Dear PoPville – Getting People to Curb Their Dogs

Photo by PoPville flickr user sophiagrrl

Dear PoPville,

I’ve lived on my street in lower Shaw for seven years, not that it should matter. Our building has a small patch of grass with no fencing. We’re really the only non-wrought iron fenced lawn on the block. We’re also the crappiest building on the block, but again, that shouldn’t matter. I’m writing because recently I’ve started politely asking people not to curb their dog on our lawn. I’m a tenant, it is private property and the many children in the building play on this space. Dogs are not permitted in the building so it’s not an issue with the tenants who share the property. I’ve encountered everything from “I’ve lived in this neighborhood for X years!!” to anger and people flinging curses at me to the weirdest “Go back to Norther Virginia (bleep bleep)!” I’m working with the landlord to put up those no-pooping signs, but in the meantime I just wanted to see if anyone out there in PoPville can tell me why my neighbors feel so entitled to let their dog feces be, even if temporarily, plotzed upon private property? Would it be okay if I curbed a dog on your fenced lawn even if I cleaned it up? I’m frustrated and pretty sure the next time someone reacts with anything but “Oh, no problem” I’m going to scream like a crazy person.

Open to Suggestions

112 Comment

  • Can you put up a physical barrier of any sort, even if just a little plastic low picket fence that you push into the ground, or a row of potted plants? Even something small like that is enough to keep my dog off a lawn if she’s not behaving well on leash, maybe it would work for you.

  • Curb your dog means stop them pooping.

    • Actually, it means making them go in the road — and off the curb.

    • I always thought “curb your dog” meant keep it under control, like keeping it on leash and controlling it when you are passing other people, etc., drawing from the definition of curb “To check, restrain, or control.” Never knew it was about the poop until today!

  • Bloomingdale Jim

    You should stop worrying about things that you will never be able to control! Go get a great book and a bottle of wine and relax. You’re going to give yourself a heart attack if you worry too much.

    (from someone who worries too much – but knows that he shouldn’t)

    • Wish I could take your advice and this attitude about my alley neighbors and trash!

  • A low (2-4″) barrier like garden edging from home depot works to keep most smaller dogs from wandering into yards, but there’s not much you can do with bigger dogs or crappy neighbors. Neighbors that think its ok for their dog to use your lawn in the first place are not going to be dissuaded by a “Please Don’t Pee Here” sign.

    BTW….I have a fence around my front yard and dog owners still come on to my yard to throw their bagged poop in my trash/recycling. That’s my biggest pet peeve.

    • Can you secure the lid to your trash can with a bungee cord or something similar?

      • I actually used bungee cords on my trash and recycling cans last summer to keep the lids from flying open and potentially spreading trash over the neighborhood (thanks for the lesson, El Durecho!). It didn’t stop people from opening the lid and inch or so to dispose of their poop bags. Same thing happens anytime the bins are out on trash day.

  • “Our building has a small patch of grass with no fencing. We’re really the only non-wrought iron fenced lawn on the block.”

    Get a fence.

    Problem. Solved.

    • Yep. Don’t work with your landlord to put up a sign. Work with him to put up a fence. That’s really the only thing that will work. And even that won’t be wholly successful, but if there truly is no open green space on the block, a lot of dogwalkers will just skip going down your street.

  • Not everyone that owns a dog is a normal person. I have a dog, and I would not respond to you that way. As for a solution, put up signs and a barrier of some kind. To be honest, it prolly wont work. I find that a lot of dog owners are like smokers in the sense that they think rules don’t apply to them and they are going to do whatever they want. The barrier will keep responsible owners off the property, but as for the rest…

  • Not that it matters, but the grass isn’t private property. It’s actually in the public right of way though the owner is responsible for the upkeep of the yard (and tree boxes if they exist). It’s also why you can’t park in front of the line of the property in houses that have curb cuts and driveways.

    Also, I agree with the suggestion of the small plastic fence.

    • I’m pretty sure the OP is talking about the lawn in front of their builing, not the tree box space, in which case is may or may not be private property (depending on the street and whether it is “DC Gift” land.)

      • Actually, poster may be correct. My “front yard” is not technically my property. The city has a right of way all the way up to my porch, which is 15 feet from the sidewalk.

    • No, you are incorrect. You cannot park in front of driveways because they’re driveways and DC Regulations forbids it 2405.2 ( It has nothing to do with property lines.

      And not all lawns are public space, it depends where the property lines are, which vary block by block.

  • I second the person who said that the grass is city property. The city owns your front yard up to the top of your front steps. That’s why they can come and dig up your yard for utilities, etc..without your permission.

    Secondly, it’s only illegal if the person who’s dog craps on the ground, doesn’t pick up the crap. What’s the issue, especially if the person is cleaning it up?

    Lastly, just get your tenants to all pitch in for a fence.

    • Not all (or even most) houses in DC have city-owned front yards. Also, even when your front yard is city-owned, it isn’t “public property” and still you have the right to exclude people from this property.

      • According to that link that the city still actually owns your front yard, but you still must maintain it. (on page 4) “In return for our use of public space as front yards, Washingtonians are responsible for the foster care of this land…”

        Also (on page 2) it says that the 1899 “…use of this space(city/”park”/public) was officially given to property owners as front and side yards, with the right to fence these areas with short open fences”. So it seems you can fence it in, but still don’t you really own it. Especially with the street measurements to the front facade of your house.

        That is some good info though. It would be interesting to see the actual DC law since this is a newsletter for capital hill. You are definitely making me want to go look at the survey of my house lot though and compare it to the city real estate maps!

        • There are some great maps in the Washingtonian Room of the MLK library that show all this information. I expected it to be on the plat that I got when I bought my house, but apparently not all title/surveyor companies go into that level of detail.

          I’m not certain, but I think the general theme was that the city owned your front yard only if you were in certain parts of the original l’Enfant grid (i.e south of Florida Ave., east of Foggy Bottom) and then only on the larger streets and avenues.

    • This is only true in some parts of the city

      • (the part about the city owning your front yard up to your steps)

        • That may be so. It is definitely true on my street.

          • figby

            There is a sort of manhole in my yard, and the city puts rat traps all over. I consider it very much theirs, although we maintain it.

            I do laugh at the neighbors who put “Curb Your Dog!” signs in the tree-boxes, though. Unambiguous public property. It’s one thing if you try to turn it into a garden and then, OK yeah. But if you just don’t like dogs peeing in the tree box, tough luck. It’s not an extension of your property.

  • To “curb your dog” means to *not* let it go to the bathroom in that area. You may be met with genuine confusion if you keep asking people to “not curb” their dog, as you mentioned several times in your post. Also, to answer your theoretical question: yes, it would be perfectly fine to curb a dog on my fenced lawn. Thanks so much for that!

  • I definitely agree with you that it’s rude to allow your dog to use someone’s lawn as a toilet. Even if a property is unfenced, I do not allow my dogs to go on someone’s lawn.

    That said, I don’t think there’s really anything you can do about it, short of getting a fence (and since it’s not your property, probably not very feasible). Heck, I used to get all bent out of shape when I woke up Saturday morning and found broken bottles and doritos wrappers littering my front yard and tree box (thanks to our wonderful neighbors), but there is not much you can do about it in the end…

  • justinbc

    My dog, on several occassions, has pooped directly in front of those no pooping signs / ornaments. They are animals, not humans, and will pretty much just go whenever they think it’s the right spot.

    The point being, unless there is a fence to keep the dog out then they’ll likely keep pooping there. Fixing human behavior is an entirely different task, and I’ll just say good luck with that.

    • You do realize this makes you *that* dog owner. How embarrassing (and dangerous) to have no control over your pet.

      • justinbc

        You do realize that every dog owner is that dog owner. How embarrassing to be ignorant of animal behavior.

        • I try to be a responsible dog owner and obey no pooping signs, etc. But this is easier said than done sometimes; when your dog is ready to go, he’s often just ready to go. Sure, you can yank him out of his selected spot, mid flow, and have him poop all over the sidewalk. But who wants that?

          A short fence is clearly the best deterrent. Why else do you think that your lawn, being the only one on the block without a fence, is every dog’s selected spot?

          Build a fence, and relax. We’re all living in in the same space here, and we need to get along.

        • Incorrect. You can walk your dog such that it doesn’t “go” on other people’s property, by making sure the dog doesn’t enter that property. Pretty simple.

          • justinbc

            You’ve clearly never tried to walk a dog on a city street. Treeboxes and whatnot are covered with “do not poop here” signs by ignorant home owners who think 1) dogs can read or 2) there little area next to the curb with pansies is somehow sacred. If you’re walking down the street, and your dog decides to shit there, that’s where it’s going to happen.

            No sane person is going to run all around trees and grassy areas just in the off chance their dog feels like dropping one. Mine repeatedly loved to lay one down right in front of the Starbucks or Commissary on P St. It’s embarrassing as hell, sure, but it’s not something you anticipate unless you’re the Dog Whisperer.

            What the real complaint should be here is for the owners who don’t pick up after their dogs. Those people are *that* dog owner, as the anonymous poster above phrased it.

        • You are just a lazy dog owner who did not take the time to train his dog. I trained my dog so that he only goes to the bathroom when he is told that “it’s ok.” Just because you choose to not train your own dog does not mean that is acceptable behavior.

          • justinbc

            You’re right. The fact that I took in dogs at a much older age that would have been killed otherwise at a shelter completely makes me lazy for not being there with them as they were growing up and learning that walking a foot outside of my desired path is just unacceptable by your idiotic standards of animal behavior.

        • As I understand it, OP is talking about the lawn of the building, not the parking strip. I’ll presume your dog is on a leash. Because the lawn is private property, you should keep yourself and your dog off it. What is in question here is human behavior, not animal behavior.

          • justinbc

            They also stated it’s a “small patch” on what is presumably a narrow street (like all the others in DC). If you think dogs walk in a straight line all the time and avoid grassy areas then I would guess you that you also have not attempted to walk a dog through a city street.

        • Justinbc- I have to agree with Anonymous 2:19. There have been a few times my dog wanted to pee or poop in a tree box with a sign showing a dog pooping with the circle and slash. I simply pull his leash and walk to another area and he does his business.

    • What do you suggest – plugging the dog’s a-hole once it starts doing its business in a place where it shouldn’t? Dogs don’t always go where you want them to – the simple solution is to pick up the doggie poo afterwards.

      I have no problem with dogs doing their thing on my miniscule lawn so long that the owners pick up after them.

      I second another poster’s suggestion to grab a glass of wine and unwind a bit. Try not to worry too much about things that are out of your control.

      • justinbc

        I’m going to guess this reply was intended for the OP, as I completely agree with you.

        • Yea – was largely replying to the earlier “Anonymous” calling you out as “that dog owner”. Should’ve been more clear.

      • Why is the dog in a place where it shouldn’t be in the first place? (And, yes, I’m a dog owner.) There’s your problem, and it’s easily solved if you have control over your dog while walking it.

      • Hi, OP here. Actually all I’m asking is that dog owners, once requested to not allow their dog to relived themselves on our buildings grass, not completely freak out like entitled jackasses and consider not doing it in the future since they’ve been politely informed it’s not welcome. That’s all. No butt plug requests here. I think unwinding would be great if people wouldn’t lose their sh!t at me for my simple request.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head. The issue is with an owner, not the dog. I walk my dog on city grass (not in front of someone’s house) until she goes so I can make sure she isn’t ruining a nice flowered tree box. If she hops in a tree box, I tell her to jump out. If your dog continually wanders onto someone’s lawn, shorten the leash. Dogs can be trained to go on command, too.

    • You clearly don’t know anything about me. I walk my 2 dogs on the streets of Dupont Circle multiple times a day and have for several years. We don’t do people’s yards. It’s a choice.

      • justinbc

        There’s a difference between going in someone’s personal yard and a “small patch of grass” on front of a large building which you continually fail to grasp.

        • I never said the two were the same. My point is that, given a particular patch of ground, you can ensure that your dog doesn’t go there. You may choose not to, and your reasons may be valid or not, but it is a clear choice, and not a matter of inevitable animal (or human) behavior.

    • That is really not good manners at all – both to you and to the OP’s neighbors. Any good training book will tell a dog owner that it is bad manners to allow your dog to use a neighbor’s lawn as a bathroom. Furthermore, while it’s more challenging to train older dogs, it’s definitely not impossible. They aren’t wild beasts; they are domesticated. My dog has certainly had “accidents” on the sidewalk as she was (is…) training, but it was embarrassing and she learned not to do that because I trained her. Dog urine can kill plants and grass. I actually can’t believe you are debating this one so much, but the polite and proper answer seems very obvious to me.

      To answer the OP’s question, I clearly don’t think people should feel so entitled, but I also hope you aren’t sitting around watching for the offenders. It sounds like they haven’t had complaints there before, so it’s become a “spot” dogs are accustomed to going. Is there a place that you can direct them to instead? A sign will make your feelings known, and a fence would clearly send the final message. Have you asked other residents (if there are any) in your building?

      • justinbc

        I’m not debating the deceny that people should have towards others. For the record my dog uses “appropriate” locations 99% of the time. What I am debating is the folks who think you can somehow control the 1% of the time that dogs just do shit that they feel like. Anyone who thinks you can just say to a 60 pound husky “Hey girl, don’t poop in front of Starbucks, OK?” while she’s mid-dump is living in fantasy world.

        Either that or they have some little 10 pound runt like a Pomerian or something else that should only loosely be deemed a dog, and which comes with the much more annoying problem of never shutting the hell up.

  • Placing signs are good deterrents, but they don’t always work. I am a dog owner that always picks up after my animal and I usually try to guide him to do his business in green spots that are not highly utilized or kept up. However, there are times when he is adamant about going in a certain spot. Therefore, I have been that person that has their dog doing their business next to a sign requesting otherwise. A sign, a fence, a friendly request will all help. However, it is unrealistic to expect any deterrence to completely solve your problem. And trust me, I get livid when I find dog poop around the city because reflects badly on all dog owners. However, I just try to remember that you cannot win all battles. We can only try to work together and not expend too much energy on things we cannot solve.

  • justinbc

    Also, this topic always reminds me of the great Wade Blasingame SNL skit. If you don’t know it, Google it.

  • This is a major issue for our building too. TONS of dogs, not enough green space, and as a result, our unfenced plantings are–at best–half dead. We’ve spent a lot of money replacing plants, but even really tough things like liriope just can’t hack the digging, the urine, and the feces. We’re looking into fencing now… it’s expensive, but we can’t afford to by all new plants every year just to have them trampled/pissed to death. I’m hoping it’ll be a physical barrier for little dogs and a psychological one for owners of big dogs.

  • You have a nice lawn….for me to poop on!

  • We planted barberry bushes in our tree box (more so to keep people out rather than dogs…and yes I have seen people trampling tree boxes on many occasions when getting out of cars etc). They have thorns. You might try planting something like roses or barberry as a border. That should be a pretty good deterrent.

  • justinbc

    Sounds like it’s the front yard they’re concerned with, not the back.

  • Why is this an issue if people are picking up after their dogs and it’s there, as you say, “only temporarily?”

  • Home Depot has short metal fences that are about 3feet wide. I bought 3 or 4 pieces with connecting rods, and I paid about $50.00. They match most DC front fences.

  • Honest question from a dog owner – if I rent and there are no nearby parks, where CAN the dog “go” according to our “Open to Suggestions”?

    If the answer is “the street/sidewalk,” most dogs I know are actually trained not to do their business on concrete, as that is thought to weaken housebreaking during periods of kenneling…

    • justinbc

      According to the posters below anyone who isn’t a lazy dog owner can simply train their dogs to go on command anytime or anywhere they want. I would assume you just tell your dog to poop in the toilet and they listen.

      • I really don’t think that’s what people were saying. I think the general point is, if you had control of your dog, you would not allow him/her to go on someone’s private property in the first place. It isn’t about “training” your dog when/where to do its business. Presumably, you as the owner could not allow your dog onto the yard by keeping the leash shorter while passing or what have you.

        Personally, if my dog begins to wander toward someone’s private front yard, I will direct her away from it by shortening the leash as I don’t want to afford her the opportunity to even use the bathroom there.

        • justinbc

          Again, it’s not a person’s yard that is the topic of discussion. It’s a “small patch of grass” in front of an admittedly crappy building. Sounds like a dogshit haven.

  • great sign… i’m going to make one of those

  • Scrillin

    I love this kind of attitude – I have a dog, and it’s very hard to make it not poop everywhere, so everyone needs to just calm down and let my dog poop on your lawn.

    You could also, you know, not have a dog.

    Because if it were me, and you gave me ‘crap’ about your dog pooping on my lawn when I asked you not to, I’d follow you home and poop on your lawn. Fair’s fair, especially when you’re so entitled to think your dog is allowed to poop wherever it wants.

    Just terrible.

  • If your kids are playing around in dc yards/streets/parks, the flecks of dog feces are probably one of the less nasty things they encounter. As long as people pick up after their dogs (and it pisses me off as a dog owner how often people don’t), I am cool with them using my little front area.

  • Get a fence. And, stop putting your complaints in the form of questions. That’s annoying. If you annoy people with passive aggressive questioning, you’ll get annoyed replies and curses in response.

  • So funny….there are so many people on here who say you train your dog “properly” to go where you tell it … but weird! I’ve never seen a dog pooping on the curb or the street! and oh my, it would probably be you same people complaining about stepping in the residue from that whole situation too.

    PS – just to remind you all, you live in a city….it’s hard enough to keep the drunk people off your lawn, why are you so worried about dogs? If there were a bunch of deer poop on your lawn I bet you’d find some ridiculous way to say you can train the deer

  • I am constantly amazed how little forethought most dog owners put into the actual owning of a dog in this town.

    Doesn’t matter that they live in a tiny apartment, or have no yard, no access to a dog park, they just get one anyway and then expect everyone else in the neighborhood to deal with their stunning lack for foresight.

    Call me crazy, but I (obviously along with countless others) get irritated when you walk your dog down the sidewalk, and let your dog shit in some random persons yard, or tree box. You are all indignant that “its not your property anyway) but I maintain it, and I dislike having to deal with your dog crap smell in the hot humid DC summers wafting through my front window.

    Let your dog crap in the tree box or yard in front of YOUR apt building or house. Try being an adult and quit making your problems someone elses issues.

    • Scrillin

      +one million

      • Maybe you guys should also not procreate any troll babies either. Or maybe you should just stay inside your troll cave all summer so you don’t have to deal with any “smells” outside or general humanity altogether.

        • figby

          I am constantly amazed how little forethought most parents put into the actual raising of a kid in this town.

          Doesn’t matter that they live in a tiny apartment, or have no yard, no access to a park, they just get one anyway and then expect everyone else in the neighborhood to deal with their stunning lack for foresight.

          Call me crazy, but I (obviously along with countless others) get irritated when you walk your double-wide stroller down the sidewalk, and let your snotty-nosed, squalling child scream in some random persons yard or the park, or tree box. You are all indignant that “its not your property anyway) but I maintain it, and I dislike having to deal with your kid-crap smell in the hot humid DC summers wafting through my front window.

          Try being an adult and quit making your problems someone elses issues.

    • Thank you! I love dogs and have had dogs all my life, but after moving to DC, I had to acknowledge that I didn’t have the space or the flexibility (work/lifestyle wise) to have a dog in this city.

      To those dog owners that truly take the time to train and exercise your dogs, I really commend you because it takes a lot of time and effort. Based on the comments here, there are clearly other people who think “dogs being dogs” excuses their poor behavior.

    • Tree boxes are public property. The homeowner may be legally required to “maintain” them but the homeowner cannot tell any one not to use it.

      Try being an adult and quit making your problems someone elses issues.

      • You missed Joker’s point. Just because something is public property doesn’t mean you should abuse it.

        • I did not miss Jokers point:

          “I ….get irritated when you walk your dog down the sidewalk and let your dog shit in some random …. tree box.”

          Allowing an animal to defecate in a tree box is not abuse.

          • That depends on what your dog does to the plants in the box. Other dog owners on this thread have suggested that no one should want to have anything nice in the box in front of their homes. Perhaps you agree. I don’t.

      • but their problem is LITERALLY somebody else’s issue…

  • OP: get a small fence – if even the border fences for plants. Nothing else will be as effective as a fence.

    As to the “entitled” people and the rudeness: pick any issue – people can be assholes. I’d say just ignore them, because you will never understand them and you will never change them.

  • A continuing issue with my building. OTOH, if you walk down any street in Shaw, Dupont, etc., some yards and tree boxes do better than others–so I suspect that there are more or less pee-tolerant plant. The other thing is to get edging and add something more decorative near the street. Some buildings do ordinary gravel, which looks worse than poop.

  • Today I have learned that justinbc is the worst dog owner in the city. He’s the guy who gives everyone else a bad name.

  • I’m so freaking sick of hearing people whine about dogs in this city. Seriously, every few months there’s a post where someone’s whining because other people aren’t doing things the way they would do it. I’m just happy when people actually clean up after their dogs and there isn’t a bum peeing on my yard.

  • The “Go back to Northern Virginia” comment is funny. When I lived in Northern Virginia no one picked up after their dogs. I guess there wasn’t much reason to because it wasn’t like anyone other than dog walkers ever used the sidewalks. Here in DC more people pick up after their dogs because, if for no other reason, you’ll get glared at by someone else who’s walking by. I also think the public trashcans make it easier for people to do the right thing. And more people take pride in their neighborhood in general.

  • As is the case with many things, people get dogs when they are puppies and all cute. Then they don’t take the time to properly train and/or raise them, and once the dog grows up, it becomes a total sh*thound.

    On another topic, I have a downstairs neighbor with a “lovely” dog that barks loudly at me and everyone else who comes/goes from our front door. Am I a bad person for thinking the dog owner is really lame in not better controlling his dog? Or let me guess: dog barking is natural, and thus I’m just supposed to “deal with it.”

    • Has it ever occurred to you how much safer your building is for having a dog that barks with every arrival? If the dog is barking incessantly even when no one is arriving, that’s one thing, but if he’s barking only to “announce” people then he’s doing you a favor. Just ask the MPD.

  • austindc

    Thumb tacks all over the yard. Once the dogs learn, use a magnet to pick them up. Also, be nice and put up a sign that says, “We just planted a bunch of thumb tack bushes. Please stay off the lawn.”

    Fence is probably a good idea too.

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