Why You Should Recycle Your Dog’s Waste

An estimated 73 million dogs live in the United States, and each dog produces an average of 274 pounds of waste a year. About 5 percent of waste in landfills is dog fecal material, which makes for a mighty big carbon footprint for our canine best friends. Dog waste contains pathogens and parasites that can hurt water quality, and since rainwater washes waste into storm drains, then rivers and streams, waste left on open ground harms the environment.

As a result, responsible dog owners and municipalities are addressing the disposal of this waste in various ways. For example, a pilot partnership between dog owners and a compost company in Ithaca, N.Y., is undertaking large-scale composting of waste collected at the city’s dog park. Innovative commercial services in Oregon and Colorado also collect dog poop and recycle it.

What You Can Do About Dog Waste
With care and effort, you can dispose of your dog’s waste in an environmentally safe way. Since dog poop can contain such bacteria as E. coli and salmonella, it’s important to handle it safely. You don’t want it contaminating groundwater tables, for instance, and it wouldn’t make appropriate compost for a vegetable garden. In fact, it’s best to dig composted matter into soil around ornamental plants, says Sharon Slack, head gardener at Vancouver’s compost demonstration garden in British Columbia.

Consider these green disposal methods:

  • Commercial in-ground dog waste toilet For $89.95, you can purchase an in-ground Doggie Dooley kit, which includes a galvanized steel tank with a polymer lid, a supply of digester powder containing bacteria that speed decomposition, a long-handled scooper and an odor-eliminating solution. You bury the tank to the height of the lid, then simply dispose of poop in the tank. The Dooley requires a modest amount of maintenance: All you need to do is add water and the digester. “Typically, there’s no odor, because there’s a lid, and it’s at ground level,” explains Carey Stiles, president of the product’s manufacturer, Hueter Toledo Inc.

The company makes several models, the largest of which accommodates two large -- or four small -- dogs. “You don’t have to clean the system out,” says Stiles: The waste breaks down into the soil around or below the tank, depending on the model. But do “test your soil first for good drainage,” since in-ground composters won’t work if you have either hard clay soil or porous sandy soil, adds Stiles.

  • DIY in-ground composter For a low-cost option, cut a hole in the bottom of a plastic garbage can, dig a hole in the ground, line the bottom of the pit with rocks for drainage, then insert the can. You’ll want the can lid to rest at ground level, says Slack. You’ll also need to use some sort of natural septic starter or bacteria culture and water to aid the composting process. You can sprinkle soil on top of each deposit you make or add brown leaves or green yard waste to speed the process.

“If you are really good about putting your bacteria culture in and you have good draining soil, you could probably go a long time,” says Slack.

  • Above-ground electric composter NatureMill Inc., a San Francisco-based manufacturer, sells electric-powered composters that you simply plug into an outdoor outlet, says NatureMill’s Carrie Donovan. Models range from $299 to $399. The composter heats 24 hours a day and mixes matter every four hours, producing compost in as little as two weeks. An air pump helps alleviate odors.

You’ll likely find using a green disposal system for your pooch’s poop more pleasant than always tossing plastic bags in the trash. As Stiles says, “It’s a nice, neat, safe, clean way to dispose of your pet’s waste.”

A Dog-centric Look Back at 2008

When the weather turned frosty this November, Jeanette Bond of New York City went straight to the Web to find a camouflage puffer jacket with a fake fur-trimmed hood for her King Charles spaniel. "It's really cute and totally stylish," said the 31-year-old Bond. "If it fit me, I'd borrow it."

Patterned puffer jackets were not the only big dog trend of 2008. Below, Laura Bennett, a pet trend expert and the CEO of Embrace Pet Insurance, weighs in on all dog-related things 2008 -- and makes some predictions for 2009.

Pet Products Go Green According to Bennett, the green movement hit the pet world big-time in 2008. "Dog parents want to feel they're making choices that benefit the environment," she says. This year, pet product manufacturers responded by using recycled materials and sustainable products, like jute and hemp, to make dog accessories. These included everything from bedding to clothing to leashes. "This is one trend that will continue into 2009," Bennett predicts.

Budgets Put on a Leash Even before the September collapse of Wall Street, canine companions were tightening the financial leash. The year 2008 saw the end of the ubiquity of Louis Vuitton dog carriers and other high-end designer doggie duds. "People are still spending money on their dogs, but they wanted value this year. They want a leash that is functional and that lasts, not necessarily a big name brand," Bennett explains. She adds, "This, too, will continue through 2009." To take advantage of the economic downswing, large discount chains like Target and Wal-Mart are expanding their pet aisles with a wider selection of leashes, bowls and clothing.

Grooming Goes Mainstream "People are shopping at large chain stores because they're less expensive, and those stores are working to expand their reach," says Bennett. Wal-Mart is the first to test store-based grooming salons. If these are successful, other chain stores are likely to follow their lead in 2009. Cautions Bennett: "These stores can successfully sell goods for less, but for services, you have to wonder."

Veterinarians Get Specialized Pet health care is getting more sophisticated. As chemotherapy and complicated surgeries become viable options for dogs in distress, more veterinarians are specializing. "People are being referred to these specialists when something happens. It ranges from orthopedic surgery to nutritional or behavioral specialists," says Bennett. While urban areas have seen more specialization during the last five years or so, it was in 2008 that more rural parts of the country started to see the growth of this trend, which will also continue into 2009.

Dogs Hit the Road With international travel becoming prohibitively expensive, domestic travel is on the rise. This means more people are bringing Rover on vacation. "Hotels are catering to pets," says Bennett. "Not just $25-a-night motels, but also higher-end hotels [such as Comfort Inn and Quality Inn] have packages for pets. They're trying to appeal to people in unique and different ways." Some auto insurance companies, like Progressive, are also adjusting accordingly by offering pet injury coverage.

Pet Health Insurance Makes Progress Pet owners dubious of pet insurance plans that have historically covered very little needed to rethink their judgment in 2008. "2008 was the year of pet health insurance. It became more visible, as big brands got into the industry," says Bennett. "Newer brands are providing better offerings, and word of mouth is becoming more positive."

But what is Bennett's biggest prediction for 2009? She thinks the popularity of adopting a shelter dog will skyrocket. "Shelters and rescues will be the big thing after the Obamas move into the White House. Everyone will want to say, 'I got my dog from the same place the president got his.'"

Twelve Days of Dog Holiday Gifting

Santa Paws is making his list. All dogs -- naughty and nice -- are on it, so it’s time to consider what gifts might be best for both your budget and your furry pal this holiday season. You won’t find lords-a-leaping or maids-a-milking here. Instead, with assistance from dog trainers and an online doggie boutique owner, we’ve assembled a dozen innovative dog gifts that are likely to be pooch pleasers this holiday season:

1. Tuffy’s Bevo the Bull Here’s a stuffed animal that just might be tough enough for your pup. Outsized at 19 inches long and 12 inches tall, Bevo (about $25) is durable yet soft, says Darcie Krueger, president and owner of online boutique SitStay. Bevo’s construction is designed to hold up to interactive play, with two layers of heavy-duty nylon and a layer of PVC topped with an outer layer of fleece. “This is the longest-lasting line of soft toys we have tested,” says Krueger. Nevertheless, if your dog likes to dissect, shred and eat stuffed toys, you’ll always want to supervise play with a stuffed toy, recommends Daphne Robert-Hamilton, a Morgan Hill, Calif., dog trainer.

2. Greedy Pup’s Eat Slow Bowl Does your pup wolf down his dinner? It’s not a matter of worrying about your dog’s manners. Gulping down food can lead to tummy upset, obesity and a serious condition known as “bloat,” where a dog’s stomach twists, threatening its life. The Eat Slow Bowl (about $29) and similar products are designed to slow your furry friend’s eating. This particular bowl, made of sturdy polypropylene, features molded protrusions that slow access to food without putting a damper on your dog’s dinner enjoyment.

3. LED Lighted Collars Keep your dog safe during early morning and late night walks with an LED (light-emitting diode) collar. Durability is key, so look for well-made products, like the Nite-Dawg line (about $14). Be wary of inexpensive LED collars that won’t hold up to scratching, chewing or water. Money is tight this holiday season, but you’ll spend less in the long run if you select quality items that won’t require a replacement in the near future.

4. Canine Genius’ Leo Toy A chew toy you stuff with a treat rewards your dog for choosing the toy over “all the other items in your home that might seem just as good,” says Stacy Braslau-Schneck, a San Jose, Calif., dog trainer. She recommends the Leo toys (about $12 for small Leos, $18 to $21 for large), which are soft and easy to load. Think of the Leos as Legos for dogs, since you can interconnect several Leos and create different, intriguing shapes for your pup. Braslau-Schneck does note that the toy can be hard to clean. A serious canine chewer might also bite the neck off the vase-shaped toy. Leos, however, offer such effective enrichment that zoos are beginning to use the toys for some of their animals, says Robert-Hamilton.

5. Fetch A Bubble Bubble Machine For sheer goofiness, it’s hard to beat Gazillion’s Fetch a Bubble machines (around $16), with their bacon, peanut butter and chicken-scented bubbles. If any kids are in your house, you might even find that they will enjoy chasing the bubbles as much as your dog will.

6. Big Shrimpy’s Nest Bed Your pooch deserves a comfy bed to call its own, and the Big Shrimpy nest bed (about $100 small, $126 medium, $146 large) offers a substantial feel with its recycled polyester fiber and a durable cover that comes in a dozen colors. You can deconstruct the bed to wash the cover and inner cushion liner at home. You’ll need to wash the SmartFill filler at a commercial laundromat, however. Since the bed ships from the factory, be sure to place your holiday order early.

7. Clean Run’s Training Toys The agility community provides a helpful resource for innovative toys, says Robert-Hamilton. Sites like Clean Run, directed toward owners with dogs that participate in agility competitions, offer items such as tug toys with real animal fur. “They tap into what dogs like,” she says. The bunny jackpot and tug toy (about $19) also has a pouch you can fill with a food reward. Uncomfortable with the real fur aspect of some toys? Try the Toss-N-Treat (about $15), a stuffable flying disc. Want to find other toys off the beaten track? Check out sites oriented toward zoo animal enrichment, Robert-Hamilton advises.

8. Ruff Wear’s Mt. Bachelor Pad If “ruffing” it means your dog accompanies you on outdoor excursions, you’ll want to make sure your pooch has a comfortable place to sleep. The Mt. Bachelor pad (about $55 for medium, approximately $64 for large) rolls up like a sleeping bag, complete with carrying handle. The backing offers a moisture barrier, and the pad includes thermal insulation as well as cozy, warmth-holding fleece.

9. Nina Ottosson’s Interactive Toys These Swedish wooden pet puzzle toys are reminiscent of upscale wooden European kids’ playthings, worthy of a holiday splurge. Does your dog have an adoring human grandmother? An Ottosson puzzle -- such as the new Dog Fighter ($47.95), with pegs under which your dog slides to find the treat -- is grandma-worthy. Pawlickers offers an assortment of Ottosson puzzles online.

10. KongTime’s Toy Dispenser A dog can get mighty bored sitting home on its own all day. KongTime (about $120) offers a new spin on a familiar toy, using a timer to dispense treat-stuffed Kongs at intervals you determine.

11. Ruff Wear’s Approach Pack KT McKee, a show dog trainer and breeder in British Columbia, makes sure her dogs feel useful by having them carry things in backpacks. You can give your dog a sense of purpose as well, with Ruff Wear’s Approach Pack (about $60-$70). The pack offers an adjustable five-point fit and comes in five different sizes. While this pack is designed for short hikes or everyday use, the company also makes a doggie pack for long backpacking trips.

12. Wubba’s Water Toys If your pooch channels his inner Michael Phelps every time you get near water, you’ll want to stuff a stocking with Wubba’s water toys (about $6). The brightly colored floating toys come in three sizes and feature a rounded top with three long tails.

Before you pull out that adorable doggie wrapping paper, however, please keep a few tips in mind. You should supervise your dog when introducing a new toy, says Robert-Hamilton. Be wary of cheap toys that may contain toxic ingredients and be mindful of choking dangers with small toys and toys that shred easily. It’s also a good idea to avoid toys with flashing lights or lasers, which can lead to obsessive behaviors. But what’s the best gift of all? Time spent with you, of course.

The Dog Daily HolidayGift Guide

Man's best friend remains loyal to his people 365 days a year, and it would be a shame to forget Fido on the holidays. In fact, about 80 percent of dog owners say they buy gifts for their dogs. The number-one gift-giving holiday is Christmas (of course!), but it's not easy to find the special present that will put your pup in the holiday spirit, along with the rest of us. Check out these special, can't-miss gift suggestions. But don't forget that while gifts may be fun, but nothing is better than lots of tender love and care. Your dog's favorite toy is YOU.

Pendleton Dog Jacket
Your preppy puppy should be the most stylish (and warm) dog in the park. Forget corny plaid sweaters-let L.L. Bean outfit him. The Pendleton Dog Jacket is an adorable cover-up that features classic trapper stripes. Made of a super-warm wool material, it has a secure Velcro closure to keep it in place. It is available in small, medium and large. Choose from white or green.

L.L. Bean, (800) 221-4221

Retail price: $34.50


Pet Umbrella
Protect your pup from the elements this holiday season. Although some dogs, especially large ones, love trekking through the snow, many absolutely dread going outside in a snowstorm to do their business. The Pet Umbrella is basically an umbrella on a leash that attaches to your pet's collar (it does not rest on his neck or head), enabling you to shield him from the rain, sleet, and snow with minimal effort. You can also get a matching people umbrella.

Global Pet Products, (877) 768-2059

Retail price: $16


D. Bauer Necklace
Most humans love to get jewelry for the holidays. Although your dog would look positively silly wearing a strand of pearls, and gold rings are out of the question, the Three Strand 10-inch Necklace by D. Bauer would be the perfect luxury gift for your little princess. This beautiful collar made of crystals may seem familiar: It was featured in the movie Legally Blond 2. You can choose from several different colors and metal finishes.

PawPrintz Pet Boutique, (713) 935-2162

Retail price: $75


Lil' Pup Bowl
Forget boring ceramic or plastic food bowls, your dog should dine in style. The stainless steel Lil' Pup Bowl is sure to stand out in your kitchen, as it resembles a work of modern sculpture. It is dishwasher safe and holds up to two cups of food. But best of all it has an easy-to-grip handle, so no matter how sloppy an eater Fido is you can pick up the bowl without getting dog food all over your hands. Choose from three colors: brio, moss, or haze.

Barker & Meowsky, (773) 868-0200

Retail price: $32.50


Wiggly Giggly Santa
The must-have stocking stuffer is the Wiggly Giggly Santa. The Wiggly Giggly ball has been a canine favorite for years and is given a Santa cover especially for this jolly time of year. Just give this rotund Santa a toss and listen to those silly Wiggly Giggly signature sounds. Of course, Wiggly Giggly Santa will still be in fashion after the holidays are over, because his cover can be easily removed.

DogToys, (877) 364-8697

Retail price: $9.95


Good Dog Bath Towels
Most pet owners pull out the old ripped, stained towels when it's time to give pup a bath. You know you do it too. Why not treat your pooch to his very own set of soft, luxurious towels? Good Dog Bath Towels are super-absorbent and have the words "good dog" woven in green. These 40-by-20-inch towels come in sets of two, tied with an ivory ribbon.

George, (877) 322-3232

Retail price: $29.50


And something for you...
Even if you have resisted filling up your home or your office cubicle with photos of your dog, little breed statues, mugs, and other goodies, you still need a calendar. Why not one that showcases your dog's breed? Willow Creek Press offers beautiful calendars in 35 different designs. Got a mutt at home? There are mutt calendars too. And if your 15-pound mixed breed seems to have the heart of a Rottweiler, you can get him a Rottweiler calendar as inspiration!

Willow Creek Press, (715) 358-7010

Retail price: $9