog walker using one.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I know that picking up the poo is “dirty business” but, to me, it’s something you accept when you become a dog owner. I am glad to see products out there aiming to make it easier and less icky. A side benefit I discovered of owning small dogs is small poo 🙂

      1. To find them you need to Google Dicky Bag and not the company name of Duck Soup. The web site address is www. Dickybag.com. I hope they will sell to you as I find mine is the perfect means of always having something with you to pick up after your dog.

  5. I pick up poo on the trails as well… the thing is, I hate carrying it! SO, I got a doggie backpack for Quinn and make him carry his own s**t. 😉

  6. That’s a good idea to make sure that you carry a bag or something to pick up the waste as you go up the mountain. I like the idea of taking my dog on a hike with me since he needs some exercise, but I hate it when people let their dog go all over the trial and don’t clean it up. I’ll make sure to prepare in advance for if my dog does that so I can clean it up right away.

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