There’s an unfortunate truth when it comes to dogs and the environment: the latest eco-outcast may be curled up next to you on the couch.
Well-loved pets and their owners contribute to a $47 billion pet industry filled with bacon-flavored treats, ergonomic beds, chamomile shampoo — and a mini mountain of pet waste.
With a few minor changes, your dog can help the environment — and possibly your wallet. Here are a few ways to reduce your dog’s carbon paw print.
• Streamline the toy stash: If your dog has enough stuffed chickens, squirrels and rabbits to fill a toy box, it may be time to cut back on visits to the pet accessories aisle. Most dogs have a few favorites, the rest just take up extra space. Throw your pet’s favorite plush toys in the washing machine so they can get that ‘new toy smell.’ (A few hours in the freezer also kills dust mites.) Then donate the leftovers to a local animal shelter or rescue group so another pooch can share the love.
• Ease up on the kibble: An overwhelming number of dogs walk around with a little too much fluff under all that fur. Two or three extra pounds can make a huge difference on a 14-pound dog; it’s excess weight that can lead to costly complications such as diabetes, heart disease and joint-related issues. (Sound familiar?) Have a heart-to-heart with your vet during your pet’s next checkup. Together, you can determine how much kibble really belongs in that bowl each day.
• Get the good stuff: Dogs will happily consume shoes, dirty socks and your favorite novel, but “chicken by-product meal” isn’t that yummy or healthy. Read the label on your dog’s food carefully. Ingredients are listed by weight, so look for a quality protein such as beef, lamb, chicken or fish among the first few items and avoid cheaper versions loaded with corn, food dyes or other additives. These options may cost more, but dogs typically eat less of it — and they generate less waste (that means poop) — so it could be a win-win. For guidance on decoding your dog’s kibble, check out DogFoodAnalysis.com, where editors regularly review popular brands and break down the list of ingredients.
• Get moving — together: Your dog isn’t the only family member with an expanding waistline. Burn calories and make new friends by taking a stroll through the neighborhood together. A daily 15-minute walk can help both of you de-stress and burn calories. The Weather Channel has a Dog Walking Calculator that determines the amount of calories you burned. This free workout also beats a pricey gym membership.
• Recycle those containers: Dog food bags and toy packages should hit the recycle bin with the rest of your goods. If the food container has a plastic lining, separate that part before sorting. Some dog brands, such as lines by Natura Pet Products, are biodegradable once you remove the top seal.
• Get the green poop bags: Before plastic shopping bags become extinct in your area, make the transition to biodegradable versions. A compostable, corn-based option from BioBag can be flushed and it even meets California’s strict labeling standards.
• Seek out cruelty-free products: It’s hard for a pet lover to imagine another animal suffering. Thousands of companies have pledged to forgo animal testing as part of their manufacturing process. For a list of cruelty free pet products and companies, visit CaringConsumer.com.
• Foster a dog: The Humane Society of the United States estimates that about 6 million dogs and cats are turned in to shelters each year. Nearly half of those animals are euthanized. Rescue groups try to make a dent in that number by pulling adoptable pets and placing them with volunteers. “We could save so many more animals if we just had enough foster homes,” said Taylor Brand, founder of Rescue Me! Animal Project in Atlanta, which helps dogs and cats find a forever home. Consider it an opportunity for your pet to provide on-the-job training in such canine pleasures as playing fetch, walking on a leash or couch cuddling. Search for a rescue group in your area and consider opening your home to a dog today.
• Spay or neuter: It may be tempting to have a miniature version of your furry best friend, but plenty of shelter puppies await a permanent home. There’s also the issue of cleaning up after an unaltered dog who’s “marking” the house. If that isn’t enough incentive to visit the vet, there are health benefits to getting your dog spayed or neutered.
• Be a good neighbor: It may be a pain to pick up poop, but the risk of illness from harmful pathogens and bacteria can be much more problematic. Place dog poop in a handy biodegradable bag for disposal or flush it. Just don’t ignore it. If you’ve ever stepped in a fresh pile of yuck, you can appreciate the power of paying it forward.
Besides, it’s good for you and the planet. With just a few of these changes, you can help dogs and the environment play nice.
Also on MNN: How to adopt a dog