Dog Owners’ Perceptions and Behaviors Related to the Disposal of Pet Waste in City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks

Amelia B. Romo, B. Derrick Taff, Ben Lawhon, Deonne Vanderwoude, Peter Newman, Alan Graefe, Forrest Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This study explored dog guardian behaviors and self-reported perceptions regarding the disposal of dog waste on Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) lands in Boulder, Colorado, in an effort to increase compliance with proper disposal practices. We utilized direct observations of dog owners and their behaviors regarding pet waste, and separate self-reported surveys to examine dog owners’ perceptions of waste disposal on OSMP lands. The Theory of Planned Behavior served as a framework to explore how dog owners’ attitudes, norms, and perceived behavioral control might influence behavioral intentions, as well as self-reported current behavior, regarding the disposal of pet waste on OSMP lands. Finally, this study explored potential management techniques that may influence dog owners to properly dispose of waste on OSMP lands in the future. Data were collected across 10 sites, for total of n=541 observations and n=386 surveys. Canine defecation and human behavioral response occurred n=102 times during the n=541 observations, and overall 73.5% of dog owners properly (i.e., bag waste and immediately take all bags) disposed of waste. Without considering immediate disposal in a trash or compost receptacle, owners with dogs on-leash were significantly more likely to bag their pets’ waste than owners with dogs off-leash. When both bagging waste and immediately disposing of waste in a waste or compost receptacle are considered, owners with dogs on-leash had a tendency (~11% more likely) to bag and immediately take pet waste for disposal. Perceived behavioral control was the construct that most significantly correlated with behavioral intent regarding proper disposal of dog waste. Many respondents reported that additional trash or compost receptacles and bag dispensers along trails would make them more likely to follow recommended practices related to the disposal of pet waste in the future. These results suggest that management should consider the following: designating more on-leash-only sites because compliance is substantially higher when dogs are on-leash; establishing on-leash segments along the first quarter of a mile from all trailheads; installing an additional trash and/or compost receptacle and bag dispenser, specifically one quarter of a mile from the trailheads. Pairing these with educational strategies that inform pet owners to not leave bagged pet waste for later disposal, while highlighting the ease of immediately bagging waste and carrying it to a trash or compost receptacle may further increase compliance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-64
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Park and Recreation Administration
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 11 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Urban Studies
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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