A dog stands on its hind legs along a breakwater to see another dog as three owners have them on leash.

Why and how to pick up dog doo on trails

Let’s all do our duty (or doody)

The 2020s have been a bit stressful, to say the least. But in our eternal quest for optimism, we’ve noticed a few silver linings. First off, lots of folks discovered the outdoors. And second, many people invited more love into their lives by adopting dogs.

We get paws-itively giddy watching people rejuvenate and frolic with new pups in our parks.

That said, our rangers have noticed an increase in dog doo and bags of scooped poop sitting by the side of the trail.

Some dog dads and moms pick up their baggies on the return hike. But some baggies sit overnight, their hopes for a reunion (and our rangers’ hopes for responsible dog ownership) dashed.

A golden retriever and a pug look up at the camera.
With mugs like these, is it any wonder so many people got dogs during the pandemic?

Dogs rule!

If a spaceship full of aliens landed in our state and saw people picking up after their dogs, those aliens might think dogs rule the world. Oh, wait… They don’t?

But seriously, we’re going to give folks the benefit of the doubt. People may not know they’re supposed to pick up, or they really intended to grab the bag on the way back...

So, our first plea (because your dog isn’t the only one who can beg) is: pick up after your pup and carry it, even if your good boy or girl does their business 10 minutes into the hike.

A little terrier mix dog looks up at the camera with big brown eyes.
This is us begging you to pick up after your pup. Except we're not that cute...

The “whys”

You might be thinking it’ll biodegrade, and wild animals go in the woods, so why can’t your fur baby?

The Environmental Protection Agency says dog doo spreads different bacteria than that of wildlife. These gross and harmful pollutants end up in lakes and rivers, making the water unswimmable, unfishable and undrinkable.

Oh sorry. We didn’t mean to ruin your lunch…

According to the Centers for Disease Control, dog waste can also spread illness to humans and wild critters. Diseases like e-coli, parvovirus and salmonella and parasites like roundworms, which can live in soil for years!

Dessert, anyone?

A green, white and red sign showing a dog and a steaming pile of dog doo reads, "If your dog poops and nobody's watching, you still need to pick it up."
If a tree falls in the forest... Some public land agencies are cheekier than others when it comes to reminders.

The “hows”

No one wants to deal with an in-pack explosion or a three-hour hike smelling like you-know-what because of a flimsy bag.

But we’re still not giving a free pass. Instead, we have tips to enjoy your time with your dog in nature, avoid messy situations and leave our parks as you found them.

Wag bag for picking up dog (or human) poop and desicator packet.
DIYers have lots of options, including wag bags and desiccator packets shown here. A sturdy bag or plastic container goes a long way toward odor control and mishap prevention.

Bag hacks and cleanup:

  • A glacier climber who bags their own poo in the mountains (yup, that’s a thing), swears by Tyvek envelopes. They’re almost impossible to rip, even when they come in the mail.
  • Outdoor stores may have bag kits with sawdust or cat litter to dry out the doos.
    • Or DIY by researching best bags and adding sawdust, kitty litter or the little desiccation/preservation packets that come in packages to minimize moisture. And double or triple bag it, no matter how sturdy the sack.
  • If you carry the bag (vs. having your dog carry it), use the separate compartment at the top of the pack, and keep it away from food and drinking water.
  • Bring hand sanitizer or eco-soap and separate water for handwashing. Even if you’re careful, you’ll want to clean up before munching on trail snacks.
  • Some people tie the full bag to pupper’s leash (and yes, leashes are mandatory). You can also place it in a hard plastic container attached to the leash or in the dog’s backpack (far from the collapsible water bowl). That way, most odors stay contained, and if your furry friend rolls on the ground, the bag won’t get smushed.
A Parks colleague has a routine to help get things "moving" for her dogs before they set out on a nature hike.
Our colleague at Parks has a few ways to help her three dogs get things moving before taking a nature hike. Read on:

A possible routine:

One of our coworkers, a pack alpha with three doggos, takes her big boys and girl for a short walk before their Parks outing, “to see if we can get the movement going.”

Once they get to the park, they take another short walk, hoping for seconds. If successful, they put that bag on the trunk of their car, so they won’t forget it.

A dog sleeps on a plaid and white double blanket next to a black hardcover book
Our media team's top dog, Remy, is tired of all the poop talk. He'd rather be napping in his adventure van at Millersylvania.

“OK, Parks. We get it… But can you just stop now? Please.”

Moving forward… Thanks for indulging us. With these tips, we hope you create a failsafe kit and routine that helps you leave parks prettier, safer and more pleasantly fragrant than you found them.

Plus, your dog can become a Bark Ranger, which comes with special doggie swag, and you’ll get brownie points (oh, the puns just keep coming…) for being a responsible dog parent.

A corgi dog sits in the foreground with a green bridge trestle in the background.
Parting shot: State Parks social media star, Scout, beseeches you to pick up after your own precious pooch. Are you going to look in those big brown eyes and say no?

Originally published January 02, 2024

See blogs also related to...