Dealing with dog waste as you mow lawns.

If you are out there promoting your mowing services to the general public, there is a good chance you are going to have customers who have dogs. National statistics point somewhere to 1 in 3 households have dogs. So what do you do when your mowing customer has a dog(s) and doesn’t clean up after them? What is the best way to handle this situation? That is what one entrepreneur wondered when he asked his question on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I hate stepping in dog crap and I especially hate when it gets on my lawn mower tires. I’m thinking of telling my lawn care customers that I offer dog waste removal at an additional cost. I want to put it in their mowing contract so that if I arrive at their house and there’s, say, more than 2 piles of crap in the yard, they will be charged an extra $5-$10. I fear this may irritate clients. I don’t want to have to remove the stuff, but I’d rather do that than get it all over my machines. Any thoughts on how I should handle this?”

A second lawn care business owner said “the way I see it, it’s not my dog nor my responsibility to cleanup after them. You want to have a dog, be responsible and cleanup after them. All my clients know when they sign my mowing contract that we DO NOT CLEANUP their doggy mess.

Our lawn care contract states this in it:

Any pet droppings must be cleaned up prior to our arrival or a flat fee of $20.00 will be charged and the scheduled service will be postponed.’

I’ve had one mowing customer who broke this rule. He read our contract and was well aware of what it said since I gave him a copy of the contract for his records. He didn’t cleanup the mess one morning we were scheduled to mow. We arrived and my co-worker started to mow outside the fence while I started to trim along the fence inside and I discovered 4 landmines. I signaled to my co-worker to cease mowing and pack up. So we packed up and left. Later that day I emailed him an invoice for $20.00 stating he was in violation of the contract. I even emailed him a copy of the contract with his signature on it and circled the part I copied above showing it was there and I informed him his lawn would not be finished until the dog mess was cleaned up and we were paid the $20.00. We came back the next day and he had $20 dollars in hand, plus the cost of the lawn, plus apologized for not cleaning it up.

He dropped us a few weeks later but I hated his yard anyway. It always smelled like dog crap even after the mess was cleaned up anyway. To me that simply was one less headache to deal with.”

Dealing with dog waste.

Dealing with dog waste.

A third added “my answer to you really depends on a number of factors. The first factor is how long have you been in business. If you are new, you may not want to alienate any customers. Newer business owners tend to need all the customers they can get, dog owners or not. So if you go and add a new section to your contract on dog cleanup and you have a bunch of customers that have dogs, you may lose them. Would it be worth it to you? That is something you need to consider.

Another factor depends on what kind of equipment you use to mow the lawns. Do you use a walk behind? Then I would lean more towards telling customers to clean up after their pets. Do you ride on a ztr? Then maybe just mow over it and move on.

At this point where I am with my business I have added a section in my mowing contract about this because I am tired of dealing with customers who have pets. I have found that people will do whatever they can get away with. If there is a consequence (paying extra), I’d say the majority will do their job and clean up after their dogs. I really hate doing it. To me it is just nasty.

It may be hard to bring this topic up to any current customer that is currently under a mowing contract though. You may have to wait until it’s up and add this to their new one.

Consider if it is important to keep that customer or not. You do risk losing them but then again do you really want them anyway? I think for the most part, having it in the contract will be enough to make them clean up. If they don’t, charge them and risk being canceled. If they do cancel, there will be a responsible person to take their place. Of course if you are just starting out, losing one mowing account can hurt so you won’t be able to be as picky.”

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