When we installed our in-ground waste disposal system, we had three dogs. One is large (about 65 pounds), one is small (about 15 pounds), and one was medium (she has since passed away) and had some digestive issues that resulted in what seemed like non-stop pooping! As you can imagine, backyard cleanup was a daily task. We filled a bucket to go in the garbage can pretty quickly. That’s when we decided to look into an in-ground system. *I should probably note that dog and cat waste cannot be added to your regular compost and cannot be used in your garden. Installing an in-ground system is actually pretty easy. The worst part is digging the hole!
Step #1: Choose your location and dig your hole.
We put ours in the back of our yard behind our shed. While the smell is somewhat contained, you’ll definitely be able to smell it if you’re close to it, so choose wisely. Most of the systems recommend digging three feet deep. That’s probably a great plan if you have just one little dog. If you have big dogs or multiple dogs, though, I would recommend going at least six feet deep. The good news is the hole doesn’t have to be wide, so don’t let a six foot dig scare you away! A post hole digger actually works really well.
Step #2: Add pea rock to the bottom of the hole.
The key to the system working is drainage (or lack thereof). The addition of the water and enzymes is what breaks down the waste. If you have sandy, looser soil, the water may drain too quickly to adequately break down the waste, so you’ll want to add water more frequently. If you have clay or harder soil, you may have a bit better luck since the water won’t drain as quickly. In any case, a layer of rock at the bottom of your hole will help to maintain the hole and regulate drainage. Pea rock is great, but any type of smaller rock will do.
Step #3: Place your lid.
There are plenty brands out there that make this “system.” All you’re really buying, though, is a lid. The hole does all the work; you just need something to cover it. If you’re handy, you could certainly make your own. The one we bought at the time isn’t actually made anymore, but this Four Paws one is pretty similar. When you place the lid over your hole, I recommend digging it into the ground a bit to keep it in place. Then pack your dirt back around it for security.
Now You’re Ready to Use It:
- Add waste to system as it’s picked up. (Resist the urge to fill it with everything that’s been sitting around for the last month! It will never catch up and break down.)
- Add water to the system daily. This often isn’t part of the actual instructions, but the moisture will help break down the waste more quickly. I add enough water to fill to the top once a day. This is an especially important step if you have looser soil that drains quickly.
- Add enzymes to the system weekly. I like the Four Paws Waste Manager tablets available here. You just add one tablet per dog per week with water.
Unfortunately, in-ground systems will only work in warm weather. If you live in a northern state like we do, you won’t be able to use the system over the winter. We typically stop using ours in late fall and begin using the system again in the spring.