It’s not bad dog behavior that is leading to the loss of places to take your dog in The Valley, it’s ill-behaved humans that are the cause.

Dogs are currently disinvited from exercising on the trails at the Bobbin Mill in Warren because people couldn’t be bothered to pick up after their dogs. This was not an isolated problem. It was pervasive, persistent and ultimately frustrated the landowners so much that they closed the trails to dogs.

These landowners asked politely for dog owners to pick up the poop for over a year. Another landowner put up a sign urging people and then admonishing them for their lack of consideration.  That same landowner made it her mission to clean up the trail and picked up pounds and pounds of other people’s dogs’ poops.  All to no avail.

So that trail is closed thanks to the bad behavior of a few.  But the problem goes beyond that specific trail. Now that the snow has melted, the extent of the poop problem is apparent from one end of The Valley to the other.  There’s poop piles on the sides of the dirt roads and along the edges of the paved roads.

Beyond the obviously nasty visual impacts and the smell and the possibility of stepping in it, there are real health considerations from fecal matter washing into rivers and streams.

What this comes down to, though, is a pattern of behavior that needs to be changed. We need some real deterrents to change this behavior. We need lots and lots of peer pressure. We need tools to change this behavior much like fines for texting and driving and loss of license for driving under the influence to deter those behaviors.

It’s easy for social and peer pressure to influence dog owner behavior in public places such as the Waitsfield Farmers’ Market. How are we going to change behavior on the trails and dirt roads where you can ignore your dog’s droppings and no one knows?

Education is a start, and so is providing dog waste receptacles and bags. But first, we need everyone to buy in to the idea that their pet’s poops are their responsibility, not someone else’s.