Leg-Lifting Dogs Can Ruin Plants

Dog owners who let their pets use their neighbor's yards as litter boxes are trespassing and maybe committing vandalism.

There are times in any endeavor, be it vocation or hobby, that you wonder why you ever chose to do this. As much as I enjoy gardening, I've had a few of those moments recently.

Three years ago we put a corner island bed in the front yard.  It's a challenging spot, bordered on two sides by pavement and in near proximity to a nutrient- and water-hogging maple tree.  We removed the sod, then added soil and compost. I planted hardy, sun-loving flowers, and I mulch and weed and water. The result is nothing spectacular and it's certainly not designer perfect, but it's colorful and cheerful.

And most of the time, it smells like a bus stop restroom.

For some reason, local dog owner have no qualms about letting their pets use this flower bed and the grass bordering it as a latrine.

I happened to be pulling into the driveway one afternoon as a man stopped to let his dog lift a leg on my day lilies. I walked over and politely told him that when one dog marks a spot, every other dog that passes by will want to do the same. Over time, the result is dead plants and contaminated soil.

He looked shocked and enlightened, and he promised it wouldn't happen again. I'm not sure whether he was a remarkable actor or someone too clueless about canine behavior to own a dog.

Judging from other online discussions I've read, many dog owners are offended by any suggestion that their pets are not welcome to use other people's lawns. Widespread opinion seems to be that it's no big deal, and that even in places with leash and pick-up laws, such as Barrington, it's not illegal.

Well, actually, it is.  It's called tresspassing, and one might also make an argument for vandalism. 

The high concentration of nitrates in dog urine burns the lawn and causes brown spots. I've lost a number of flowering plants to leashed dogs with inconsiderate owners. One spot along the side road became so deeply contaminated that nothing would grow there. I finally had to remove and replace the soil.

The other day I came into the house from weeding and told my husband the front bed smelled like an outhouse. He suggested that we tear it up and move the plants away from the road, perhaps along the front walk. We agreed on two things: Neither of us has the time at present to do this, and neither of us would have put in a roadside bed in the first place if we'd factored dog walkers into the equation. 

So, yeah.  I'm a little discouraged. And I'm definitely scrapping plans to extend the flower bed all along the edge of the front yard.

To dog owners, I strongly urge you to keep your dog in your own yard until it has tended to business.  Dogs want to mark territory while you're walking them, but leashed dogs can only tresspass if the people on the other end of the leash allow them to do so. 

You might not think it's a big deal, but then, neither does the next person who lets their dog check for pee-mail and hit Reply. Or the next, or the next. 

Elaine Cunningham July 13, 2011 at 08:14 PM
I often ask that very question, Linda.
Maggie July 14, 2011 at 04:26 PM
I also have trained my dog to stay out of yards. I always clean up after my dog and dog owners that don't give us all a bad name. Just FYI, it is possible that the first "few feet" of any yard is town property. There are no sidewalks in my part of town so that area is actually "town" property.
Elaine Cunningham July 15, 2011 at 05:01 PM
Maggie, it appears that you're right about town ownership of the front strip of residential property. I checked with Robert Speaker, the Barrington building official, and received this reply: "The town usually does own in more than just the pavement. For example on the street where I live , the town owns about 9 feet in from the pavement. It is common that the property owner maintains this strip of land in front of their home but the town actually does own it. The pavement does not take up the total town Right Of Way width." In light of this, I stand corrected on the fact that people who allow their leashed (and unleashed) dogs to wander into neighbors' yards are trespassing. I still maintain, however, that simple courtesy would dictate that they keep their pets off lawns and out of gardens.
Maggie July 18, 2011 at 12:21 PM
And I agree with you. My only reason for "saying" anything is to try and correct the notion that the dogs are on private property. Again, all dog owners should clean up the messes and keep their animals out of other peoples yards. I walk my dog all year round, shall we discuss the mess left in the snowy roadway by these same people? Nah, thats a whole other article. :)
Moses July 27, 2011 at 01:04 AM
For those of you who think its okay to let your dog poop on the patch of yard that I maintain in front of my house (whether I own it or not) and (whether you pick it up or not) it is not okay! Let them poop in your own yard or bring them to the dog park. Read on to learn why... The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms pet waste can spread parasites including hookworms, ringworms, tapeworms and Salmonella. When infected dog poop comes into contact with your lawn, the poop will eventually "disappear", but the parasite eggs can linger for years! When a human or animal comes into contact with that soil through everyday activities like walking barefoot, gardening or playing, they risk infection from those eggs ... even years after the poop is gone. Dog poop often contains roundworm larvae, which cause blindness. If a human ingests a roundworm larva, it can migrate through the body causing disease to the brain, lungs, kidneys, liver, heart or eyes. So when people (especially children) touch soil, dog toys or anything that has been in contact with dog feces and then touch their mouths, they can become infected. Information source: Environmental Protection Agency U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)


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