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How To Deal With Dog Poop When Nature Calls During a Hike

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It’s time for you and your best four legged friend to hit the trails! And you can bet that nature will call for your pooch. What do you do when your dog poops in the woods? Do you leave it behind… after all, you’re in the woods, and other animals leave their droppings there. You may think, “Hey, it’s part of nature, as long as it’s off the trail, no harm done, right?”

Nope – you’d be wrong. Dog waste is not part of nature – in fact it can take up to a year to completely break down into the soil. Doggy-doo can actually be a serious hazard. It contains bacterial microorganisms that can be pathogenic to humans and resistant to antibiotics.  Just some of the nasty things found in your dog’s droppings include Campylobacter, Salmonella, Yersinia and E. coli. Dog waste also contributes to the diffusion of protozoa such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium, and of roundworms such as Toxocara canis. That’s a whole lot of crap!

Now you know, don’t leave dog waste where it drops. But what should you do with those little presents while out on the trail? You got options:

  1. Bury it. This is a feasible option in remote areas. Using a small plastic shovel, dig a hole at least six inches deep that’s at least 200 feet from any water source. This stops those nasty things we talked about from getting into the water source. Dark, rich soil is higher in beneficial bacteria, so it will facilitate the breakdown of poop. Also helpful is stirring some soil into the poop as well, as this will help it break down faster. When you’re finished, cover up the hole and pack the loose soil down again. While a great option in remote areas, this is not acceptable in higher traffic environments. Ensure you wipe the shovel off with soil and bag it so there is contamination to your other gear.
  2. Pack it. Packing the poop out is the most responsible thing to do, but be careful or it can end in disaster! First, consider the type of bag you plan to use. A biodegradable bag is awesome, but if destined for a landfill, it’s not likely to break down properly. Plastic bags are cheap and readily available, with little odor. Estimates vary on how long it will take a plastic bag to break down, but some scientists believe that it can take up to 1000 years! Regardless of what bag you choose, there are a few tricks you can do to reduce the chance of the poop bag popping. Always ensure that you squeeze the air out gently before you tie the bag. Scooping up only the poop and making sure there are no sharp stones or sticks in the bag is also a good way to keep the mess contained. Once the poop is sealed up in a bag, either place it in a poop dedicated satchel, a mess pouch on your pack, or on a small pack your dog will carry. Double bagging all poop bags can help ensure no leaks.
  3. Flush it. The most environmentally friendly (but super gross) option is scooping the poop to be disposed of down an outhouse or flush toilet at the trailhead. Using an old resealable, solid-colored drinking container is perfect. These bottles are sold in a variety of sizes and have hooks for attaching to packs. Simply scoop the poop into the container, seal the lid, and be on your way. Be warned that if exposed to the sun or warm weather, there will be a build-up of smell when you go to open it. For multi-day trips, you can add products to the bottle designed for breaking down poop. These are commonly used in outhouses to help nature along. A few teaspoons won’t eliminate the odour, but it will help. Avoid any product with colour, fragrance, quaternary ammonium, lye or formaldehyde. When you reach the trailhead, you can easily dump the contents of the bottle down the toilet or into the outhouse, where helpful bacteria will help break it down. Remember, never throw any poop bags into an outhouse or flush them down a toilet – even biodegradable ones.

Get out on the trail, and always deal with your dog’s s%*t!


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