What Does It Mean To Curb Your Dog?

woman gives a command to her mixed breed dog

Being a dog parent is fun until it’s time for your pup to do its business outside. To your puppy who’s probably not potty-trained, the outdoors is one big toilet bowl.

To you, it means you get glares from neighbors or passers-by when your dog decides to pee or, worse still, do the number 2 right in the middle of the street. Perhaps you will even have “curb your dog!” yelled at you by an unimpressed stranger.

As a novice dog owner or one who hasn’t quite gotten the hang of outdoor pet etiquette, it is easy to get confused with expressions like “curb your dog”, especially when there’s no curb in sight. So what does ‘Curb your dog’ truly mean?

Labrador retriever pooing with sad eyes

View Table of Contents

History of The Phrase

The phrase ‘curb your dog’ is still strange in many places today. In fact, if you tell a dog owner to curb their dog in most places, chances are they will give you a weird look and ask you what you mean with confusion boldly written on their faces. 

However, if you visit places like Long Island, Chicago, and New York City, you will quickly find out that ‘curb your dog’ is a common phrase many people seem to understand. Even people who don’t own dogs are privy to this information and do not find this phrase strange. You will most likely come across public or private signs with the words ‘curb your dog’ or its variations written legibly for you to see.

So what does ‘curb your dog’ mean, and why does everyone seem to understand it but you? More importantly, how did this phrase become so crucial in many places today? ‘Curb your dog’ is one of the many English phrases whose meaning has evolved.

To truly understand this confusing phrase, you need to understand its etymology by taking a trip down memory lane. The phrase ‘curb your dog’ can be traced back to the 1930s in New York, where it originated. It was one of those phrases that had been a long time coming because of one common problem that plagued the public, which was dog excrement.

Before the creation of this phrase, dog owners let their dogs pee and poo anywhere in public. This meant you were more likely to step in dog poop back then than you are most likely to do today. Dog waste was a big menace in those days. They were not only in the grasses but also in the gutters, on the sidewalk, by curbs, and in the streets.

Even neighbors were not spared from this behavioral misfortune. Since dog owners were not doing the necessary cleaning up after their dogs, they left it to their neighbors and the public cleaners. This was frowned upon and soon became a huge sanitation problem for concerned citizens and people tired of soiling their shoes.

In a bid to curb- pun intended – this problem, the ‘curb your dog’ rule was enforced sometime in the 1930s.

What Does “Curb Your Dog’ Mean?

In the 1930s, horse-drawn buggies were a popularized means of transportation in NYC. Back then, since it was normal to come across a horse while going around your business in the streets, it was also considered normal to come across horse crap on the road.

However, what wasn’t acceptable was having excrement on the sidewalks. In those days, horses were pooping everywhere except on the sidewalk. This was not a problem since vehicles used the streets and pedestrians used the sidewalks. However, dog owners also used the sidewalks and more often than not, they let their dogs poop on the sidewalks without picking up the poop in a plastic bag before leaving.

The ‘curb your dog’ regulation was used to alleviate the problem of dog waste on the sidewalks and other unacceptable areas near buildings and on grasses. This regulation stated that dog owners needed to lead their dogs to the curbs to do their business without soiling the sidewalks. 

In simpler terms, dog owners were required to let their dogs soil the gutter, streets, or curb but not the sidewalk. Since horse waste already littered the roads, it only made sense to let your pup do its waste in the streets even if you do not plan to pick it up after.

Soon, ‘curb your dog’ signs were popular and could be found in parks, on the streets, and even near buildings. With these signs, New York City citizens aimed to keep the sidewalks and building sides free of dog poo while keeping their shoe soles clean.

The ‘curb your dog’ regulation had the positive effect that the public hoped it would. It reminded dog owners to be more responsible for their dogs and be more devoted to the public’s sanitation. However, what was the cherry on top of the proper enforcement of the phrase was The Pooper Scooper law.

The Pooper Scooper Law

In 1978, a few decades after the ‘curb your dog’ phrase came to life, New York devised a solution that prompted dog owners to pick up after their canine friends. This solution came from The Pooper Scooper law pioneered by NYC. Dog waste was no longer a sanitation issue but a health and environmental hygiene concern.

Although the ‘curb your dog’ phrase was a success,  New York City’s sidewalks were still covered in dog waste. The Pooper Scooper law was in no way a spontaneous public law. It took years of political and legal trials before the law was birthed. Although years may have lapsed since the creation of the ‘curb your dog’ rule, this new law was used as a legislative backup to the phrase.

Essentially, both the ‘curb your dog’ phrase, and The Pooper Scooper Law wanted the same thing. The Pooper Scooper Law states that “Each person who owns or controls a dog must remove any feces left by the sidewalk, gutter, street, or other public area and dispose of it in a legal manner”.

Authorized and enacted by the legislators of New York City, people had no choice but to obey this rule that directed them to do the needful and pick up after their dogs and dispose of the animal waste properly. It was no longer just an act of courtesy and has evolved into an environmental protection necessity.

Although the ‘curb your dog’ phrases of the 1930s did not require dog owners to pick up after themselves, The Pooper Scooper Law made it a necessary act. Now, you no longer have to lead your pup to the scrub or side of the gutter to do their business, but also make sure you pick up their waste after. 

Quickly after The Pooper Scooper Law was established in NYC, other cities followed in NYC’s footsteps and adopted the law into their legislations. It is safe to say that we have New York City’s Pooper Scooper Law to thank for our dog-free streets and sidewalks.

 And better pet etiquettes, of course.

In many places today, not obeying The Pooper Scooper Law can cost you- literally. To get pet owners to obey the law and not treat it with levity, many cities in the U.S. attached fines to the law. Some major cities in the U.S. that will charge you for leaving pet poop in public include:

So, What Does Curbing Your Dog Mean Today?

Language is not a constant factor as we like to imagine it to be. Change is constant, which is why the ‘curb your dog’ phrase has evolved in meaning and is now used as an expression in different situations where a dog owner seems to lack pet etiquette.

Although ‘curb your dog’ remains a popular phrase today, its meanings have evolved so that it not only means to lead your dog to a curb for it to poop and then clean up after. Today, curbing your dog can mean a lot of things.

While, admittedly, curbing your dog means leading it to a curb, it can also mean controlling it. Certain English words have different meanings, and ‘curb’ is one of those words. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, curb means “to control or limit something that is not wanted”.

This is fitting as many people in 21st-century societies use the expression ‘curb your dog’ to ask dog owners to control their dogs when the pup is doing something unpleasant in public. Since what we perceive as wrong or unpleasant varies wildly and is seen from different perspectives, having a person yell ‘curb your dog!’ when your pup is seemingly doing nothing wrong can be annoying.

However, the expression is easy to understand, so instead of taking offense, you can simply take caution and steer your pup away from the person. “Curb your dog’ in modern societies can have different meanings. Some of these meanings are:

  • Stop your dog from harassing or approaching passers-by. This can be offensive, especially if your pup is a friendly pooch and doesn’t mean any harm. However, it is better to err on the side of caution and stay away from trouble. 
  • Keep your dog on a leash
  • Keeping your dog quiet in public. No incessant or unnecessary barking.
  • Keep your dog from harassing other people’s pets

‘Curb your dog’ in today’s society can mean many things! However, it is vital always to remember the sole purpose of the phrase. If you see a ‘curb your dog’ sign in public, ensure you stick to the no-poo-in-public definition. If your pup does poo, ensure you clean up the mess properly to avoid glares from other people and getting in trouble.

Woman is throwing away the poo of her dog

How To Curb Your Dog

Curbing your dog might look like an unrealistic expression. Your pet can’t speak, so how are you supposed to know when it needs to poop? It is your responsibility as a pet owner to not only be able to read your pet but also train it to know the proper way to go about its business.

Dogs are smart enough to be taught how to do the number 2 in public without making a mess. With a lot of patience and treats, you will in no time be able to teach your pup not to defecate just anywhere. Other than training your pup, it is your duty to figure out the best way to dispose of your dog’s poop after it defecates.

Instead of leaving the turd lying in public, some ways you can clean up after your dog include:

  • Use a plastic bag: plastic bags are nifty items you can take out in public with you. It is the most common means of poop disposal. All you need to do is turn the bag inside out, place your hand inside, pick up the poop, tie it up, and dispose of it in a trash can. Some pet stores sell flushable bags that you can use.
  • If you think using your hand is a bit too messy, investing in a pooper scooper is better. They come in different designs, so all you need to do is find a convenient and affordable option. However, remember you will need to clean your pooper scooper regularly.
  • The burying method works fine if you find yourself on a camping trip with your pet

Since curbing your dog also means getting it to behave properly in public, it is essential to keep your dog restrained in public spaces. Since dogs can be mischievous, remember to keep an eye on your pup to ensure it doesn’t get into trouble and give you a bad reputation.

Disobeying the ‘Curb Your Dog’ Rule

Is the rule important?

The short answer is yes. A world where dog owners do not pick up after their pet is a world whose streets, sidewalks, water bodies, and grasses are littered with dog waste. Who wants to live in an unsanitary world like this one? Pile up of dog poop on the streets is a sanitation and environmental concern.

There is nothing aesthetically pleasing about piles and piles of dog poop in public places.  Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how good the streets look, poop is an instant turn-off and stain to the public. What kind of people would like to live in an area known to be a public toilet for dogs?

What kind of tourists would like to visit these places? Dog waste is not only an environmental concern but also a health issue. Pet waste, like any other waste material, is harmful to our health and our pet’s health. You are not only leaving the street unsanitary when you refuse to clean up after your dog but also putting a lot of human and animal lives at risk.

Dog poo contains bacteria and parasites like E.coli and salmonella responsible for many clinical infections and diseases. These parasites can quickly spread, causing health problems like salmonellosis, yersiniosis, and other human diseases transmitted by dog poop.

Dog waste can be picked up or consumed by other animals or carried by wastewater into water bodies via storm drains. When carried into water bodies like the ocean, dog waste can increase the water’s bacteria level. This can, in turn, harm marine life, causing algae blooms and red tides.

Essentially, leaving your dog waste lying around can look unharmful, but in reality, it does more harm to our planet than we can ever imagine.

See more:

Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is an animal lover and the proud dog-mom of a Golden Retriever named Brody and an Italian Greyhound named Jessup. Unfortunately, Jessup developed serious allergies to many different types of dog foods and ingredients when she was just a puppy. Meanwhile, Brody could eat seemingly anything and carry on as healthy as could be. Sarah spent hours of time researching and testing different foods and brands before finding something that worked for little Jessup. She wants Dog Food Care to simplify this experience for future dog-parents who face food allergy or tolerance issues of their own.