The phrase ‘Curb Your Dog’ originated in the 1930’s in New York City. Citing (from barrypopik.com) the Chicago Daily Tribune, 4 December 1938, “Mostly About Dogs” by Bob Becker, pg. F10: “Curb Your Dog” Good Advice:
“In New York, truly a doggy city, an ordinance has been passed to make for a cleaner city and at the same time compel the indifferent dog owner to consider public welfare. The ordinance demands that dogs be curbed. There are signs everywhere with the request, “Curb your dog.” It means that owners cannot allow their pets to soil buildings, nor can a dog make a nuisance of himself on the grass of the parkway or on the sidewalk. As a result there are practically no complaints about the dogs soiling sidewalks or grassy places which the public uses.”
That is, ‘Please Curb your Dog’ meant ‘Don’t let your dog do its business on the sidewalk. Let your dog do it in the road’.
Here’s another sign typical of the Chicago Park District:
Signs like this appear at the entrance to parks, and even have appeared at the entrances to CPD Dog Friendly Areas. What in the world do our helpful and overworked sign makers at the Park District mean?
A dog is sniffing a flower. The dog will never escape the 10 lb link chain around its neck.
‘Let your dog sniff the flowers’? We need a sign for that?
‘Control your dog with a 10 lb link chain’? Vicious Froufrou might go wild!
Text of a Chicago ‘nuisance’ ordinance fills the bottom of the sign:
“An ordinance prohibits dogs to be permitted to run at large or to commit any nuisance upon any sidewalk, parkway or public park. Ordinance Sec 30-7-2″
‘Don’t poop on the grass’? Could be… but where is Froufrou going to go?
‘Make your dog poop in the gutter’? What, in a park??
‘Clean up after your dog’? Well, if you read it into the text… maybe.
It’s not enough to state, ‘well of course they mean…‘ – because there are three or four different meanings of Curb Your Dog in common usage. Using the google, it’s easy to find them.
Here: There is also the gentle reminder to, “Curb your dog!” meaning “Please have your dog do its business at the side of the road.”
Here: To lead (a dog) off the sidewalk into the gutter so that it can excrete waste.
Here: There are signs everywhere with the request, “Curb your dog.” It means that owners cannot allow their pets to soil buildings, nor can a dog make a nuisance of himself on the grass of the parkway or on the sidewalk.
Here: Existing city law literally prohibits pet owners from permitting dogs to defecate on any public property; however, in the past this law has been interpreted to mean that defecating dogs should be “curbed” – kept off the sidewalk – and even this interpretation has not been rigorously enforced.
Here: It also commands the owner to “curb” his dog, which means that the performance so crucial in the life of every dog owner must take place in the gutter and not on the sidewalk.
Here: Dogs can be trained at an early age to go on the curb, but there is no guarantee that they are always going to make it. More important: forcing a dog off the sidewalk and into oncoming traffic can be very dangerous, needless to say.
There’s a second meaning that’s consistent with common usage of the word ‘curb’ (to control as with a curb; restrain; check) – ‘control your dog':
Here: The term “Curb Your Dog” basically has two meanings. One meaning is to keep your dog under control and out of trouble … ie; keep your dog leashed and/or confine to your property as to keep them from causing trouble for others.
Here: I asked the John to curb his dog so it didn’t get hurt by the grate or knock me over. John curbed his dog a little but the Jaxon was so anxious that he was uncontrollable.
Here: He has been asked several times to please leash and curb his dog.
There’s a final meaning, this one is a ‘secret code’ – ‘Pick up after your dog':
Here: It also means to pick up your dog’s poo when they are out of your property … EX: while on walks and/or at the local park you should carry plastic bags and watch for when and where your dog takes a crap and clean it up!
Here: There are several dog owners in our community and several “curb” or clean up after their pets.
Here: I ask her–in a polite tone through the gate, to please curb her dog. She tells me in such an emphatic tone “I AM picking it up!”.
There are also anomalous meanings – usages that are unclear on any concept – for example:
Here: If “curb your dog” means to prevent your dog from defecating on the sidewalk or grass, then what does “do not curb your dog” mean? Should we force our dogs to defecate on their lawn? (And, while we’re at it, any dogs that wander past while we’re there?) Or is this mysterious sign the work of the Anti-Animal-Constipation League, telling us that it’s allowed (but not required) for our pets to relieve themselves there?
Ha ha ha! So ‘Curb your dog’ is understood by some to mean: ‘Poo your dog’!
Our guess is that the Dearborn Park I sign means ‘do it in the road, anywhere but here‘, and it seems to be a legitimate request that should be respected.
And our guess is that the Chicago Park District sign, even though it reads ‘no nuisance on any sidewalk, parkway or public park’, means ‘pick up after your dog‘ – clearly, doing it in the road in the park makes no sense.
But these usages raise some questions. Do we really want dogs to leave their poo at the ‘curb’? Is dog poo left in the road really going to be OK? Maybe let the rain wash it away or wait for the street cleaners to come by…?
Most people probably would prefer not to step in poo to get to their car.
If we are to pick it up, why use what is clearly an ambiguous code for ‘pick up your after your dog’ (e.g. in the parks) instead of something more direct.
Like ‘When your dog poops, pick it up’. Like ‘if you own a dog in the city, you pick up its poo’.
The message of ‘Curb your Dog’ is: We’re afraid of poo. We’re afraid to say poo.
But if we’re ‘afraid of poo’, then the failure to pick up by some dog owners is completely understandable. They’re not a@*h#les. No, they’re just like us. Afraid and uncomfortable talking about, much less picking up, poo.
One of the arguments of this site is that we can change this.
A first step is to be grown-up about what we’re asking. Use direct and honest language – and make it clear that if you own dogs in the city, you agree to pick up their poo.
Our signage should reflect this.
‘Curb your Dog’ should go.