Picking up your dog's feces a few times a day probably isn't your favorite part of dog ownership, but it comes with the package. What if you could compost those turds instead? While the waste from omnivores like canines isn't the first choice for compost -- especially if meat is a big part of their diet -- it can be done.
The United States Department of Agriculture defines composting as "the controlled breakdown or degradation of organic material into a product known as humus." You might already compost your leftover vegetable and fruit matter, coffee grounds and pesticide-free lawn clippings. No less an authority than the USDA encourages adding dog poop to the compost pile, noting that composting this material prevents its entry into ground and surface waters. It states that the average dog produces approximately 274 pounds of poop annually.
You can purchase a dog waste composter online or at pet stores, or you can make your own. The Sierra Club recommends a 5-gallon trash can with lid, adequate for the output of one big or two little dogs. Cut out the bottom of the can, then drill holes in its sides. Dig a hole that the can fits neatly into, adding gravel to the bottom for drainage. You can start disposing of your dog poop in the can, adding 1 liter of water and commercially available septic system enzymes. You'll add the water about once a week and the enzymes about once a month from then on.
Dog Waste Recipe
The University of Florida provides a "recipe" for dog poop composting, if you add it to your regular compost pile rather than provide a specific compost bin for it. The plan calls for two parts dog waste and one part sawdust. When you've collected sufficient volume, mix well and permit it to "cook" to a minimum of at least 140 degrees. You'll need to turn it at least once weekly, as well as using a thermometer to ensure the desired temperature is reached to kill pathogens. Four to eight weeks later, your compost should be ready. If done correctly, it should look like any other compost.
Once your dog's waste has turned from poop into lovely, rich compost, don't rush out and apply it to your vegetable garden. As of 2013, the verdict isn't officially in about whether or not canine compost is safe to use on food crops. However, you can use it on your non-edible landscaping as mulch, in your flower garden or for lawn revegetation. The USDA recommends a 25 percent canine compost blend for flower beds or as a potting mix. Don't use dog compost on seedlings.
If you feed your dog a raw food diet, composting isn't an alternative. If you also share your life with cats, don't consider adding kitty waste to the compost mixture. Felines might carry toxoplasmosis, potentially harmful to pregnant women and their fetuses. If you have clay soils or other drainage issues, dog waste composting probably isn't feasible for you.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.