What Does “Curb Your Dog” Mean? Signs, Photos, History

Last updated: October 2, 2023

There are “Curb your dog” signs like this posted all over New York City sidewalks.

But do you know what they REALLY means? And where did this phrase come from?

Sign that says Please Curb Your Dog
“Please Curb Your Dog” sign outside an apartment — what does this even mean??

My friend Michael was visiting me from Canada last week. He had no idea what this phrase “Curb Your Dog” meant!

He asked me where it came from and I realized that I did not know, either. I realized it might be unique to NYC, so I did research into the etymology and origin.

Summary: “Curb your dog” means do not let your animal urinate or defecate in the controlled area.

Meaning of “Curb Your Dog”

First, let’s explore the origin of the phrase.

The phrase “Curb Your Dog” began in the 1930’s in New York City. 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. Everywhere except for the sidewalks and in Central Park.

In 1978, the “pooper scooper law” was put into effect in New York City. This law 161.03 of the New York City Health Code required 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. Dog urine can kill some plants.

Sign that says: "Please curb your dog. When your dog uses us as a bathroom it can kill us." From Curb Allure
“Please curb your dog. When your dog uses us as a bathroom it can kill us.”

What does the phrase “Curb Your Dog” mean?

I’ll 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.” Either meaning of the word works.

According to Urban Dictionary, “Curb Your Dog” has two meanings:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Curb Your Dog Signs

Here are some signs I saw near West 56th street in New York City near Central Park:

Sign on a tree fence which says, "Protect Our Trees. Curb your dogs. Do not litter. It's the law."
The sign says that “Curb Your Dogs” is the law. I wonder what law it is?

Conclusion

The phrase “Curb Your Dog” began in the 1930’s in New York City. It is still used today.

It means Control your dog, or Take your dog to the edge of the street to do their business.

Essentially, this phrase means “do not allow your dog to defecate (poop) in this area.”

The End.

Tourist or local tip: If you’re in New York City and thinking about going on a picnic in Central Park, I feel strongly that Sheep Meadow is the very best spot. And if you’re near Chinatown, Shu Jiao Fu Zhou has the best cheap dumplings in NYC.

Do you have Curb Your Dog sign photos? Or questions about this? Send me an email and I will add your notes to my page here.

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