Monday, April 17, 2006

Dog Shit

I live in a three flat with a gated back yard. Me and the second floor apartment work on the gardening in the yard (lawn, flowers around edges, herb garden). Everyone in the building can graze from the herb garden, and all of our porches overlook the yard. The first floor apartment has a dog, and declined a share in any of the spaces to plant.

They let Fletcher out to ‘do his thing’ unsupervised. He poops all over the yard, but has a special love of pooping and pissing in my small herb garden. There are usually two piles of crap and a dark stain in my garden. For a while they were rarely cleaning up his poop, but now they do it 2-3 times a week. He also likes to dig in fresh dirt – basically any place we are preparing to plant, or have planted. This ruins our plants.

I have requested that they keep their dog out of my garden and they agreed to ‘try’ but they act as if it is out of their control. This weekend, I notices the dog in the act of pissing in my garden while Kimmie watched from her porch. She obviously wasn’t doing a damn thing to keep him out. When I suggested that they keep him on a leash, Kimmie stormed back into her apartment and before the door closed I heard her yell, "you wouldn’t believe what just happened...".

I don’t think my request is unreasonable, although it is more inconvenient for them. Inconvenience is part of being a dog owner in the city, though. However, their dog crap all over the yard (even when they clean it up they miss some) makes the yard unpleasant, because it is inevitable that if you walk in the yard your feet will get shit on them.

I don’t like dogs however, so it is hard to gauge if my anti-dog bias has blurred my perception of this issue. What is reasonable in this solution?

Also, a few weeks ago I was working in the garden with Blackie on a leash when Fletcher came charging, unleashed, out of the apartment. I got between the two and kept Fletcher away from her until Kimmie got Fletcher under control and back in the house. Blackie was so freaked out that when I finally picked her up, her flailing claws caused my gardening gloves to get soaked in my blood. Kimmie thinks I shouldn’t have my cat outside, because, "you never know what Fletcher will do."

Fletcher on a leash would resolve all of these problems. Part of me wants to play ‘bad neighbor’ and start leaving the gates open so they have to chase Fletcher down. Another, more reasonable, idea is to put cayenne pepper all over the garden to make peeing in the garden unpleasant to the dog. It sucks that Fletcher is the party at risk, when it is his owners who have misbehaved.

When they got him as a puppy last year, he destroyed my garden and I had to replant it. I have been very clear that I don’t want him in there, but they think it is funny and that he "helps to fertilize it." Concentrated dog piss kills plants. If they barely want to pick up his shit, why in the world should I have to pick it up, or play around in it almost everytime I dig in the soil. requesting that they leash their dog in the yard and/or train him to stay out of the garden an unreasonable request?

FYI: I was told when I signed the lease that I could plant in the garden. I think cats, but not dogs, are allowed in the lease. However, our landlord is not the type who will get involved with this issue, so the rules of the lease are basically irrelevant.


At 1:38 PM, Blogger Tincéir said...

Unlike you, I'm a dog lover. I've had dogs since I was a kid, and while I don't have one now due to my living circumstances I'm sure that I'll have another in the future.

Based on the situation as you describe it, I think you're totally in the right. Dog shit spreads disease, dog urine kills plants. Digging in your garden is totally unacceptable, and obviously Fletcher shouldn't be allowed to menace your cat.

The cayenne pepper idea you mention is one that I've used to deter dogs in the past, but only my own dogs. It is a wonderful example of negative reinforcement (as opposed to punishment, which is different). It may or may not work depending on the dog and what you're trying to train him (not) to do... it's great for teaching dogs not to eat from the garbage for example, but I'm not sure it would be an effective deterrent from pissing / shitting in your garden.

I can't tell you what you *should* do in your situation... but I'll tell you what I would do:

1) tell the neighbors in writing what the problem is, ask them to change their dog's behavior, and let them know that the next step (in the case that nothing changes) will be to contact the landlord.

2) if nothing changes contact the landlord (again in writing).

3) if the landlord does nothing about it, take steps to keep the dog out of the garden area of the yard... put up fencing, make raised garden beds, whatever.

4) if the dog injures my cat I'd consult an attorney (heh) about a lawsuit.

Good luck... living in close proximity to selfish / thoughtless people really sucks!

At 9:17 PM, Anonymous Randy said...

Well, as a puppy he could have been trained, but now, who knows.


1. For less that $60 you should be able to get an electric fence charger and a little wire. He would touch it a couple of times, then you could take the charger off and leave the wire up.

2. Wasp spray has a 20 ft range, but only works when you see the dog.

3. You could borrow a larger, aggressive dog from a friend for a week or so..."I am just watching Brutus for a week while my buddy Bob goes python hunting on the Congo".

4. Perhaps they would agree to tie him to a stake with a 20 ft cord, where he could not reach the garden.

5. How big is the herb garden? put it in containers and up on a table.

6. Wait a minute! You ARE an attorney! Whip it on 'em!

Just my thoughts.


At 9:51 PM, Anonymous Jeremy said...

man that sucks. personally, i'm a dog owner, and a renter who has a garden in a communal back yard and i wouldn't stand for that kind of crap. i pick up after my own dog in my own back yard every time he goes out there. that our neighbours have a dog that they let run free in our back yard to do as he pleases (of course this inludes pissing / shitting / digging in the garden) so i've taken to collecting the shit and leaving it in a bag for the neighbours on their back steps. maybe a little passive-agression is the way to go. maybe, take a piss on their front door? who knows...
BTW- the cayenne thing worked for keeping my dog off the counter, but it might mess witht the taste of your herbs.

At 10:15 PM, Blogger Sascha said...

don't punish the dog because his owners are assholes. If you leave the gate open and Fletcher gets hit by a car and dies a long, lingering death in the road while he bleeds to death, you might actually feel bad.

I agree though, you can get a little eletric fence and also, you can start picking up his poop and leaving it in front of their door.

As a cat owner, I am totally sympathetic to your situation. And thank you for reminding me of why I own a house and not condo or anything else. I share for crap with other people.

At 6:36 AM, Blogger George said...

I agreee with Thidwick. If your building has a "No Dogs" policy, make sure the landlord enforces it.

I like dogs, but sometimes their owners can be *real* assholes.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger jojo said...

I thought about putting up a fence, but then I'd have to get inside it to weed, and crush things myself. But maybe just a thin electric fence is a possibility. I wish I could shock the owners instead, though.

My plan is to first speak with the owners when we are both calm and see if we can reach some agreement. The problem is that they are super-lazy. Currently they just open up the back door, like we did growing up out in the country.

Tying him to a tether would require them to do almost as much work as keeping him on a leash. They don't appear to want to do anything at all to be responsible for their dog.

As for the lawyering suggestion, it isn't that simple. Any contract is only as strong as a party is willing to enforce it. My landlord is lazy, and I am Not going to sue him to abide by the terms of the lease. Litigation should only be the last resort, because once a suit is filed, the relationship is dead.

Threatening to play the lawyer card is another matter, but still shouldn't be used at the drop of the hat, because it takes the relationship (with my landlord) from a friendly, easy-going one, to a formal, distrustful situation.

Hopefully the first floor people and I can work something out. I have a stockpile of cayenne ready, though.

Don't encourage me to start leaving the shit at their stoop -- it takes all of my willpower not to stoop to that level.

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Sascha said...

Oh wait! I know! You could let them know you're going to do something serious by posing the question to them,

"Is Fletcher allergic to anything? Because I'm going to saturate the ground around my garden with X-evil-thang to keep him from fucking it up. I was thinking maybe some toxic ant repellent. What do you think?"

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Gilby said...

I'm with thidwick--as much as I love dogs, this is inappropriate behavior on the owners' part. The backyard is a shared space, and they need to respect other tenants' ability to use that space.

If they admit that "you never know what Fletcher will do," that's a HUGE liability. What if there are small children in the yard? If they are not able to control their dogs actions when it comes to him threatening other pets (or people), that in itself is a good reason for their dog to be kept on a leash or a "run" in a multi-use space.

At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Jeremy said...

When i mentioned that you should leave the crap on their back steps i meant to say it should be in a bag. i tried it with my neighbours and it was meant more as a reminder than a malicious action. it sounds like you're dealing with the type of people who take eveything personally. i've shared a living space with people like that and it stinks.

At 11:47 AM, Blogger annie said...

Tethering the dog is nowhere near as much work as keeping him on a leash. I have a dog but my yard isn't fenced, so whenever he's outside he's on a tether, and all I have to do is clip it to his collar and kick him out the door. Keeping him on a leash would require me to actually go out there and walk around with him, when I would much rather be doing something else. You see, I too am lazy. But the five seconds it takes me to clip a tether to Dylan's collar is not a very big infringement upon my laziness. I think your neighbors could handle that.

And it is really easy to make the tether short enough to keep the dog out of the garden. My dog would eat tomatoes until he died of diarrhea if I didn't keep his tether short enough.

At 8:51 AM, Anonymous Andy Leppard said...

Count yourself lucky you don't live near "Dog Shit Alley"


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