Eco-friendly dog owners – tips for a more sustainable canine companion
It’s no secret how much we love our four-legged friends. But some of their needs can mean that they put more of a strain on the planet’s resources than we would like. We have put together some ideas to help you be an eco-friendly dog owner. So you can enjoy all the fluff, with less of an impact.
We will have a look at some of the areas in which your dog’s carbon pawprint might be a little high. Then you can find out how to make some changes towards becoming a more eco-friendly dog owner.
8 minutes to read
Rescue vs puppy
You’re probably reading this because you already have a dog. But if you’re still deciding whether a canine companion is for you, start here! One of the easiest first steps to being an eco-friendly dog owner is to rescue a dog rather than buying a puppy.
We won’t go into all the pros and cons of dog breeding here, because it’s a complex debate. But what we do know is that by adopting rather than shopping, you are avoiding contributing to overpopulation. Which is a problem for the environment in the dog world in the same way it is in the human world.
According to this article, there are over 100 million stray or abandoned companion animals living in Europe. So it makes sense to give a home to a dog in need, before bringing another canine life into the world.
Feeding your dog sustainably
Dog owners have a few main areas of concern when it comes to feeding their dog in a more eco-friendly way. These include:
- Buying food in plastic packaging
- The environmental impact of a meat-heavy diet
- Finding sustainable food sources
A lot of dog food comes in single-use plastic packaging that isn’t very Earth-friendly. One way to overcome this is to find somewhere you can take your own refillable container to stock up with food. Alternatively, you could look into buying large packages of food in bulk, thus reducing the amount of packaging you are buying overall.
In terms of the actual content of your dog’s meals, just as a meat-heavy human diet can have a big environmental impact, so can a meat-heavy dog diet. A lot of meat-based dog food can actually be of quite low quality too, This is because many pet food manufacturers use off-cuts and waste products from human meat production.
To help reduce the impact a little and treat your dog to a higher-quality meal, you could speak to your local butcher to see if they could save some meat scraps for your dog.
With advice and assistance from a vet, buying food from more sustainable sources like butchers or directly from farms can be a great option. It allows you to to see exactly what your dog is eating, reduces food miles and could also save you money.
Can my dog be plant-based?
A lot of humans are turning to plant-based diets for environmental reasons. But could your dog be vegan too?
This is a hotly-debated topic! Whilst cats are obligate carnivores (meaning they need meat to survive), this is not the case for dogs, and so technically they can thrive on a meat-free diet. However, it’s recommended that you speak to a vet or nutrition specialist if you want to go down this route. This will ensure that you get the proper advice and can plan out your dog’s diet to make sure they get everything they need.
Eco-friendly dog snack ideas
A couple of quick tips if you want to find a more sustainable, healthy snack option for your dog:
- Carrots are good for cleaning teeth and gums, and a nice cold carrot on a hot day can be a refreshing treat for your dog, too.
- Apples (minus the core) can help make your dog’s coat extra shiny and contain a lot of dog-friendly goodness.
Every dog is different, so you will know which of these feeding approaches will work best for your dog. We’d love to hear about your dog’s diet – please share any information or tips in the comments below.
Eco-friendly dog supplies – upcycle, recycle, repair & reuse
It can be tempting to treat our dogs to all manner of new things. After all, we love them and they deserve the best, right? But if you want to be a more eco-friendly dog owner, there are some easy ways to avoid buying everything brand new. Trying to give a new lease of life to items you already have, as well as shopping second hand, can make a positive impact. And we promise your dog won’t notice!
Second-hand and repaired dog toys
Dogs can be pretty enthusiastic with their toys, so they can need replacing often. Here are some ways you can make your dog’s toy-chewing habit more eco-friendly, and cheaper too!
One of the simplest ways to get toys for your dog whilst keeping one eye on the planet is by shopping second hand. If your pup is fairly gentle-mouthed, finding soft toys in a charity shop can be a great alternative to buying new. Just make sure you remove anything like eyes or beads for safety. Buying toys that are aimed at (human) children under the age of 3 is a good starting point. This is because these have to meet stringent choking and safety guidelines to be given to infants.
Alternatively, repairing toys that your dog has chewed or torn can help to extend their life. This also means your dog can hold on to their favourite toy for a little bit longer. If the stuffing has been lost (or eaten!), try re-stuffing with a t-shirt you no longer use or a pair of socks with holes in them. The added bonus of this approach is that your dog’s toy will smell like you – giving them comfort and reassurance if they’re ever left home alone.
Eco-friendly dog toy ideas
If buying new toys is the only option, looking for toys that are made from sustainable materials and natural fibres is a great step. Plastics and popular nylon chew toys can actually be harmful to your dog – with a risk of them ingesting small pieces or if the toy has no “give”, breaking your pup’s teeth.
Dogs are a lot like children, in that they would much prefer to play with something that isn’t actually a toy than something that was designed for them. With this in mind, have a look around your house to see if there’s anything your dog might be interested in. Dog owners we’ve spoken to have reported that their dogs love balled-up old socks, rope and toilet roll tubes. A top tip for hot weather: soak balled socks or rope in water then freeze for a fun, cold treat.
Need some more ideas for eco-friendly dog toys? This article from One Green Planet has a great selection of recycled and sustainable toys.
Eco-friendly dog beds and bedding
Just search “eco-friendly dog bed” on Google and you’ll be presented with a huge array of options. From high-end, designer beds to recycled doggy duvets and personalised pillows, the choice is massive. You could go for one of these, or opt for a more DIY option. Depending on the size of your dog, buying or reusing a large, zip-up cushion cover and filling it with scrap material, recycled clothes, rags or an old, folded-up duvet cover can make a perfect bed. Avoiding plastic fibres is a good idea, because if they’re ingested they can be dangerous to your dog. Also, machine-washing synthetic fibres can release microplastics into the water supply. So natural is always best if possible.
Other eco-friendly dog supplies
There are many other little things that your dog needs that can be obtained in a more sustainable way. For example, buying second-hand leads and collars, or repurposing a bowl instead of buying a doggy-specific one can all help.
A lot of us dog owners have a network of friends, family or people we say hello to on our daily walks. If you need something for your dog, why not ask your network of fellow dog lovers? You might find that people have spares that they are willing to give to you or swap with something you no longer need. Or why not go one step further and set up a local dog supplies buy/sell/swap group on Facebook, to connect other dog owners in your area and help them find what they need.
Eco-friendly dog grooming and water use
Another area where it might be possible to be a little more eco-friendly is when considering water and the products you use to clean or groom your dog.
Bathing your dog indoors in your own bathtub can be a messy business, and it also uses a lot of water. If it’s warm outside, try washing your dog with the hose. This allows the excess water to soak into your lawn or run into flower beds.
In our article about saving 1,600 litres of water in a week, we suggested setting a timer to make sure your shower isn’t going on for too long. You could adopt the same approach with your dog. Make it your aim to reduce doggy showers to 2 minutes each time.
Another easy way to save a little bit of water is to turn off the tap or hose when lathering up your dog’s shampoo. A garden hose left on for 5 minutes can waste up to 80 litres of water. So switching off the tap while soaping up can be a great saver.
Other thoughts on water use
Instead of tipping the leftover water from your dog’s bowl down the sink, you could use it to water your house plants or in your garden. For a more innovative solution, you can buy eco-friendly water bowls (made from bamboo) that also assist in keeping your dog’s water fresher for longer.
Making your dog walks more eco-friendly
One of the best tips we came across when researching this article is to avoid driving to your dog walks.
We know that it’s not always possible, and it’s sometimes good to have a change of scenery. But if you fancy a bit of extra exercise, walk to the local park instead of driving there. Avoiding a 5-10 minute drive every day could significantly reduce your carbon footprint, and your dog’s too!
Eco-friendly dog waste disposal
Our research has told us that one of the biggest areas of worry for dog owners who want to be more eco-friendly is how to deal with their waste. It’s convenient to head out for a walk with a pocketful of plastic bags to pick up your dog’s poo, but the environmental impact can be huge.
Most dog waste ends up mixed with general waste in public bins, which is either sent to landfill or incinerated. Whilst the poo itself breaks down quite quickly, a plastic bag won’t, so what are the alternatives?
Making picking up after your dog more sustainable
Biodegradable or compostable bags can be a good option, but before you pop one in your compost bin, check whether they’re suitable for home composting. Some materials, even though they are compostable, require industrial composting plants to provide the right conditions to break down effectively.
If plastic bags are the only option in your area, try to buy recycled plastic. The energy that goes into making brand new (virgin) plastic is huge, and by nature dog poo bags are single-use. So go with recycled if none of the ideas above are available.
It’s also worth looking on your local authority’s website to check the rules surrounding how to dispose of dog waste. Some will allow you to add to your food waste but many use household food waste to produce compost that is used on crops or offered to local residents for their gardens or allotments. Dog poo is not suitable for use in this way, so be sure to check before you chuck!
A controversial but definitely more sustainable way of disposing of your dog’s waste is by not using plastic bags at all. Some people use old newspaper or paper bags, but this can add to the risk of flies around bins. The smell isn’t great, either!
When at home, some dog owners say they flush their dog’s waste rather than throwing it in the bin. This approach is up for debate, as the water required to flush can cancel out the saving you make by not using a bag.
Dog waste digesters
There are products available called “digesters”, that allow the waste to break down and be added to the soil in your garden. These reportedly have minimal impact on water run-off and have the potential to improve soil quality at the same time.
More eco-friendly dog tips
Do you have any tips or hacks that help reduce your dog’s carbon pawprint? We would love to hear from you, real dog owners. Drop us a comment below or tag #ailunacommunity on social media.