There are signs like this posted all over New York City sidewalks. But do you know what it REALLY means?
My friend Michael Alexis was visiting from Canada last week and had no idea what this phrase meant! He asked me where it came from and I realize that I did not know and I thought many others may not know, either. I realized it might be unique to NYC, so I did research into the etymology and origin.
Let’s explore the origin of the phrase:
The phrase originated in the 1930’s in New York City, as signs began appearing around the city in an effort to eliminate dog poop on the sidewalks. At the time, horses were pooping all over NYC streets, so there was crap everywhere except for the sidewalks.
In 1978, the “pooper scooper law” was put into effect, requiring dog owners to pick up anything that their dog drops. The signs stuck around, because apartment owners don’t like dogs even peeing in their flower beds. Apparently dog urine can kill some plants.
What does the phrase mean?
Let me break down the etymology of the phrase:
- The word “curb” means “to control” or the “edge of the street”
Either of these terms works for the meaning of the phrase. Some people say “curb your dog” simply means to control your dog. Others say it means to have your dog do their business at the “edge of the street.” Etymologically, either meaning of the word works.
According to Urban Dictionary, it has two meanings:
- One meaning is to keep your dog under control and out of trouble, i.e. keep your dog leashed and/or confine to your property as to keep them from causing trouble for others.
- It also means to pick up your dog’s poo when they are out of your property, i.e. 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! No one likes to step in and/or smell dog poo!
Other definitions include some more depth to the meaning – the suggested place for your dog to do their business is off of the curb in the gutter area between the curb and the road. This will have the least effect on the space where people regularly walk.
Here are some more “curb your dog” signs I saw on 1 block of West 56th street: