The Self-cleaning Dog

Riley carOur dog is a weird dog. I know pretty much any dog owner would say that. I also know what you’re thinking based on the title of this post, but no, it’s not about how my dog licks himself clean. All dogs do that. But not all dogs carry their own bag of poop to the trash on walks the way our dog does. Have I got your attention yet?

Before I get a bunch of comments below asking for my address so people can ship me their dogs for training, let me up the ante. We didn’t have to train our dog to carry his own poop. He started doing it all on his own.

Let’s back up. As you can see from the picture, my wife and I have a yellow Lab. His name is Riley. He is, if I may be immodest on his behalf, exceedingly handsome and fiendishly smart. He also has a Lab’s compulsive need to have something in his mouth. Carrying things in his mouth on walks is heaven for him. As a puppy he would pick up big rocks and bring them home just to have something in his mouth. We still use one as a doorstop. Nowadays he’s more likely to pilfer toys or tennis balls he finds lying around. If we walk him to the local tea store or the local bakery to get cookies, he carries the bag home for us. He always has to be “coaxed” (bribed) to give up the bag if it’s full of delicious food smells.Riley1

Because we live in an apartment with only public spaces around us, we’ve always been diligent about picking up after him. We would carry the bag along, trying hard not to think about what was in it, until we reached the nearest trash can or dumpster. Then one day I noticed Riley staring at the bag after I tied it off. He made eye contact with me, then looked at the bag. He kept repeating the gesture, marveling at my stupidity, and as any dog owner will tell you, this means: “I want what you have in your hand.”

Not sure where this was going to go, I rolled up the loose end of the bag above the knot and offered it to him. He took it, seeming perfectly happy, and we marched on. At the nearest trash can, I told him to drop it, and he did. He’s been doing it ever since, and nowadays he even knows where all the trash cans are and will lead the way to the nearest one.

Most people who see this are incredibly amused. I’m not exaggerating when I say we’ve stopped traffic on multiple occasions. We’ve also met people who’ve never seen him but have heard of him. He’s a minor local celebrity. We were even asked if he could be the mascot for a city ad campaign to pick up after your pets.

We’ve also had a few people tell us it was cruel to “make” our dog carry his own poop bag. What they don’t see is how mad he gets during the times we don’t let him carry it. Sometimes the bag gets torn. Sometimes there is a trash can right next to us when he goes. One time I carried a torn bag to a trash can while he followed me indignantly and tried to steal the bag the whole way. After I tossed the bag, he tried to knock down the trash can to get it back.

So yeah, up there at the beginning of the post, did I say weird? I meant great. Our dog is a great dog.

11 responses on “The Self-cleaning Dog

  1. Ace Jordyn

    Too funny! I had a border collie who used to take herself for a walk if I had procrastinated a little too long. She’d go around the block and come home content that her imaginary sheep were all good. I hope you have Riley on You Tube! He is truly one of the great ones!

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