Dog Waste Station Product Review
Quick Links for Dog Waste Station Product Review
Instead of reviewing specific brands, since there are so many of them, it will be more helpful to analyze the primary design styles shared by the majority of commercial pet waste stations. Ready to go? Let's start at the top.
"STATING THE OBVIOUS" SIGN: In our opinion, putting a traditional sign with a dog or person walking a dog on top of a pet waste station is unnecessary. Like labeling a tree. If someone doesn't know by now what a pet waste station is, or can't figure it out by looking, well there may be no hope for them. Moreover, unnecessary signs clutter the environment and actually detract from a sense of peacefulness. Common areas are generally intended to be places to commune with nature. Don't ruin it with unnecessary and unattractive signs spelling out the painfully obvious. Besides, most dispenser boxes already have a sign and instructions printed clearly in plain sight just below the sign.
INSTRUCTIONS SIGN: Most dog waste stations fall into this category the instructions are of course, "Please pick up after your dog" or "Please keep this area clean." Who even looks at such a sign? In our opinion, a sign like that is just clutter.
CONSERVATION AWARENESS SIGN: Sgt. Poopers' 5-color die-cut custom Conservation Arrowhead is something new. Everyone else has just been doing the same thing since Day 1: printing one-color signs that employ zero creativity, it's like they aren't even trying to persuade anyone to pick up after their dog. So they just print the cheapest bare-minimum sign guaranteed to have absolutely no effect on anyone? It's understood they are not marketing-trained people. They don't have access to Madison Avenue for world-class creative ability. Yet there are two subjects called "marketing" and "public relations." Those subjects actually work. The Sgt. Poopers Conservation Arrowhead is a sophisticated improvement on the common sign achieved through strategic planning and creative tools to create a campaign that actually makes people WANT to be eco-responsible. The idea is to have something that functions to improve the environment and the pet waste problem. Highly recommended.
As the song goes, the head bone is connected to the back bone, so there has to be a central post to hold your sign high so dog owners will be able to know what a dog waste station is should any of them inexplicably forget and fall onto their knees shouting, "Please, what is that thing?!?"
BOX-CHANNEL POST: There are two types of posts generally in use, and if you set the post in concrete either one will work well: box frame and U-channel. Both of these normally come in two pieces making it easier for shipping, but also making it easy to adjust the height in case you do not want a sign since one section can telescope or overlap the other. These are normally "powder-coated" which means painted electrostatically and set with heat so they can endure the elements.
We recommend a box-channel since it is the strongest. At some point in the next 10 or 15 years, Larry the yard guy is surely going to ram your dog-waste station with his John Deere. In some parts, nothing runs (into stuff) like a Deere and a box-channel post will be more likely to shrug off the blow.
U-CHANNEL POST: If you are in a hurry, and the ground is soft enough, you can just pound your U-channel post into the dirt making sure it is vertical. We don't recommend that because the lack of concrete allows the post to lean over with time.
Once you pound in the bottom half, then attach the upper half so it overlaps or telescopes to the correct combined height. We will warn you here that the U-channel style post is a less able to withstand sideways forces when planted in the dirt, so after a few years it may very well begin to lean to the left or right. If you get the box style, which is our favorite, these are more stable. The best idea is to set your center post in concrete. The hole should be 14 inches deep. Dig a hole, insert the post, brace so it remains level, pour in concrete, and let is set up for 24 hours.
Dog Waste Bags
There are several kinds of dog waste bags on the market.
WASTE BAG ROLLS: Prices vary, but the hands-down winner is the roll bag. If you look at what most dog owners actually use to pick up poop, it's nothing fancy. So there's no sense spending extra money on fancier bags that are unnecessary. Rolls of dog waste bags are significantly less costly and function as well as any other kind of waste bag where the rubber meets the road... or huh... you get the idea. Besides, would most dog owners really expect a more costly for free? No.
STRAP BAGS: This style of dog waste bag comes as a packet of lay-flat bags stapled together at the top with two holes for prongs inside the dispenser. Each bag has a perforation at the top below the binding so each one can be torn away like a perforated sheet of paper from a nice yellow tablet. Each bag also has a little strip that serves as a grab handle (whoa-whoa-whoa!) making it easy to pull one off. In fact, this style is hand-down the easiest to remove by far. (Yes, "hand down" was intentional humor thanks for wondering). If you are providing dog waste bags in a retirement community where elderly dog walkers suffer from rheumatoid arthritis in their hands, residents will sing your praises for the rest of their days and talk about the wonder of these bags at every communal meal. I know, because that's what I do at my own meals.
For everyone else, the extra plastic strip, extra paper strip, and staples make this format the most expensive dog waste bag. Sellers justify this bag, saying it is cheaper because users can only rip off one bag at a time, whereas they say with a roll, people can pull of more than one.
In our experience, we don't see streams of poop bags from a roll going into the trash we empty. Besides if someone wanted to double up, they could do that with any style of bag. But honestly, we haven't seen people getting greedy with dog waste bags. Perhaps there is a movement we've never witnessed of people stealing poop bags to wrap sandwiches. Doesn't sound very appetizing to us. And again, that could be done with any style of bag.
However, as the most expensive of all dog waste bags, these might be the style of choice when you want to impress dog owners with your style. If you run a well-funded dog park in Beverly Hills, select these. Expect to pay 150% more per bag for the strap format vs. the roll format.
MITTEN BAGS: These are not as expensive as a strap bag, but they are still more expensive than dog waste bags on a roll. They are also bonded together at the top with holes for a couple of prongs. Each one is torn off one at a time leaving the "spine" at the top when the bags are gone. Each bag has extra material at the bottom, folded inside to make a puppet-like "mouth" which opens up to "swallow" dog waste. Sorry for the horrible analogy.
In our opinion, again the extra luxury of having a gusset at the bottom is nice, but while some dog owners might spend the extra money for that style, not having it would not be a barrier to picking up the waste. We don't think your purchase of this style is merited.
Here again is a bag that smacks of luxury and who doesn't like a little luxury? So if you have the budget and want a fancier bag why not splurge? For example, we can see these as the preferred bag in a retirement community that allows pets and charges plenty for community services. Truth be told, if there all kinds of waste bag dispensers were available in one spot, and I was walking my pups, I'd go for these. But if I was having to pay for them, no way would I get these.
Expect to pay 50% more than rolls for mitten style bags.
TIE-HANDLE BAGS: The tie handle style is again more expensive than the roll since they use more plastic. They are "roomy" at bottom. Each bag has a hole removed which wastes plastic and drives up the price unnecessarily. The two handles may be tied together like laces. Whatever color waste bag you chose, get one that is opaque for obvious reasons.
Expect to pay 56% more than a bag pulled from a roll.
OTHER FORMATS: We've seen drawstring bags, packs, and other styles. But we can't justify their expense. Roll bags are easy to tie off. Keep it simple and save your money.
The dog waste station dispenser is a locking aluminum box bolted to the central support post. Cost? Expect to pay from $50 to $70. In our opinion, pricing is not really a factor considering this is a one-time-only purchase and that most metal dispensers will easily last for 10 years or more. In most cases, it is better to go with commercial-grade aluminum, not plastic, to protect against vandalism. There are a number of different designs corresponding to the various styles of dog waste bags in use.
SIDE-BY-SIDE STANDARD ROLLS: If you follow our recommendations and go with standard waste bag rolls, the vertical layout (at left) is best because a vertical roll has the least friction and so is more immune to binding. These dispensers will have a series of holes side by side like the dispenser at left. For a roll bag, there's no better layout. Most dispensers have instructions printed on the door.
STACKED STANDARD ROLLS: In a horizontal arrangement (see right), some have small shelves inside to segregate each rolls, and some don't. Rain can enter through the holes and make the cardboard boxes soggy so that they collapse. In a dispenser without internal shelves, after the first rain the boxes collapse, and the weight of rolls above puts pressure the lower rolls making it more difficult to draw out a bag. Usually two or more rolls can be placed in the top shelf.
As well, as rolls are used up you will soon have one or two mini rolls when you return for restock. It's like a toilet paper roll that's 90% gone. You'd normally put a fresh roll on top of the spent roll. Due to their weight pressing on each other, one roll acts to brake the other.
It's not the end of the world, and we're not trying overplay the point, but if you are trying to encourage dog waste owners to pick up after their pets, anything that makes a dog-waste station more difficult to use may discourage some pet owners from going to the trouble.
STRAP BAG AND MITTEN STYLE DISPENSERS: Dispensers for strap bags and mitten bags have a set of prongs inside on which to hang the "tablets" of bags. These types of containers usually have larger openings as well, which some people don't like because the larger hole lets rain inside more easily. On the other hand, it's just plastic and aluminum, so water isn't really much of a problem. A worse problem might be the chance of wasps building a nest inside. At Sgt. Poopers, when we service dog waste dispensers, we spray a non-toxic repellent inside to keep wasps and insects out.
Again, these hang-type dispensers work well, but in our opinion the extra expense is not warranted as covered above in the section covering dog waste bags.
TIE-HANDLE DISPENSERS: The last type of dispenser is for tie-handle bags. We have to admit, some of these are really swank. These rolls are larger holding two 300 or 400 bag rolls vs. three 200 bag rolls in the standard dispenser, so the tie-handle style requires a specially sized dispenser. Note, they will not fit a normal roll bag dispenser.
In Dallas, we service some very popular dog waste stations. The busiest stations dispense maybe 15 or 20 bags a day. In a week, that's maybe 125 bags. 600 bags would last more than a month. So the question is, is 800 bags really necessary? Probably not. Most pet waste stations need to be serviced at least once a week to remove the trash. If you don't get a good one, the trash containers tend to fill up with rain water breeding mosquitoes and smelling like hell. So there's no way anyone's going to leave a pet waste station in a high traffic area neglected for an entire month, which means 600 bags is more than plenty.
Furthermore, the tie-handle bags are more expensive, averaging 56% more costly than standard-bag rolls. But what is cool is that when you pull one out, the next bag in line catches on the raised tab which automatically stops it from coming out. So where the standard roll requires two hands to tear off a bag, this one only requires one hand. The question is what can you do with all the saved energy? Whoop. De. Do.
Finally, even though the engineering is impressive, you have to remember what these are being used for: picking up waste. They are going straight into the trash. So is a fancy bag really needed? We don't recommend them.
CONCLUSION: The on-going cost of dog waste bags is significant enough that it makes sense to go with the least expensive solution which is still acceptable to almost all dog owners. Since rolls of standard bags are by far the most economical, we recommend a locking aluminum dispenser with at least three side-by-side 200-bag rolls.
Many dog waste containers are poorly designed and constructed in China.
FLAP-LID OPEN-MESH CONTAINER: A trash container that collects rainwater is a liability to say the least. That doesn't stop lots of people from buying them, lured by misconceptions of false economy, but the flap lids variety of dog waste containers (like the one at right) is a very low solution at best. While they shield some water, rain easily flows around the lid edge and into trash plastic bag. Hauntingly, water and large bags full of dog waste don't mix. But do mix, that's the horror of it. Especially when you experience buzzing flies and mosquitoes when you open the lid. If there was anything more likely to dissuade dog owners from picking up after their pet, this is it. What's most senseless, is that a pet waste station is a one-time purchase that may last for decades. Against that kind longevity, saving $1 a year for a nightmare garbage container doesn't make strong economic sense.
These kind of containers often fill up prematurely with picnic waste, wine bottles and fast-food cups and bags. Meanwhile they do nothing to seal in waste odor, which helps people learn how to hold their breath in preparation for Navy Seal training. The internal hoop-shapped ribs inside at the top do little to lock down the edges of a trash bag. The mesh construction allows the wind to blow the bag out of place so it falls down into the bottom of the can. Also, the mesh allows dogs to urinate directly onto the bag. Yuck.
The hoops are advertised to hold the bag up against the walls of the basket but in these made-in-China version, they often don't even come close. So if you try to use the basket in the advertised way, the bag will fall down into the container and guess who has to clean up the mess? Not the person who designed this piece of idiocy.
Summary: Let's in rainwater, flies, mosquitoes, picnic trash, Starbucks. Let's out flies, mosquitoes, and nose-shriveling odor. Rating: 0 stars. Verdict: AVOID.
FLANGE-LID CONTAINERS: A slightly better design is one with a 3/8 inch flange around the rim of the lid. This type of lid covers the top more securely deflecting rainwater away from the bag opening. However, this style of lid still fits rather loosely allowing odors and insects free passage. All the other problems as with a flap-lid container are unchanged. These containers have the same kind of hoops that will allegedly hold a garbage bag in place. I say "allegedly" since these work about as well as Chinese Finger Traps hold gangland murder suspects.
Nobody wants to open a trash can lid to be assaulted by buzzing flies. Another fault of this design is that anyone can throw anything in these type of baskets. Every week we find wine bottles, aluminum cans, and picnic trash in addition to waste bags. The problem is that excess trash can quickly overfill this kind of container — it only holds 10 gallons and is not intended for general trash. General trash leaves no room for poop bags. Flange-style rating: 1 star. Prediction: Expect buyer's remorse.
FLANGE-LID METAL BOX: These rectangular aluminum boxes hold 11-gallons, one more gallon than the cylindrical baskets above. They are also sealed to the wind, so the bag will stay in place better. But they still use the internal hoop system, which requires you to wrap the edges of the trash liner around and around the hoop-style holder inside, which takes a bit of practice and is a little tricky to get right. While it's another step up from the open-mesh round designs, the provided mechanism for holding up the bags is not great. The weight of dog waste adds up quickly and that weight tends to pull the bag down. It's enough hassle that most would not want to deal with it every week for the next 20 years.
Obviously, this design does nothing to keep people from using it as a general trash can. Trash cans in common areas fill up with trash amazingly quickly. You will then have to pay to have their trash hauled away. And speaking of that, at right you can see someone trying to lift trash out of one of these boxes that is typically already overfilled with regular trash. 11 gallons of dog waste would weigh about 88 pounds, so he really have a hard time if it was only full of that. Instead they get filled up from misuse as it's often the only kind of trash can around.
This photo illustrates another flaw in the internal hoop design for hanging the can liners on. As you can see, when you try to remove the bag, they act like Chinese Finger Cuffs chomping down on the bag like jaws. With weekly service over 20 years, that means someone will be fighting with these things 1,020 times. Better idea: spend an extra $100 and get the vault-style container described below.
Rating: 2 stars. Better than the baskets, but still a faulty design.
VAULT-STYLE CONTAINER: Finally, something purpose-built for the job. Please forgive our giddy excitement in discussing it's features; we are, after all, a pet waste company. It's a sealed locking box with a chute on top allowing only small items in like dog waste bags, and preventing larger trash. It also seals in odors, keeps out insects, and keeps out rain water! It's made of commercial-gauge powder-coated aluminum so it won't rust.
These trash receptacle are about $100 more expensive than the worthless designs already reviewed. To put that in perspective, if the life of the container is 20 years, that's about $5 extra per year for something that actually works vs. a weekly headache 52 times a year times 20 years is 1,040 times you'd have to deal with a problem container, vs. 1,040 times you will praise the day you purchased this container instead of a faulty one.
When you unlock the front of the vault, the and trash receptacle tilts out allowing easy removal and replacement of the trash bag. The container holds 11-gallons—1 gallon more than the round basket designs—so a 13-gallon tall kitchen trash bag fits perfectly with room to spare. It's sealed against the wind, so will not blow out of it's moorings. Rating: 5 stars. This is the gold standard if you can say such a thing about a dog waste can.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Perhaps no one makes perfect pet waste stations. Maybe one day, we'll have germ-free space-time portals that simply teleport the nation's 10-million tons of dog waste produced annually directly into deep space or Washington DC. Alas, those days are not yet so in the meanwhile we've done the next best thing: assembled the ideal dog waste station that provides you with the best of all choices: functionality, durability, ease of use, and price.
Prices for dog waste stations vary greatly, from $199 up to $650 and more. Ours is $448, but includes sophisticated marketing to protect your area in the form of a 5-color customized sign. If you live in the Dallas area, we'll even install it free with a service agreement.
If you are old enough, you may remember the "Keep America Beautiful" public service announcement that launched on Earth Day 1971. It featured actor Iron Eyes Cody playing the part of a Native American, shedding a tear over the destruction of our environment by pollution. In North America, no culture better symbolizes the spirit of conservation better than the indigenous peoples of the Americas. This powerful heritage symbolizing conservation is echoed in our arrowhead design. The sun is also a Native American symbol representing the four seasons and also the four elements—land, water, fire, and air. All are represented here, water represented as snow. Our design is calculated to stir the ancient connection to nature that lies within our collective soul.