Dog poo. It's a dirty subject, but someone has to deal with it. Just what do we do with our dog poo?
Millions of dog owners collect their dog poo in small plastic bags, and dispose of it in the nearest litter or poo bin. This is great - well, perhaps not in the litter bin unless the bin is somewhere it is emptied every day (it should be securely wrapped up in plastic to be put into a litter bin). It's within the law, it keeps the streets and playing fields clear, and makes walking a pleasurable experience. But what happens to the poo once it leaves the bin?
We've just prolonged the life of a totally natural product by as long as it takes the plastic bag to decompose. We've risked it leaching out into our waterways.
Obviously we can't leave dog poo lying around. Even in the woods, off the beaten track, under a bush, even if there are no signs or nobody around to notice, the mess shouldn't be left there. As there are so many millions of dogs in the UK we're talking about 1,000 tonnes of poo every day. Our woods and parks would be groaning under the mess long before it could naturally decompose - few species of insect or fungi have evolved to feed on faeces from non-herbivores. It lasts a long time, interfering with the natural soil fertility, contaminating it with any medication, worming tablets, etc the dogs may be on, as well as parasites the dogs may be carrying.
The 'rule' to live by is if you or your dog take something with you on a walk, you should bring it home again. Even if it is poo. So what should we do with it?
• Buy a wormery. Yes, you can put dog poo into a worm farm, but you'll also need to supply it with newspaper, which fits in really nicely with the next bullet, and don't use it for anything else. Research shows it's the surface area rather than depth which determines how well they work, and the retail sector appears to be ignoring this for the moment. This may appear obvious, but don't add poo to the farm for a few days after any sort of medication, especially worming tablets.
• Use newspaper to pick it up in - you will need a very sturdy container to transport this in. Experience shows it's easy for a thumb to end up nail deep in mess when using paper. Or perhaps that's just me. The whole package can be put straight in a wormery.
• Take a sturdy bag or other container with you to deposit the mess into once you've picked it up for disposal at home. Okay, so it's not nice to carry poo around. You're the one who wanted a dog though, right? This comes with the territory. There are plenty of products around that can ease this for you, I use the Muksak, or Dicky Bag (If you buy one, please quote 'oldies' at time of ordering and Oldies Club will receive a £3 donation for purchases of £15+).
• Train your dog to go at home and walk him before meals so that there is nothing to pick up (although this doesn't always work as all those walking muscles stimulate the dog to go).
• Use biodegradable/compostable bags if you must pick it up in a bag - some will decompose in just over a month. If you use a wormery the bag can go in as well.
• Invest in a dog waste decomposer. The decomposer consists of two buckets which nest together, buried in the ground. The bottom bucket is kept full of water and a bio-activator. The mess is deposited into the water (watch for splashes) and then, at regular intervals depending on the size and number of dogs you have, is flushed through with water which drains out of the slots in the upper bucket, taking the decomposed liquefied matter with it. If you put the decomposer near a water butt this makes the job so much easier. Installing the decomposer correctly is of extreme importance, as if the hole and drainage is insufficient you'll end up with two buckets full of runny, stinking mess. You could build your own if you don't fancy paying out for one, or you need something larger than the commercial makes. They work best if the poop is deposited fresh, and if you feed your dogs on dry food you may have to work harder to keep it flushed through.
• Dog mess can be put down the toilet. Perhaps less pleasant for those of us without outdoor toilets, it can also be put down the 'observation hatch' into the sewer that many of us have in our gardens. Sluice it through with water and don't put a week's worth in at once. Don't put it down the drain.
• Although it's not usually recommended, you can put dog poo into your compost heap. The heap has to be turned weekly to help keep the temperature high enough for it break down quickly if you do this. Also make sure you layer your heap correctly to speed things up. It's not advised if you've got a small heap that you only visit occasionally or if you've got a dog with frequent and large poos and your neighbours are within sniffing distance.
• Dog poo is acidic, so if you've got acid-loving plants in your garden and you don't have acidic soil, bury the poo near the plant.
• Put it into a bucket (you might want to use one with a lid) with water, nettles and other garden weeds. It will decompose into liquid plant feed, especially if you agitate it with a stick from time to time. Sawdust will help to keep any smell down, but it doesn't decompose very well itself.
• Put it into a methane digester to create power.
• Wee on it. Urine really speeds the decomposition process.