12 top tips for sustainable dog ownership

Trying to be more eco-friendly in daily life?

We all want to do our bit for the planet – and that means keeping the carbon pawprint of our pets as low as possible, too! Owning a dog has multiple environmental impacts, from the food your pet eats to the waste they produce. Read on for our top tips on more sustainable pet ownership.

1. Walk more and drive less with your dog

Car use is a major contributor to carbon emissions, so take inspiration from your dog, and go for walkies! The good news is that dog owners already tend to take more short walking trips than non-owners. Choosing to walk your dog straight from the front door, rather than jumping in the car for short trips to the park, will help reduce your carbon footprint. If you both get bored of the same old routes, it’s time to find new dog walks on your doorstep. Or try hopping on a local bus or train with your dog to explore somewhere new via public transport.

Look out for eco-friendly dog play options when you’re out and about, too – such as Petplan’s Dog Adventure Parks, which offer a stimulating activity session for dogs with play equipment made from recycled materials.

2. Use compostable or biodegradable dog poo bags

While we’re on the subject of dog walking, it’s vital to dispose of their poop properly. Look for dog poo bags that are labelled compostable or biodegradable, so they won’t add to the world’s plastic waste. Biodegradable bags are made from any material that will degrade and decompose over time, leaving no polluting residues. Bags that are certified compostable are not only biodegradable, but should break down in as little as three months, given the right conditions for composting. We have partnered with Eco Green Communities to provide free 100% compostable dog waste bags from waste stations in parks, footpaths and beaches across the country. So while you're out on a walk keep an eye out for our Petplan dog waste stations which are located around England, dispensing 100% compostable poo bags ensuring an eco-safe and environmentally-friendly choice

Also, as a Petplan customer you can benefit from a 20% discount on a range of eco friendly pet products by using the code PETPLAN20: Eco Green Living

* T’s and C’s apply

3. Take extra care with your dog (and their poo) around water

It’s important to deal with dog waste sustainably, and pick it up whenever possible, to prevent it washing into the water supply. The disease-causing pathogens, bacteria and other nasties found in dog poop can pollute rivers, streams and other waterways, while research shows that the nitrogen and phosphorus in dog poop may be harmful to natural ecosystems. You should also keep your dog away from waterways if you’ve recently treated them for fleas – dog flea treatments containing permethrin can be toxic to insects and aquatic life.

4. Use their walkies to tackle waste

If you’re out and about with your dog, why not turn one of your walks into a litter pick, and collect and recycle any plastic waste that’s blighting the area, and causing a potential hazard to both pets and wildlife? It’s advisable to wear gloves, or use a litter picker, to handle rubbish, and be sure to clean your hands thoroughly afterwards. Or if you’d like to join a local litter-picking group, find one in your area at cleanupuk.org.uk.

5. Look for sustainable dog food packaging…

What our pets eat is one of the biggest contributions to their carbon pawprint. Happily, these days there’s a better choice than ever of more eco-conscious dog foods, so shop around to see what’s on the menu. Look for brands that come in recyclable packaging: cardboard containers, compostable bags and aluminium tins are all widely recycled in local rubbish collections. Some brands offer a variety of dog foods that come in fully recyclable packaging, and use produce from British farms to keep food miles down. Or look out for pet stores and zero-waste stores that offer loose dog food that you can buy in the quantities you need, and carry home in your own containers.

Wet dog food in pouches is trickier to recycle, as this type of packaging is made of mixed materials. Some local recycling points do now accept clean dog food pouches, however, and the recyclenow.com website can help you find recycling facilities in your neighbourhood.

…6. And shop smarter

Buying dog food in bulk, if you have enough space for it, can often reduce the total amount of packaging waste. Purchasing food in larger quantities can also help you cut down on shopping trips, reducing your transport carbon footprint.

On a daily basis, try not to overfeed your dog. Feeding them the right amount – based on their age, breed and activity levels – will not only make resources go further, but also protect your dog from a range of health problems.

7. Choose sustainable dog toys and accessories

Making greener buying choices doesn’t end with your dog’s food or poo bags – there’s a wide range of sustainable, recycled or plastic-free dog accessories on the market for our four-legged friends. Opt for eco-friendly dog toys made with sustainably sourced materials, such as natural rubber balls, hemp rope-pull toys or antler sticks.

Planet-conscious dog brands include Beco, which stocks a range of low-impact dog accessories as well as food and treats.

While you’re at it, you might like to think about your own dog-walking accessories, too. For example, when it’s time to replace your old wellies, why not opt for sustainably sourced rubber boots, instead of synthetic PVC?

8. Make your own toys for dogs

You could ‘upcycle’ common household waste items to make your own DIY dog toys. Why not cut an old T-shirt into strips and plait these together to make a simple rope toy? As with any toys, be sure to supervise your pet during playtime.

9. Recycle dog toys and equipment

Let’s be honest: our pets don’t always love every single treat we buy them, and there are some items we don’t always get around to using. Before you chuck out that neglected dog cushion or little-chewed chew toy, think about donating it to a good home. Dog toys and equipment that are in reasonable condition could be passed on to friends, neighbours or local pet rescue shelters. You’ll also find plenty of sharing sites and apps where you can give away unwanted items, such as Freecycle, Freegle or Olio.

10. Opt for greener dog grooming products

If you tend to choose eco-friendly washing, cleaning and beauty products for you and your home, don’t forget to do the same for your dog too! You’ll find plenty of dog shampoos and grooming products that harness natural ingredients, are free from harsh chemicals, and/or come in biodegradable or recycled packaging. Environmentally conscious brands include Wild Wash natural pet care, bottled in 100% post-consumer recycled plastic, or Enviropaws which offers compostable, plant-based cleaning mitts. If your usual dog shampoo comes in plastic packaging, why not try a plastic-free shampoo bar in a cardboard wrapper instead? And if your dog brush ever needs replacing, consider choosing one made from natural materials, like bamboo, rather than plastic.

11. Rehome a rescue dog

If you’re thinking about adding a new dog to the family, why not consider a rehoming or fostering a rescue animal? Our handy rehoming centre search tool can help you find rescues in your area. Adopting an older dog instead of buying a new puppy helps reduce the number of animals looking for a home in rescue shelters.

12. Keep your dog healthy

Taking positive preventative steps to protect your dog’s health is not only good news for your pet, it’s also good news for the planet – helping avoid the carbon costs associated with intensive veterinary treatment. Making sure your dog gets enough exercise; is up to date with their veterinary check-ups, parasite prevention and vaccinations; and eats a sensible diet will all help keep them thriving. By choosing to insure your dog with Petplan, you’re already being proactive about keeping them healthy, and you’ll find plenty of tips on keeping them that way in our dog advice hub. Plus, managing your pet’s cover and making claims online can also help reduce your paper usage.

* Terms and Conditions:

  1. To redeem the discount, please add PETPLAN20 into the voucher code section at checkout for 20% off Eco Green Living Compostable Dog Bags.
  2. The discount is only valid on Eco Green Living Compostable Dog Bags for existing Petplan customers.
  3. Only one discount code available per Petplan customer to be used only once by that customer.
  4. The discount is subject to availability of the eligible products, Eco Green Living Compostable Dog Bags

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