How to approach neighbors re: horrendous dog poo smell?

loralee_2007August 26, 2012

I'm sorry if this post is long, but I'm trying to give you as much info as possible as my husband & I disagree on how to deal with this.

New neighbors bought the house next door (city, not rural)last year. They have 2 small children (4 & 5 years old, with one on the way) and a small pomeranian dog (cute little guy!).

My computer area where I work, looks right into their backyard from the window. Ever since they moved in, they have trained their dog to poop/pee on the side of their house (not the backyard, the side of the house abutting ours), but I have never seen them pick anything up.

I initially "assumed" they just picked it up at a time when I wasn't necessarily at the computer, but about 3 months ago they had other children over who ran near to that area and the wife neighbor (horrified) exclaimed "no, no you can't go there. That's the poopy area!"

I wouldn't really care since it IS their property, BUT, when it gets hot & humid, OMG, it really really stinks! Compounding the problem is that we are already committed to a major side-yard renovation next year that butts (no pun intended) against the part of the property where the pooch poops (divided by a 6 foot fence). We're putting a pool in the back, then a patio in front of that, then an outdoor kitchen that is right next to the poop area. How appealing will that be to smell that while cooking, or relaxing? I'm not looking forward to spending $70,000 and not being able to use our space.


Me: We don't know these people other than occassional hello's over the fence. I would prefer to report it to the city as a sewer issue and let them figure it out and notify the homeowners.

Husband: Says this is disingenuous (which it is, but saves neighborly relations IMO) and is worried they might be fined or worse. Says we should discuss it with them, but neither of know how to approach them that essentially says, pick up the poo because it stinks! Both of us are very straight-forward, pull-no-punches kinda people, so I'm not sure this would work and I'm afraid our approach would (in our minds) be ok, but would cause problems after our delivery.

What would you do? Do you have any comments what our rights are?

Any suggestions on the correct or best way to approach this would be GREATLY appreciated!

Essentially, spring & fall we can use our yard - but as it is currently, summer is out of the question. We haven't even invited people over this year because it smells so bad in the heat.

Thanks for your help & opinions/advice.



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I would ask to speak with them frankly about the problem - you are all adults here, no reason you can not have an adult conversation. I would judt let them know of the smell especially during the heat - some people have a really bad sense of smell, they may be completely oblivious to the smell you are enduring. I would even be a good neighbor and offer to have a service pick up the dog deposits for the first month as a nice gesture. Good luck

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 11:30PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Ask them over for a little cookout while it is still hot outside. If the adults can't seem to address the big stinking elephant in the room, I'll bet that the kids will!

I'd not put up with it for another week, that's for sure. The poop needs to be picked up regularly.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 12:39PM
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If you call the city, their going to know it was you that made the complaint since the odor is next to your house. I wouldn't go there. I'd only do that if they refused to keep the area clean after discussions. They might not even be aware it's an issue for you, after all.

I'd talk to them and also be sympathetic about them having to pick up the poo. They have already made the decision to have an area they could leave it so you're just adding to their yard work. I think it may go better if you're sensitive to that issue.

They make these dog waste disposal systems that go into the ground. I attached a sample from the internet. Maybe splurge for the $60 at an attempt to keep the peace. (You could tell them a friend had it or something like that so it doesn't look so obvious). If they don't want it, you could return it unopened. It looks like the only expense from there is for the chemicals. I never tried them but maybe a dog owner could comment on how they work and how often the neighbor would have to replenish the chemicals.

Any neighbor issues stink!

Here is a link that might be useful: poo container

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 1:47PM
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I was thinking the exact same thing as Rhizo!!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 3:16PM
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I'm going to assume they have no idea that the odor is offensive. Either becasue they can't smell it, or because they never spend any time in that side yard, or in an open-windowed room that faces the side yard. I'm also going to assume that they have the dog go there so they can keep the rest of the yard poop-free for the kids, so I don't think they'll want to widen the poop zone for sake of diffusion. So the solution lies in doing something with the side yard.

I think I'd just be straightforward about it. "I wanted to mention something to you that you may not have noticed. Because Puffy's potty area is right next to our sitting room and patio, we tend to catch the odors, particularly in the summer. It makes it tough to enjoy our place. A friend of mine had a similar issue and it was solved by just picking the area more often, especially in warmer weather. I know time is hard to come by, especially with two small kiddos, so here are the names of a couple of services that others in the area use."

We love having you guys in the neighborhood, and just wanted to be straightforward about something that had been bothering us. I hope if anything ever comes up from your side of the fence, that you'll feel comfortable doing the same."

P.S. - I like to use the "a friend of mine" or "at a place I used to work" when encouraging a particular course of action. It's a way to illustrate a solution without making it all about telling a person what to do.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 3:30PM
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I think my inclination would be to comment on it when I saw the neighbor- maybe in kind of a solving-a-mystery kind of tone. Maybe you approach the woman and say (in a curious voice, not an accusing voice), "What is that smell that's coming out of your yard over there? It's really strong in our side yard, we can barely be out there." See if you can get her to walk over to that general area and identify it. Whatever you do, don't be confrontational, I think just pointing out that you smell something unpleasant coming from their yard, is often enough to get people on the ball (hopefully).

Sometimes people just don't realize something is a problem. It reminds me of a few years ago, DH was cutting back some vines that hung into our neighbor's yard. She made a comment that they were kind of pretty, so DH trimmed them, but left some groomed and overhanging her yard. When I was out pruning the next time, I asked her if she wanted me to leave them or cut them back to the fence line. She said, "You can cut them back all the way," without hesitation. DH was mortified when he realized she had tried to be so nice that he hadn't gotten the clue. So I'd say you can definitely bring it to their attention directly, but also be pleasant in the process. I know, it's very hard and some people are better at it than others (I'm not one of them generally either).

Are you sure it's the dog? I've seen a few yards that have a low lying area that becomes akin to a swamp. When we first bought it, our house had one such area where there was a water leak, and even though we are in a dry climate, that doesn't matter and the ever present water turns into a stinky swamp.

Don't know about your city, but where I live, the city would not bother to investigate up into someone's yard. As far as they are concerned, their responsibility ends at the curb, and any issues beyond that point are the homeowners. If you end up at the point of having to get someone else involved (say your talking to them doesn't help), then it's probably going to have to go through public health or animal control. When I was a kid, we had neighbors who kept big dogs in concrete runs and they stunk and were not cleaned nearly often enough. My mother would call next door on a regular basis and say, "Can you please clean your dog runs?" Which of course does not make you their favorite neighbor, but as time went on and they got worse about cleaning the runs, animal control was called out several times. It's bad for having a good neighbor relationship, but some people truly don't get how their pets' stink affects others.

We had a doggie dooley- complete waste of money so wouldn't recommend that as a good will gesture. We could never get it balanced, and IMO, it was more trouble than just digging a small hole and burying the poop. If someone isn't going to make the basic effort to clean up, the DD isn't going to encourage them. We had a metal one, which sealed much better than the plastic. Without a good seal, it might smell worse, esp if they plant it on the adjoining property.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 3:58PM
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Thanks very much to everyone for your comments, ideas & suggestions.

One of the reasons I am soooo reluctant to approach the neighbors directly, is I did that once to neighbors on the other side of the street from me and it went HORRIBLY bad. These 2 girls, also newer neighbors, (mid-twenties?) had 2 small dogs that they just left out in the yard ALL THE TIME and it was just CONSTANT barking, not to mention them getting out from the chain-link fence and running around the neighborhood (with no obvious training once they were out to get them back.) I felt terribly for those dogs; no walks, no play time - just left on their own in the yard. No WONDER they barked incessantly!! (FWIW, the girls told their mother that people in the neighborhood were letting their dogs out, which was complete bull-hockey.)

Anyways, I finally went over one night after 10:30pm when the dogs were still in the yard barking (and small dogs have such high pitched yaps!) to ask them to bring them in because we couldn't sleep. The girl who answered the door completed FREAKED and started crying, as she ran from the open door back into the house shrieking "the neighbors hate us" (HUH?)

Before I make it sound like we're jerks, this newest issue is only the 2nd problem we have had and we've lived here since 1999. ALL of the other neighbors we are friendly with and routinely go out with/have over for dinner, so we're not disagreeable/picky people. Needless to say though, that prior experience makes me VERY reticent to approach our neighbors directly (I already get "teased" because of this first encounter. Ugh.)

Many of you have recommended that we assist somehow by purchase a service etc. that would help them. I have no problem with this at all, but I think it would offend them. He is military (air force) and she is stay-at-home; and I'm concerned that gesture would come off that they couldn't pay their own way when they can. We live in an upper middle class neighborhood so obviously one income is not a problem for them. (There are other reasons I believe this, although I don't purport to "know" other people's status.)

And quasifish, I had to DH would have (and has) done the same thing. But I can definitely say this is poop. I'm a (reformed LOL) dairy farm girl so I'm well aware of all breeds of poop, probably more intimately than most LOL. But I'll give you that stinky swamp water is pretty bad too, particularly when the algae turns bright neon blue - and so does your face when you smell it!

Again thank you so much for all the feedback and help.


    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 7:20PM
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Trying to be as kind as I can, but honestly, she chose that area of the yard as the poop zone, because it's out of her way, where she and her childrn won't have to deal with it, and I'd assume that she KNOWS it smells. I wonder why people worry about offending those parties when they don't worry about offending you. I was a military wife for awhile, and when we lived on base, there were some very stringent rules about your housing and respecting the yards and commons where it affects other people. Military families aren't 'clueless'. I'd address it with her, as politely as possible, but I'd address it by asking her to come over to your yard and witness it herself.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 8:56PM
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Could always stick a ton of air fresheners along the fence line, maybe they'd get the point that way :)

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 9:37PM
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Personally---I would politely go over and talk to them and state that you work from home and the smell from their dog crap makes it unbearable. Us Military people are usually quite under standing. And if they get upset and angry--well you really cares----more than likely they are not someone your going to hang out with!! Bring over a batch of cookies and be polite!! Now a days it just seems no 1 wants to talk...just call the Gov't or police,lol

If you go ahead and just cal the city---probably almost a 100% chance they will know it you and for sure they wil lbe ticked off, and you look like a jerk!! At least if you contact them and they get upset--they look like the jerk,lol Best of luck!!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 9:16AM
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well I'm on the opposite side, I'd tend to call the city. Why would that make OP look like a jerk? If someone called on me, I'd feel embarrassed that I did something to warrant that action, not that the complainant was a jerk. Our town has an anonymous tattler email system, we've used a few times over the years for tall grass (over a foot tall), etc.

Let the neighbor think what they want, just let them also follow common courtesy & codes while they cuss me out under their breath. I've gone the route of speaking kindly to neighbors & found that a lot of them see no problem with their behavior, in fact may be offended when asked to make adjustments to follow the law or just be good neighbors. If these folks are ticked that you tattle on them, I bet their reaction in person won't be much better. And our town will come out for these kinds of things, thank goodness. Years ago, we got a warning letter from our town about setting our trash out early & where to keep it, an elderly neighbor called on us. We'd done a huge amount of yardwork & rather than drag it all back behind the garage for 1 night, we left it next the house Sun. night. Had a letter in the box Monday. Guy never said a word, but we learned our limits. He's rolling over in his grave now if he can see the block these days!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 3:22PM
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Its a pretty sad, when one can't just talk to people!! But thats just me!! I have found be polite to others, they are usually polite back!! Each their own!!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 3:59PM
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ITA airforceguy. In this day and age, I see it as a bit of a challenge- even a game- to be personal and politic and try to solve a problem where everyone is satisfied with the outcome.

Having grown up in a family where interpersonal skills were somewhat lacking and strong-arming was a common technique, as an adult, I have aimed to hone more people skills. I wouldn't always say that I'm comfortable or happy to have to address problems, but if there's a problem, I'd like to try to address it in a proactive way.

I mentioned above about the neighbor who didn't want the vines, but wasn't comfortable saying so. I can't imagine how upset I would have been if nuisance abatement or some such organization had been contacted, I would probably have never been able to look her in the eye again. If she had casually said, "Hey, next time you prune, could you knock those back to the fenceline?" I would have been out there that afternoon doing it. I'm with you, gotta talk to people, at least try to be neighborly first, and give them the chance to do the right thing.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 6:34PM
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'at least try to be neighborly first, and give them the chance to do the right thing'


    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 11:06AM
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You need to be able to act some to pull this off.

Buy a bag of lime, wait until midnight, and dump the contents over the fence into the area.

Then wait. If the people complain to you, act puzzled, then 'remember' a story about your grandparents and their use of lime in their outhouse.

Say maybe someone got down wind and offended.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 4:50PM
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You have a choice. Say something and hope the problem improves, or live with the smell.

Just go over and be polite. Tell them that there's a smell and it is preventing you from keeping the windows open or using your backyard. Ask them nicely to do something about the smell. Don't make suggestions or offers to pay anything. Just tell them there's a smell and you would like them to do something about it.

If they don't do anything, and give them a week or so to figure something out, call the city and ask what the next steps would be.

At the very worst, they are military and will be moving in a couple of years, so you aren't going to make a life-long enemy next door. (And I say this as a military brat, so I'm not trying to pick on military people.)

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 5:01PM
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I agree with those who said to approach the neighbours and let them know. I doubt if they are even aware that's it's a problem (ok common sense should tell them to pick up regularly for a number of reasons) but maybe it's not high on their priority list with young kids you know? or maybe this is their first dog and they think this is what everyone does.

But I would sort of be a bit apologetic in my approach, and say something like "I hate to say this, but there is a really strong smell of dog poop on my side of the fence and it seems to be coming from your yard", they likely will be embarrassed but it will come across better I think than skirting around the issue. Any reasonable person would take it fine and do something about it. I've used this approach myself with neighbour problems and it's never gone sour because it doesn't come across as an attack, just something that you had to bring up but didn't really want to.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 7:17AM
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good advice from trancegemini!!!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 8:05AM
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I must be the only one who thinks its unlikely that one small pomeranian is creating enough poop to create a horrendous dog poo smell. Having previously had a pom in the family I can attest to their poop being pretty small and having never having picked up the pom poo I can attest that its small enough to dry out and become one with the soil in very little time without stinking. So, you all must have tiny lots, powerful sense of smell (like me!), or the power of suggestion is at play here. So, if indeed there is mounds of pom poo in your neighbor's side yard causing a big stink then you have your ice breaker with the neighbors right there. You could casually ask them what it is they feed such a tiny little doggie that would cause it's poo to smell like a great dane lives next door.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 10:38PM
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The "quality" of a dog's by-product is directly linked to the type of food it eats. After reading the OP, I concluded this pom was probably eating the cheapest of the cheap super-market dog food.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 6:01PM
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Yeah, I was wondering if there isn't a sewage problem somewhere because I have 3 large dogs that poop in the far back side of the yard. DH and I take turns scooping and he often misses his days. The only time I smell poop is right after it's been deposited.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 12:56AM
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Why is it so hard to figure out how to deal with this. ? Just go over and talk to the neighbour and tell him about the smell. My neighbour and I don't even really like each other but if we feel there is a problem we just talk about it before it escalates . Really very simple.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 11:00AM
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Moonie, do you have neighbors with windows right next to that 'far back side of the yard' spot where they go? Why not have them go under the kitchen window, you'll know when it needs scooping then I bet.

If the OP's neighbor knows enough to rush over & stop kids from playing in that part of her yard, she knows there's something objectionable there....

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 2:50PM
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jomuir - No, I don't have neighbors on the 'far back side of the yard' spot where they go. It's an empty lot.

What's objectionable goes without saying. Of course she doesn't want her children playing in dog poop. That doesn't mean that there isn't another reason for the smell to be so bad that the OP can smell it in her own yard.

If it's a very very small area I can see it. Otherwise, it's just my thought that something bigger is stinking in Denmark.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 12:20AM
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I can't believe all the crap about dog poop. I pick up daily from my two Welsh Corgis, using a plastic grocery bag. It is tied up and goes in a black plastic bag with other yard debris which is picked up with the garbage. This, as it is said, is not brain surgery, plus I do not enjoy stepping in it. Best I can tell we have been discussing smelly poop for 15 days and I presume the OP is still loath to discuss the problem with their neighbor?

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 10:43AM
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LOL texasredhead. I was thinking the same thing, actually. I'm sorry, but having been a dog owner all my life I honestly don't know how anyone could confuse the aroma of dog poop with anything else. It's pretty distinctive, especially old dog poop. All kennels smell the same. There is no issue other than being afraid to tell the lady her dog's poop stinks and please clean it up. I live in a rural area, but in the nearby town, one is not allowed to put any animal waste in their garbage, no matter how well it's sealed. No cat litter, no doggie doodles. I don't know how they expect people to dispose of it.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 6:38PM
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I am having the same problem with my neighbors...They tie their dog up right outside my dining room window where I to have my computer..The one day I was sitting on the computer after walking my dogs and thought I had stepped in dog poo cuz all I could smell was this overwhelming smell of dog poo. It was a that time I realized where it was coming from...i had opened my window.. I recently went over and confronted them about it and her response was it is her property and that she is planning on putting up a fence.. I have a garden on the side of my house where the dog can reach and it has started to pee on my cinder blocks where I plan on putting my seeds in... She has no plan on moving her dog...and she lets the leash reach all the way to the property line.. We have these huge yards where I live and she has to let her dog pee right in between the house... It is rude and inconsiderate if you ask me... She even installed a leash run behind her house that she doesnt use... She is lazy for not walking her dog in my opinion..I wish you luck in finding a solutiuon as I am trying to find one myself...

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 12:52PM
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Discuss problem with neighbor ??? get real !!!
I have a single woman with 2 dogs that crap just off her porch steps.
This action occurs just 10 feet from my barbecue and summer eating area. Sure it's picked up maybe once every 2 weeks....
What a nice neighbor.... I'm gaining ammunition for legal action, anyone who is so thoughtless, and lazy as to allow an animal to do it's business because their to lazy to take it out back, isn't getting any effort on my part other than maybe the board of health...

    Bookmark   October 19, 2014 at 10:52PM
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maybe the neighbors dont like you watching them. Get your nose back on your side of the fence.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2015 at 9:52PM
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How about the last two peeps replying check the date of the original post...

1 Like    Bookmark   March 23, 2015 at 10:58PM
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