Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, with 38% of Australian households owning dogs. Dogs improve the quality of our lives, and studies show that exposure to dogs can even improve our immune system.
However, one medium sized dog produces about 180 kilograms of poo a year. With about 9 million dogs in Australia, it can really start to pile up.
Rather than wrap it in plastic and throw it away – where it eventually ends up in landfill – you can use dog poo as a sustainable source of fertiliser.
Read more: Are you walking your dog enough?
There are alternatives to simply throwing your dog poo in the bin. Francesco83/
- Poo problems
- Why dog poo can become a nutrient
- A couple of dog-do dont’s:
- Dog Waste In Compost: Why You Should Avoid Composting Dog Waste
- Dog Waste in Compost
- Dangers of Composting Dog Waste
- Pet Poop Composting
- How to Use Dog Waste in Compost
- Advice on Composting Dog Poop
- COMPOSTING DOG WASTE
- Worm farms for doggy doo
- Worm Composting with Dog Poo
- How To Make A DIY Dog Poo Compost
- The Doggie DooleyCleaning Up Dog Doo for 40 Years
The waste products of humans and their associated animals have not always been a problem. In the past, even within the memory of people I met living on small Pacific islands, human poo was produced in relatively small amounts because the population was low, and could decompose naturally and safely within the soil. Healthy soil contains a vast number of microbes and organisms that thrive on organic material.
But burgeoning populations have changed this. Waste produced by humans is now an immense problem. Not only is there a waste issue, but human activities have caused soil pollution and degradation that kills soil microbes or impairs their capacity to process organic matter.
Dog poo is considered an environmental hazard. This is a consequence of its composition. It is comprised of three-quarters water plus undigested food including carbohydrates, fibre, proteins, and fats from the dog’s digestive system. Also present are a wide range of resident bacteria that are needed for digestion.
If dogs are infected with worms, or other disease-causing microbes, these can be present in their poo. Left on the street, dog poo is washed into waterways, creating a potential health hazard. Once pathogenic microbes from the poo get into waterways, they can find their way into other living things – including humans.
People also don’t like dog poo because of its smell. This is due to the volatile products produced by microbes in the gut that are involved in the digestion process. More than 100 different chemicals that could contribute to the bad smell have been identified.
The author’s pup, in a garden he helped fertilise. Author provided
Because poo smells bad we avoid dealing with it. Local councils offer plastic bags at parks and other public places to encourage dog owners to collect the poo. Bins, sometimes specifically for dog waste, are often placed nearby so the smelly package can be discarded as soon as possible.
But this is not the best solution, because ultimately the dog poo ends up going to landfill, contributing to our ongoing problem of waste accumulation.
Read more: Explainer: how much landfill does Australia have?
Why dog poo can become a nutrient
Rather than becoming a pollutant, dog poo can become a nutrient for your garden, by being composted in your backyard.
If you have a garden you can make your own compost bin by adding the dog poo to grass clippings, plant or other organic waste, and even sawdust as a source of food for the microbes. The microbes then break down the organic material into humus. During this process the temperature in the compost mixture rises to 50-60℃. Over time, the heat will kill most canine bacteria, as they are adapted to live at lower temperatures in the dog’s gut.
Compost contains billions of microbes per gram of material and competition from these (as well as the environmental conditions of the compost that are very different from the dog digestive system) assist in promoting destruction of pathogenic canine microbes, if present.
The compost needs to be turned over weekly to ensure uniform composing and oxygenation. Over days or weeks the temperature in the compost drops, indicating when the decomposition process is complete.
Then it’s time to use your compost to improve your garden!
A couple of dog-do dont’s:
Don’t include waste from unknown dogs or from dogs that show signs of disease
Avoid using it on vegetables for human consumption.
If you live in an apartment and don’t have a garden or access to green waste, you can still compost dog poo and use the product. There are small compost bins commercially available for this purpose. Composted material from these can be used on your outdoor or indoor plants.
Read more: Do dogs have feelings?
And if you don’t have any indoor plants, then you should think about getting some, as they can cut down on ozone in the air and even reduce indoor pollution.
Dog Waste In Compost: Why You Should Avoid Composting Dog Waste
Those of us who love our four legged friends have an undesirable by-product of care giving: Dog poop. In the search to be more earth friendly and conscientious, pet poop composting seems a logical way to deal with this waste. But can dog feces go in compost? Sadly, this may not be as effective and sensible as it may seem.
Dog Waste in Compost
Composting is a natural process to reduce organic waste to a useable nutrient source for plants. As you responsibly pick up your pet’s waste, it might occur to you to wonder, “Can dog feces go in compost?” After all, the waste is an organic derivative that should be able to be converted back into a garden amendment much like steer or pig manure.
Unfortunately, our pet wastes contain parasites which may not be killed in household compost piles. A constant temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (73 C.) has to be maintained for at least 5 days for this to occur. This is difficult to achieve in home composting situations.
Dangers of Composting Dog Waste
Dog waste in compost can carry a number of unhealthy parasites that can affect humans and other animals. Roundworms are one of the most common pests that afflict our dogs. Roundworms and their cousins, ascarids, may persist in compost made with dog waste. These can be ingested and their eggs hatch in the human intestine.
This causes a condition called Visceral Larval Migrans. The tiny eggs can then migrate through the blood stream and attach in the lungs, liver and other organs, with a host of different unpleasant symptoms as a result. Most unpleasant is Ocular Larval Migrans, which occurs when the eggs attach to the retina and may cause blindness.
Pet Poop Composting
If you wish to tackle composting of your dog’s waste safely, follow a few precautions. First, make sure you create ideal composting conditions. Start with 1 part sawdust and 2 parts dog manure. Compost mixtures require adequate carbon to help break down the nitrogen rich manure. Sawdust is almost pure carbon and will compliment the high nitrogen content of this manure.
Cover the pile with black plastic, if necessary, to keep heat in and help focus solar energy on the pile. Turn the mix weekly and check the temperature with a compost thermometer to ensure that the pile is at a suitable temperature.
In about four to six weeks, the mix will be crumbly and ready to mix with other organic items.
How to Use Dog Waste in Compost
Composting dog waste effectively and safely hinges on the constant high temperatures to kill dangerous parasites. If you are sure you have done this and have a safe product, you can add it to your garden as an amendment.
However, because there is no guarantee that the parasites are certifiably dead, it is best to confine use to areas around ornamental plantings only, such as shrubs and trees. Do not use the result of pet poop composting around edible plants. Mix it with vegetative compost for best results.
Advice on Composting Dog Poop
Q: My husband and I are dog mushers and live in a roadless area in Alaska. As you might think, we have an abundance of dog manure gracing our acreage. We’d like to put the animal wastes to use in the garden (especially since commercial fertilizer must be toted in at a considerable expense), but we’ve heard that dog droppings carry intestinal parasites that can be harmful to humans, and that only thorough composting will destroy the “bugs.” Composting dog poop takes as long as three years in our cold climate, though. Can you suggest alternatives to this process?
Unless the proper precautions are followed, both dog and cat manure can be harmful to human health. Because so many folks own one or both species, we’d like to take this opportunity to address the overall question of using pet wastes in the garden.
Cat feces pose the greater threat to human health because they may transmit toxoplasmosis, a disease that is particularly hazardous for pregnant women, since it can seriously harm the central nervous system of an unborn child, resulting in fetal blindness, brain damage or other problems. The adult parasite involved is carried only by cats, but the eggs shed in the manure can infect humans, pigs, cows and other mammals. Because the symptoms of toxoplasmosis are similar to those of a flu virus, the disease is often diagnosed as the more familiar ailment. It’s estimated that as many as 50 percent of all Americans have been infected with the parasite at one time or another. The eggs remain viable in the soil for as long as 18 months, and the illness can be acquired through contact with infected cat manure or by ingesting the undercooked meat of an animal that became diseased by grazing near the feces. For these reasons, feline manure should always be handled with care — and not at all by pregnant women — and should never be used in the food garden. Instead, bury the waste in nonfood trees.
The primary hazard present in dog manure is roundworms. However, canine feces can be used in the garden if the waste is first composted. As you mention, the limiting factor for composting is the temperature of the pile. Try the following recipe from China: Make a pile of 1 part manure, 1 part green matter and 3 parts soil; cover the heap with a thick layer of clayey mud; and leave it until it’s “done.” In Alaska, insulating the mound with a double-walled solar bread-box-type enclosure might help shorten the incubation time.
John Jeavons and Robin Leler are experts in biointensive gardening.
COMPOSTING DOG WASTE
If you have dogs, you have poop. And how to dispose of that poop is an issue. Traditional composting theory and most agricultural extension offices will tell you that dog manure may not be added to compost bins. However, in a cooperative study between mushers and the Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District in Alaska, researchers are finding that with some special precautions, dog waste can be successfully composted.
It’s important that you follow the compost recipe closely. The additive to the dog waste must be a carbon source such as sawdust. You can’t just add dog manure to your regular compost bins or piles and expect to get good, safe results. You must also make sure the recipe gets to the temperature specified. A long-stemmed thermometer is useful for this. If you do not reach the “magic number” of 140 degrees F, you may not kill the pathogens present in the dog waste.
- 2 parts dog manure
- 1 part sawdust
Collect ingredients. When sufficient quantities have been accumulated, mix well and allow to cook to at least 140 degrees F, turning at least once a week. It usually takes 4-8 weeks to get a crumbly, dirt-like mixture.
Where to Use the Compost
At this point, the Natural Resources Conservation Service is not sure the compost gets hot enough to kill Toxicara canis, or large roundworms (one of the most heat-resistant pathogens found in dog manure). The researchers in the study were not able to find dog waste samples infected with roundworm because mushers are so good at controlling it. It is not known whether roundworms will be killed during the process. For that reason, only use the resulting compost on non-food plantings such as flower beds and shrubs.
Practice Safe Composting
When handling dog waste there is a risk of disease transmission, so always take these precautions:
- Always wash hands after handling dog waste.
- Confine dog waste to a specific area.
- Keep dog waste tools/clothing separate from other tools/clothing.
- Do not feed raw meat or fish.
- Use extra care around children.
- Don’t use sawdust from pressure-treated wood.
- Consult a veterinarian about an appropriate parasite control program for your region.
- At this time, do not apply compost containing dog waste to food crops. (Studies are still ongoing as to whether dog manure compost that has reached 140 degrees F or more can be used safely on vegetable gardens.)
Self Contained Compost Bin
In order to better contain the potential odor and animal-attracting nature of an open compost bin, we developed this pattern for a simple, turnable, covered compost bin for our dog-waste composting.
Used with Permission | Copyright 1998 | Greyhound Manor Crafts
This probably wasn’t one of the issues that biologist Eugene Stoermer and ecologist Paul Crutzen had in mind when they coined the term “Anthropocene” to refer to the human impact on the planet. But there’s no question that our heavy footprint includes the paw prints of our pets.
True, poop is not exactly an environmental threat on the order of carbon pollution, nuclear waste or a Superfund site. Still, the risk from poop can be more than just a mess on your shoes. Dogs can harbor lots of viruses, bacteria and parasites — including harmful pathogens like e coli, giardia and salmonella. (A single gram contains an estimated 23 million bacteria.) Studies have traced 20 to 30 percent of the bacteria in water samples from urban watersheds to dog waste. Just two to three days of waste from 100 dogs can contribute enough bacteria, nitrogen and phosphorous to close 20 miles of a bay-watershed to swimming and shellfishing, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It also can get into the air we breathe: a recent study of air samples in Cleveland, Ohio, and Detroit, Mich., found that 10 to 50 percent of the bacteria came from dog poop.
So while the stakes may be lower than say, radioactive waste, the question remains: What do we do with this s**t?
It’s a question that has nagged me for years as I’ve followed my dog on walks, plastic bags at the ready. Aimee Christy, a shellfish biologist in Olympia, Washington, has also been grappling with it. She’s a dog owner herself, but her real concern stems from her work at the Pacific Shellfish Institute. She helps to safeguard the region’s clam, oyster and mussel beds, which can be polluted by dog poop. Christy was part of a decade-long campaign in Olympia and surrounding Thurston County to encourage people to “SCOOP IT, BAG IT, TRASH IT.” It helped, but not enough. For one month last year, Christy spent many of her lunch breaks picking up dog poop in public parks. She counted her bounty: 1,200 piles of poop. “It was everywhere,” she says.
Socializing dog owners is the front end of the problem. The back end is what do we do with the poop once it’s collected. In most places, it goes to a landfill. There’s something unsettling, if not downright disgusting, to think of tons of plastic-wrapped dog turds being entombed underground. What will future civilizations make of our dedication to preserving dog crap?
That unease has helped fuel a booming market in biodegradable dog waste bags. Market leader BioBags sells more than 19 million a year. I’ve seen dog parks stocked with them. Unfortunately, this seemingly green solution can backfire. The bags are designed to be composted, not landfilled. But in the absence of composting programs — I’ll come back to this — many will end up in landfills, where they are more likely to degrade than a conventional plastic bag. “Anything that goes into the landfill and degrades is worse than something that goes in and doesn’t,” says Jack Macy, commercial zero-waste coordinator for San Francisco’s Department of Environment. A compostable bag of poop that degrades in that circumstance would start producing methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
San Francisco has an ambitious goal of achieving zero waste by 2020 — the city already diverts 80 percent of its garbage from the landfill. Dog poop, at four percent of the waste stream, is one of those vexing fractions standing in the way of getting to zero.
Most commercial composters are already processing dog and cat waste that gets swept up in municipally collected yard trimmings.
Flushing it could be an option — the EPA even recommends it. You can buy special bags designed to be flushed down the drain. But as Macy points out, sewage treatment facilities use a lot of chemicals and energy to remove contaminants from human waste; adding our pets’ waste could burden some systems and would pose an extra drain on water when there’s a drought, as Californians are currently suffering.
Maybe the problem is that we are looking at poop as waste, rather than what it really is: a resource that could — and should — be recycled for compost or energy. (Cat waste is a more complicated matter because felines can harbor a hardy toxoplasmosis parasite you wouldn’t want in your compost, and many kinds of kitty litter aren’t degradable.) Dog poop, like many other kinds of manure, can be composted — but rarely is. Even cities with curbside programs that compost food scraps and other organic waste discourage people from putting dog waste in their compost bins, because commercial composting facilities don’t want it. Toronto’s program for composting pet waste (as well as dirty diapers) is a forward-looking exception.
If you’re a topical expert — researcher, business leader, author or innovator — and would like to contribute an op-ed piece, email us here.
Composting dog waste in a backyard bin can be iffy. It’s hard to achieve the temperatures needed to kill off pathogens, so you should never use composted pet waste on plants you’ll be eating. But commercial composting facilities are required to keep the compost at hot enough temperatures, for a long enough period of time, to get rid of harmful pathogens. If properly treated, the resulting compost is “perfectly safe,” says Will Brinton, president of Woods End Laboratories, a compost research lab in Mount Vernon, Maine. In fact, most commercial composters are already processing dog and cat waste that gets swept up in municipally collected yard trimmings. But none of them like to trumpet the fact, says Brinton. “It’s bad for marketing.”
A handful of private companies are stepping in to fill the void. GreenPet Composting, a poop-scooping service in Portland, has begun trucking the poop it collects up I-5 to a composting facility in western Washington. In Boulder, Colo., retiree Rose Seeman started EnviroWagg to address the waste “twilight zone that no one is doing anything about.” She is currently processing about three tons of poop a year into her “Doggone Good Compost” but hopes to expand the operation. “It’s very, very potent.”
The same biology that makes poop good for compost also makes it a potential source of energy. It can be anaerobically digested — a process that breaks down organic materials, producing a biogas that can be used for energy and a residue that can be used as a compost on plants. That’s what Toronto does with the dog waste it collects through the curbside bins. There have been several experiments with anaerobic digesters at dog parks in the United States. Arizona State University students teamed up with the town of Gilbert to place an underground methane digester in a dog park that draws about 200 animals a day. (They call the project e-TURD.) Eventually, says Macy, San Francisco plans to build an aerobic digester to handle the city’s organic waste — including the droppings of its 120,000 dogs.
After researching the options, Christy (the shellfish biologist) is hoping to persuade county officials where she lives to make the investment in aerobic digesters. (You can find her excellent report outlining various options here.) Meanwhile, she jerry-rigged a system to encourage better scooping habits. She set out a trashcan in front of her house where people could deposit their bags of poop every day. For awhile, the system worked wonderfully — the can filled up every week. But even the simplest solutions can go awry. “Somebody stole it,” she said.
“Teenagers,” she added with a mix of amusement and irritation. “They just can’t resist a can of poop.”
OnEarth Editor’s note: This is the first in a new monthly column exploring the problems, dilemmas, and opportunities posed by the stuff we (or in this case, our pets) make. Follow the author @SusanFreinkel. This article first appeared as “The Poop Problem” on OnEarth.org. Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and debates — and become part of the discussion — on Facebook, Twitter and Google +. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science.
Today I’m going to talk about composting dog poop; I know it isn’t the greatest subject of discussion but here at Misfit Gardening it is an important one, especially when I have three dogs and a lot of poop to scoop.
In England, dog poo wormeries are nothing new; back in 2011 they debuted a dog poop wormery composting system at Crufts. You can check out the article here: No worming out of dog waste disposal at dfs Crufts.
Worm composting can be conducted throughout the year and can take around 90 days or less to produce compost. It is virtually odorless which is why I’m trying it out for the dog poop however, I have seen many pictures of wormeries inside the house and even in a closet for the usual kitchen waste composting.
How do dog poo wormeries work?
Composting with worms is known as vermicomposting and according to the instruction manual by Nature’s Footprint that came with the wormery; worms produce soil that is 5 times richer in nitrogen, 10 times more potassium and 7 times more phosphate than typical garden soil. Worms turn the food they eat into worm castings.
Some of the foods you can place in a wormery if you are using it for kitchen waste include unsalted nut shells, shredded newspaper, pasta, crushed egg shells and vegetables.
Composting worms go through a miriad of foods from leaves on the ground to kitchen scraps. They will also break down dog poop and turn it into work castings which make a fabulous soil amendment as well as a liquid fertilizer which can be diluted down and used on the garden.
But animal feces contains pathogens I hear you say.
This is true, cat poop especially may contain a strain which is particularly nasty for pregnant women. Composting piles can heat up tremendously if formed properly; you could place everything into the compost heap once the worms have tackled it and/or segregate this to only use it on plants that are not destined for the table.
Light reading on the use of composted pet poop is either all for it or completely against it. For me, I have a lot new gardens to get up and established non-fruiting plants which would heavily benefit from the nutrients provided by vermicompost.
Worm Compost Bin
I ordered worms from Amazon and bought the Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm 1000 Composting Worms. There are lots of different packages available, I went with the “Frequently Bought Together” package when I ordered the Worm Factory 360. If you want to see more about worm availability and pricing take a look here: Composting Worms
The worms arrived alive and wiggling in the mail first, I opened them up and followed the directions to give them water. The worms were packed in dry peat, which was quite disappointing to me since it is a huge carbon sink and a natural resource that is beginning to decline.
The wormery is made of plastic and has a very small footprint making it ideal for small spaces.
I chose the terracotta option to minimize the heat absorption but if you live in colder climates, the black one would help keep the worms warm by absorbing the heat from the sun.
The Worm Factory 360 comes with the following:
four stacking trays
a collection tray for the worm tea that is produced
shredded paper bedding
coir brick (coconut fiber)
pumice to help aerate the system and provide grit
rock dust to provide additional nutrients and grit
worm ladder to help fallen worms climb back up out of the liquid collection
Here are the small accessories in one of the trays:
Here’s the worm tea collection tray which holds around a gallon of liquid:
The system is stackable and can have up to 7 trays with the worms moving up the system tray by tray feeding on the scraps placed in the unit. The vermicompost is collected from the bottom trays and the worm tea is drained off via the spigot. This vertical system maximizes the amount that can be composted in a small footprint.
Worm tea can be diluted down and used as a liquid fertilizer for your plants or added undiluted to the compost heap. The vermicompost can be used as a fertilizer or mulch on beds or around plants. It can even be added to containers and houseplants.
Here is the first tray with kitchen scraps all ready for the worms to be added:
Here are the worms after being added to the tray:
I did wake up to several escapees the following morning. After checking the tray, I discovered that the bedding was not moist enough so more water was added and moist food and the worms stayed put.
A thick layer of moist newspaper covers the scraps added and keeps the environment and food moist for the worms. To add food, lift up the newspaper and add the material with some fibrous material to help stop things from getting overly wet.
Interested in trying out worm composting? You can buy the model I did from Amazon below.
Worm farms for doggy doo
Dogs do it, we all do it! If you have a canine companion you will know that along with the cuddles and strolls in the park comes a responsibility for, well, poo.
So, what about putting it into the bin? Well this might get rid of the problem, but only gets rid of it to somewhere else. Dog poo in a plastic bag will take as long to break down as the plastic takes, and produce climate-change-amplifying methane gases.
What about burying it in the garden? This is a problem too in most backyards as you soon run out room for fresh burials. Too much in the one spot will kill grass and trees.
Enter the worm farms. Worm farms can be great for kitchen waste (if you have a nice cool spot for the farm) and dog poo is certainly no different. A worm farm is also environmentally friendly, cheap, efficient and a reliable way to dispose of poo – and if you have a shaggy dog it can also take care of that extra dog hair.
Worm farms can dispose of your dog’s poo without the need for chemicals and products.
All you need is a separate worm farm set up for your dog poo, some worms and of course some doggy doo and you are on your way to converting mess into great compost for your garden. We recommend using the compost from your dog poo worm farm on ornamental plants, not edible ones. We’ve also been told that you should feed your dedicated dog poo worms only the dog poo, no other delicious kitchen scraps allowed or they won’t touch the poo (it’s a tough life but someone has to do it!).
Now dog doo is rich! And your worms like a more balanced diet. One of the best balancing foods is wet, unbleached cardboard. This will keep your worms healthier and you’ll end up with a much better compost. Make sure there’s always some there for them to eat.
Now one word of caution: if your dog has parasitic intestinal worms (no relation), be sure not to handle the resulting compost. Indeed, assume this to be the case and don’t handle it with bare hands ever! This is true even if it looks like perfectly beautiful finished compost. For this reason, do not use the compost on veggie gardens. If you’re in the tropics, where hookworm is more of a concern, don’t use the compost anywhere less than 1.5m from paths where you might walk in bare feet, or places where you might lie on some grass.
And, if you have wormed your pet, do not put the dog poo in the farm! Wait for two weeks or so after every worming or you may kill the friendly worms – poo collected during this period can be buried in the garden.
We have successfully used shop-purchased black plastic worm farms to deal with doggy doo doo, although in summer you must keep them either in a cool garage or well-watered with piece of hessian, as worms in black plastic do not survive direct sunlight. More info on these is available on our worm farm page.
Worm Composting with Dog Poo
“I found the newsletter on manure very informative. I do have a question concerning manure for worms. I do not have much access to “regular” animal farm manure, however, I do have an abundance of dog poo. Has anyone ever used dog dirt as a food source for their worm bins?
If so, are there any pre-composting requirement or health concerns? I am so glad that I found this newsletter because it covers topics that are on my mind! Thanks,” ~ Rick
This an excellent question and something that seems to come up quite a bit – understandably, given the number of dog owners out there!
Dog, cat and even human ‘manures’ are all rich in nitrogen and in principle could work very well in the worm composting system if properly managed. That being said, they should all be used with a considerable amount of caution since they can represent a potential health hazard.
My recommendation for those interested in vermicomposting with dog and cat wastes is always the same – start up a completely separate system, preferably one located outside. Apart from the potential health issues (we’ll discuss in a minute), these materials just aren’t all that pleasant to deal with.
While farmyard manure can certainly have a potent smell, it is much more tolerable than the smell of large quantities of dog or cat poop. Plus, who wants to accidentally stick their hands in this stuff when digging around in their worm bin? Not me – that’s for sure! 🙂
As far as health concerns go, cat, dog and human wastes contain fecal coliform bacteria among other potentially nasty pathogens.
Cat waste in particular warrants extra caution, since it can also contain a parasitic protozoan called Toxoplasma gondii. This organism is relatively harmless for many people who become infected, but it can be a serious threat for pregnant woman (since it can harm the unborn child) or those with compromised immune systems.
Just so you know, most cases of Toxoplasmosis actually result from the consumption of raw meat, NOT from contact with cat feces (http://www.metrokc.gov/HEALTH/prevcont/toxoplas.htm), so don’t let this terrify you too much, unless of course you like your steaks rare! haha
Setting up an outdoor pet waste composting system is very easy, but there are some guidelines you should keep in mind. For starters, make sure to locate the system(s) a good distance away from the nearest water body. It’s not a bad idea to locate it away from your vegetable garden (assuming you have one) and other compost bins as well.
I would suggest digging a good sized hole in the ground, perhaps 3 feet deep and 2-3 feet across. Line the bottom of the hole with a thick layer of shredded cardboard, peat moss, or fall leaves.
Then you simply start adding your pet waste as it becomes available. Each time you make a deposit be sure to add some more bedding material as well and perhaps a sprinkle of water as well.
Covering the pit with a standard black plastic backyard composter would work very well since it would allow you to add a lot more material, and would also protect the contents from rain – it is definitely better if you are in control of the amount of water added.
By the way, I know you were asking specifically about dog waste, but for the benefit of those thinking about using cat waste – definitely do NOT add the entire contents of your litter box (unless you use a natural litter material like “Yesterday’s News” or “Swheat Scoop”).
When I was young and foolish I tried dumping the entire contents of a littler box in an outdoor worm system and just ended up with a big mess of clay.
If you plan to add composting worms I would suggest either A) Adding the entire contents of a worm bin over top of the bedding in the bottom of the hole, then adding another layer of bedding before starting to add pet wastes, or B) simply filling up the hole with pet waste and bedding as described, then letting it sit for a couple weeks before adding the worms.
Fresh pet waste will give off a lot of ammonia gas, and just generally won’t be all that inviting to your worms, but once it has been mixed with the bedding material and allowed to age for a bit they should readily consume it. Once they become established in the system, adding fresh wastes to the top won’t be an issue at all (since they will continue consuming older materials down below).
While I probably wouldn’t ever actually remove compost from one of these systems, it might not be a bad idea to locate your pet waste bins near some trees or other ornamental plants that can benefit from the nutrients.
One other option for these sorts of wastes (and the reason I mentioned human wastes) is of course the ‘Composting Toilet’. I’ve heard of people having thriving populations of red wigglers inside these systems, and you can certainly dump your pet wastes in them as well.
Hope this helps!
Discover How To Grow Big Fat Composting Worms And Produce More Organic Worm Compost Faster Than Ever Before… Download Our Guide To Worm Composting Here.
How To Grow A More Productive Veggie Garden… How To Turn The Food I Grow Into Healthy Hearty Meals… How To Keep Chickens, Rabbits & Other Livestock… How To Turn Herbs Into Natural Health & Wellness… How To Become More Self Sufficient In General…
How To Make A DIY Dog Poo Compost
This is not a new concept and there are ready-made dog waste composts out there but the largest I could find was only 2 liters. Charlie is a big dog and a 2-liter bucket just wasn’t going to cut it. That thing would be overflowing by the end of the week!
So, we decided to make our own dog waste compost.
This compost is NOT intended to be used in the garden. The waste is left in the bucket to break down over time. Once it’s close to full, you remove the bucket, fill in the hole with dirt and start a new hole in your yard.
2019 update: Charlie is now a 51kg dog, we’re 20 months into using this bucket and it’s only half full.
What you will need:
- 1 large plastic drum with a lid that seals. I found a second hand one on Gumtree for about $20 that had previously been used to transport grains.
- Some medium-size pebbles. This is to put in the bottom of the drum to assist with water drainage.
- A shovel.
- An electric drill to drill holes in the drum.
- A saw to remove the base of the drum.
- Ensopet Starter. This is a mixture of wheat, sawdust, and minerals combined with a group of micro-organisms which will accelerate the breakdown of the dog waste, eliminate the smell and help kill any pathogens (worms, bugs) in the compost. You can buy this online here:
Lastly, someone to dig the hole and use the drill aka my hubby. I was the photographer and Charlie supervised!
Go ahead and guess: How much dog poop do our pets produce each year? The answer is that in the United States, 83 million pet dogs create 10.6 million tons of poop. That’s. A. Lot. Of. Poop. As a responsible dog owner you know that you need to pick up that poop and dispose of it properly. But you and your dog can go one step further and turn that waste into something beneficial for your garden. Learn how to make dog poop compost in four simple steps.
Step 1: Collect supplies
You’ll need a plastic garbage can with a removable lid. The size you use depends on how much poop you have to compost. If you have multiple German Shepherds then choose a large 32 gallon can, but if you have one Yorkshire terrier then opt for something smaller like a 13 gallon can. Also bear in mind that if you’re planning to harvest the dog poop compost then you to need to be able to reach the bottom of the can once it is buried. So, a 32 gallon can may be too large; consider a 23 gallon can.
You’ll also need:
-either a manual or electric drill
-digging spade (or an especially well-trained dog who will dig exactly when and where you want)
-rocks of various sizes–How many you need depends on the size of the garbage can you’re using. Plan on a good wheelbarrow full of rocks for multiple large breed dogs and an apple basket full for one smaller sized dog.
-septic starter which can be purchased at any home supply store–You can also make your own.
-large stone or brick
-dog poop without plastic pick-up bag
Step 2: Cut and drill
Use the keyhole saw to cut the bottom out of the garbage can. Then use the drill to drill holes in the side of the can. Drill enough holes for plenty of drainage to escape, but not so many that your can collapses.
Step 3: Dig, and bury
Dig a hole large enough to accommodate your garbage can and pile of rocks. The can will be buried completely leaving only the top visible. Place the rocks at the bottom of the hole and put your bottom-less garbage can on top. Back fill around the sides of the can. The removable lid should be exposed above ground so that you can easily add to the can and cover it again. Placing a large stone or brick on top of the lid is useful for keeping unwanted critters out of the compost.
Step 4: Add poop and septic starter
Add dog poop to the buried garbage can (don’t include the plastic pick-up bag) and then cover with a layer of septic starter. After the first addition of poop wait 48 hours to give the septic starter time to work. After this initial deposit the poop can be added each day. Each addition should be covered with septic starter.
Where Can You Use the Dog Poop Compost?
You’ll know it is time to harvest the compost when it looks like coffee grounds. The verdict is still out on whether or not you can use dog poop compost on your vegetable garden. Dogs are subject to roundworms (Toxicara canis), and these worms can infect your dog poop compost. Roundworms are not safe for humans to ingest so it is probably best to only use the compost on non-food gardens (i.e. flower garden, non-fruit trees, shrubs).
If you know your dog is infected with roundworms or any other type of parasite do not compost their poop until the infection has been successfully treated.
If you don’t want to harvest your dog poop compost then just leave it in the ground and it will biodegrade and become part of the subsoil.
There are other ways of doing things
Some folks make their dog poop compost differently. They have an above ground compost pile and use a recipe of two parts dog poop and one part sawdust for their dog poop compost pile. Others use a slightly different recipe: one part dog poop, plus one part green matter (lawn clippings, leaves), plus three parts soil.
Sorry, cat owners
Cat poop can not be composted. Your feline friends can carry toxoplasmosis which is very toxic to humans so it should be kept out of compost.
Related on Organic Authority
Poo Free Parks
The Canine Waste Conundrum: Recyclable Plastic Bags Or Compostable Alternatives
11 Items You Shouldn’t Compost
photo of two dogs in leaves via
The Doggie DooleyCleaning Up Dog Doo for 40 Years
Doggie Dooley pet waste disposal systems were first manufactured in 1968. For over 40 years they’ve provided people with an excellent way to handle their dog’s poop.
There are two main types of doggy dooley, the leach bed system and the septic tank system. Your soil conditions and climate will dictate which system is right for you and your pet.
Will the Doggy Dooley Work for Me?
The Climate Issue – All the doggie dooley systems, and the similar do it yourself systems, work using a septic system starter. This is a biological product. Essentially, it contains the bacteria that will digest your dog’s poop. These bacteria become inactive at temperatures below 40F or 5C. So, if you have long cold winters you will need some other method to handle pet waste during this time.
The actual system can remain outdoors over the winter no problem. It is durable and designed to survive freezing conditions. However it can not process poop in cold conditions.
The Soil Issue – Before buying a dog dooley, or building a similar system on your own, check your soil drainage.
To check your soil you’ll need to dig a hole. Call before you dig to make sure you aren’t going to hit a gas or utility line. In the US call 811 and you’ll be put in touch with the people in your state. In Canada and other countries google “call before you dig” and your location to get the number to call.
The test hole can be smaller than the real hole you’ll be digging out. Make it about 1 foot (30 cm) in diameter and 2 feet (60 cm) deep. Pour 5 gallons (20 liters) of water into the hole.
After 24 hours check the hole.
- If all the water is already gone your soil is sandy and you will need a septic tank style doggie dooley.
After 48 hours check the hole.
- If there is still water in the hole your soil does not have good enough drainage for any of the doggie dooley models nor is it suitable for a do it yourself system.
- If it is now empty of water you can use either the septic tank or the leachate bed type systems.
Where to Put Your System
The system, because it is processing poop, should be located in an ornamental section of your yard. Don’t put it right in the middle of the vegetable garden.
Many people put their dooley in the middle of the lawn for some reason. Inevitably a lawn mower incident will lead you to the internet to buy a replacement lid.
Leach Bed Style Doggie Dooley
The leach bed style doggy dooleys include model 3500, 3535, and 3800. The 3500 and 3535 are smaller and suitable for one large or two small dogs. The 3800 model is larger and good for 2 large or 4 small dogs. If you read the reviews it seems the people with the larger system are happier than those with the smaller ones.
These require a hole about 20 inches (50cm) square by 2 feet (60cm) deep. As well as adding dog dung you will also be adding 5 gallons of water and 1T (15 ml) of digester powder per dog per week.
Home made versions of this system bury a bottomless garbage can in the dog toilet location of your yard. Use a septic starter powder and water to activate the system and keep it going. If your soil drained too quickly you will not be able to keep the moisture level high enough for the digester and poop to work.
Septic Tank Style Dog Dooley
Model 2000 and 3000 are the septic tank systems offered. The 2000 works for 2 small or 1 large dog and the 3000 for 2 large or 4 small dogs. They are an enclosed holding tank with a built in overflow system. Again, the bigger system seems to have happier customers.
These require a narrow, deep hole – 14-15 inches (40cm) in diameter and four feet (120cm) deep. Yikes. You add a quart (1 liter) of water per day and 1T (15 ml) of digester powder per dog per week.
Personally, I think it would be difficult to build a septic tank system with the overflow device so I’d say if you like this method and your soil drains too quickly for a leach bed type, you would be best to actually buy a system.
Here are links to Amazon suppliers of the doggie dooley. While Amazon does ship to Canada now, the shipping rates are high, so Canadians may want to look for a Canadian supplier.
- Compost Home
- Dog Waste Disposal
- Doggie Dooley