Dog-poo signs of the times
After a number of instances of dog poo being found on the local playing field, children at the neighbouring primary school were asked to design a poster to encourage people to pick up after their dogs.
Similar socially focused signs already exist, as do a good number of official onces from the council warning of fines of up to £1,000.
The problem is these approaches each presume there are two types of dog owner: the responsible ones who pick up and the irresponsible ones who don’t. And so the signs aim to tug at the heart strings tug or threaten the purse strings of irresponsible owners to encourage them to do the right thing.
Of course, with both types of sign already in place, the presence of poo on the playing field suggests something isn’t working.
Some would say it’s a lack of enforcement. Catching and fining a non-picker-upper rarely happens. So, if you can’t be bothered to bag the bad stuff, it’s easy to get away with it.
But maybe the thing not working is that the signs are aimed at the wrong people.
Maybe they shouldn’t be aimed at people who don’t pick up after their dog, but at those who do.
What if we imagine that rather than there being responsible dog owners and irresponsible ones, we presume all dog owners are people who see themselves as responsible poop scoopers.
And what if the un-picked poos down the park are from dogs belonging to those responsible dog owners.
Because what if those poos are simply from dogs who did the dirty while their owner happened to be looking the other way. Or their owner was too far away to see what Muttley was up to.
As a dog owner, I find it a more than believable scenario.
You’re walking your dog across the field, bump into a neighbour, get chatting and take your eyes off Scooby for a minute. That’s more than enough time for him to pop out a few naughty nuggets.
Or your dog is at your side being brilliantly behaved. Then your phone buzzes. A critical email? A trivial text message? Better check. Eyes are then on your smartphone not your spaniel – the perfect chance for her to leave something unpleasant in your wake.
Or Rover roves to the far side of the field and appears to be having a rest, gazing at a passing aircraft or pondering where his ball went. It’s tricky to see from 100 metres away, but he could be depositing something dirty.
People prone to these situations are not the archetypal irresponsible dog owners the poop-scoop signs and posters aim their messages at.
They are ostensibly responsible dog owners, but ones who simply got distracted at an unfortunate moment or whose eyesight is less than hawk-like.
And down at the village playing field, my bet is these inadvertent incidents account for almost all the un-picked-up poo.
Maybe it’s time for change of tack with the posters and signage.
A watched dog never spoils