DIY Doggie Septic System With Natural Starter




About: Hello! My name is Jennifer and I love to cook. Baking, grilling, smoking, and frying interest me. Creating my own recipe is even better!

Six days ago, we adopted our sweet boy, Watson, from the animal shelter. It has already been such an adventure having a five month old puppy around. He’s high energy and super loving. I wish I had as much energy as he does.
Since it has been a long time since we have had a dog, we needed to make some adjustments and some purchases. We have purchased dog food, a collar, a leash, chew toys, and a crate among other things.
We even purchased the bags for picking up doggy waste. It’s pretty gross but I have always appreciated it when other people were kind and removed their pet’s mess from my yard. Nobody wants to step on that stuff! Ewwwww!
Our dog also uses our backyard as his personal toilet. So far, he has been very observant of my garden and flowers. I guess I just got lucky. Woo hoo!
We have been bagging the tiny land mines and placing them in the dumpster in plastic bags. But, I felt like I wanted to approach the issue a different way. Many people have septic systems for their homes; it is a fairly simple concept. All of the hard work is done by bacteria. I decided that I needed that type of system but on a much smaller scale for my little fur ball.
I wanted to make a system out of a bucket with some sort of lid that was fairly secure. It should have holes for drainage. Septic systems have three layers to them. Solid waste goes to the bottom, liquids, are in the middle, and fats are on top in a scum layer. As bacteria breaks down waste, the waste moves through the layers. Liquids and fats can move out of the system through holes and then are further broken down by aerobic bacteria in the dirt.
I had an idea in mind for the containment system but I did some research to find a septic starter that would be fairly safe in my backyard.
I went to the big box hardware store and looked at their septic system starters. A septic system starter has bacteria and enzymes in it. Some of them had various chemicals in them. ALL of them had warnings on them about being harmful to people with allergies. They also had warnings about being irritants and not to use around pets or children.
Well, that wasn’t going to work for me. I have allergies, children and a pet! Mr. Internet had just what I needed: a recipe for a natural starter that has kitchen ingredients such as yeast, cornmeal, powdered sugar and water. Yeast, as a fungus, works great to break down starches. I was a little concerned about the sugar because I live in Texas and ants are an everyday occurrence but I also know that cornmeal is a natural ant killer. They eat it and their stomachs rupture! Cool. I was in business.
I also knew that there was plenty of bacteria, anerobic and aerobic, in our soil. Yea for nature!
I set to work to design and implement my puppy poopy system and here’s what happened:

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies- Part 1

For this lovely project, I used a variety of supplies:
5 gallon bucket
Screw top lid
3/8 inch drill bit
Needle nose pliers
Safety glasses
Shovel (not pictured above)
I was so excited to find a bucket that had a lid attachment with a screw on portion. You snap the rim in place and then the center part will screw in and out. I liked that idea because my dog is smart but I don’t think he can unscrew a lid.
It also meant changing temperatures wouldn’t pop off the lid nor would wind or rain remove the lid. Sweet!

Step 2: Cutting Off the Bottom of Your Bucket

In order to prepare the bucket, I had to cut a large hole in the bottom. After putting on my safety glasses, I used a drill with a 3/8 inch drill bit to drill a hole. Next, I inserted the blade of my jigsaw in this hole to cut a very large hole in the bottom of the bucket. I wanted to cut nearly the entire bottom off so I ended up cutting out a circle with approximately 6 inch diameter.
Note: The circle does not have to be perfect or look pretty. You are going to put this in the ground and put dog mess on it. Save your energy for picking up dog piles.

Step 3: Drilling Holes in the Bucket

Using your drill with the 3/8 inch drill bit, drill about 12 holes 5 inches from the base of the bucket. These holes will allow liquids to disperse into the ground space around the system.

Step 4: Removing the Handle

Use the needle nose pliers to remove the handle from the bucket. You probably could save it and use it for another project.

Step 5: Preparing the Ground

Get ready to work. If your soil is anything like mine, you are going to work up a sweat. Get a shovel and dig a hole big enough for your bucket plus another 3 inches all the way around. Make sure your hole is not near your flower/ vegetable garden or a compost bin. Dog waste is not good for either of these locations.
Also, make sure the top of the bucket is about 2-3 inches above ground level.
My pup was very curious at this point. I wonder if I could train him to just go in the bucket. Ha ha!

Step 6: Filling In

At this point, you will want to put gravel or small rocks in the hole around your bucket. I was fortunate because I found a bunch of rocks in my yard that I used. You may have to purchase some depending on where you live.
This step will help to keep dirt and mud from entering your system so you probably don’t want to skip this step.
Once you add the gravel to the top of the holes on the side, you can fill in the rest of the space with dirt.

Step 7: Gathering the Supplies-Part 2

The hardest part of this project is now over and it is time to create your natural septic starter. For this part, you will need:
Yeast (like you use for baking)
Powdered sugar

Step 8: Making the Septic Starter

In a medium bowl, add 2 tablespoons of yeast.

Step 9: Making the Septic Starter

Add 1 cup of cornmeal to the yeast.

Step 10: Making the Septic Starter

Add 2 cups of powdered sugar to the bowl.

Step 11: Making the Septic Starter

Finally, add 2 cups of lukewarm water (about 110 degrees Fahrenheit). Whisk until combined and allow to sit for 30 minutes until it is bubbly. This will allow the yeast to bloom.

Step 12: Let’s Get Rid of Poop!

Gather some poop with a shovel or a pooper scooper. There’s no other way to say it. The good news is that the mess is going bye bye. Drop it in the septic system and pour your starter over it.
I also got some leaves with my scoop but that’s probably better for the picture; nobody really needs to see the waste to get the idea.

Step 13: Let’s Get Rid of Poop!

Almost done! Get your garden hose and add water to your system to just below the holes on the sides. Once, a week add more water to the system.
Look at my little helper. He is fascinated by this new oddity to our yard.
Go ahead and put the lid on your system and screw it in place.

Step 14: The Final Outcome

Wow! I can honestly say I never expected to be posting a project of this nature but this was something I really needed at my house. I thought, “why not”, maybe you can use this too.
After I closed the lid on the system, I went back out to yard about two hours later and opened it up. There was no smell at all! I was very happy about that because I didn’t know what to expect especially after I had added 5 piles of waste at once. Super! No mess in the yard and no smell. The system is very low profile and it isn’t very obvious. Also, I only spent about $10 on this project. The other systems that you can purchase online are considerably more money.
The best part of all is that I have a clean yard and I feel safe about my solution. Woo hoo!

Note: My dog only weighs 15 pounds and I only have one dog. If you have a large dog or multiple dogs, you will want to buy a bigger bucket or even a large trash can.

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    48 Discussions


    Question 2 months ago on Step 7

    Dear Miss Biscuit's, I have but 1 simple question......Can i substitute granulated sugar for the powdered???

    1 answer

    Question 1 year ago on Step 14

    why cut out the bottom? I did all the instructions said, I put the poop in, added the yeast mixture, and added water. within seconds all the liquid was gone leaving only the poo. A septic system does not have a hole in the bottom so why with this?

    2 answers

    Answer 12 months ago

    I don't think you need a hole in the bottom. If you want soil bacteria in there, sprinkle a handful of soil in the bucket. Also, when it rains, some bacteria may get washed in through the holes in the side.


    Answer 1 year ago

    There is anaerobic and aerobic bacteria in the soil that is necessary for breaking down the waste. I want the waste to have direct contact with soil for this reason and to aid in distribution of the waste from the system.
    If your liquid is gone, add more. If your soil is very porous, you may have to add some soil with clay at the bottom to increase the retention time.


    1 year ago

    I just purchased the materials to make this. I've never been more excited about poop in my life!!! Lol!

    1 reply

    Question 1 year ago on Step 1

    How often should the yeast/sugar mix be added? And water? Do you add this each time you scoop or only in the beginning?

    1 answer

    Answer 1 year ago

    Thank you for your question, shellemeus. You should add the starter at the beginning and it will multiply it’s numbers as you go.


    1 year ago

    Your doglet looks very trainable. (the eyes give it away).

    Establish a routine: When you let him out in the yard, keep him on a leash and walk him in the area of the 'dog-bog'. Establish a square-yard area on the ground with stones or similar.

    When he goes to poop, give the order "empty!" every time, then praise him. Very soon he will learn the routine and after a while when he asks to go out side, he will head straight for his 'poop area' if that is what he needs.

    Apart from keeping your yard clear of dog-mines, the training helps when you are away for a week; put a square of stones in a predetermined area and show him, when he first wants to use it.

    1 reply

    1 year ago

    How big would it need to be for five dogs ranging from 80 to 150 pounds?

    I suspect it would cover quite a bit of ground.

    1 reply

    Very good question. You could buy a larger bucket (20 gallons) with a screw top lid but you could also add multiple 5 gallon buckets as needed. My dog is only 15 pounds and there is zero waste collecting. In other words, the waste is being broken down faster than it collects.
    I love this system and it has been hugely successful for our family.


    Tip 1 year ago

    To help keep the dirt from getting into the bucket, I would suggest adding another lay of material.

    After digging out the hole, line it with septic mesh material. It is designed to keep dirt out, and let water through. Line the hole with the mesh, then put a few rocks at the bottom. Place the bucket on those rocks, then fill around the bucket with more rocks to just under ground level. Then fold the mesh over the rocks to the bucket, cut about 2 inches from above the rocks and tape the mesh to the edge of the bucket going up a little. Fill the rest in with dirt,

    That way the rocks are hidden, any possible over flow from dropping droppings into the bucket won't come wafting out. Also after a heavy rain, you don't have to worry about your bucket getting filled in with mud as the mesh will keep it out.

    1 reply

    1 year ago

    Here's my question....Why make this at all? (not being critical, here...) but my Chihuahua uses my yard as her toilet and the poop breaks down and acts like a natural fertilizer. I don't pick it up, i leave it and it goes away.
    Now i don't have any little kids running in the yard and i don't go rolling in the grass and i don't feel the need to go pick it up. I can certainly see how "recycling" it would be more environmentally friendly than picking it up with plastic and tossing it in the garbage can. I guess it has alot to do with how much you use your yard....
    So my assumption is you go pick up the mess and deposit into the bucket, it breaks it down. But at some point does it fill up and can you use the broken down waste as mulch or fertilizer? Do those other ingredients (sugar, cornstarch, ect) have an effect on the lawn if used?

    2 replies

    Reply 1 year ago

    Animal waste is a significant health risk, commonly containing many types of diseases and multiple types of worms humans can get. It also pollutes the watersheds with water runoff.

    Many areas have laws requiring animal waste to be disposed of properly and will fine you significant amounts if you don't do it. Where I live, in rural Tarrant County (Ft Worth area), the first offense is a $500 fine and a pet education class that you have to attend and pay for. My HOA has additional fines.


    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks, Nightfire. I also should say, “howdy, neighbor”, because I live in Fort Worth too.
    With this system, I am relying on the denitrifying bacteria to break down my pet’s waste. I am also relying on fungi as well.
    John, you certainly can leave pet waste on your yard if you don’t use the yard very much and don’t mind the yellow spots. My neighbors, behind my house, do that with two large labs and the smell is horrible. You probably don’t have that problem with a chihuahua.
    We use our yard a lot and don’t want waste all over the place. We want to keep our yard free from smelly feces and this system solves that problem. I put the waste in and there is little to no smell. The bacteria break it down into liquids and it eventually ends up as nitrogen gas and returned to the atmosphere to be reused.
    Thanks for looking!


    1 year ago

    I've actually been considering something similar to this. But mine was going to tie into my existing septic system (which is custom as well). I'm wanting to set it up so that my two dogs (9yr Siberian Husky and 1yr Anatolian) can use the "toilet" while I'm gone at work. When I get back, they are whimpering cuz they need to go out. I figured to make a type of dog run that had a toilet section where they could go and then I could just wash it with the hose when I get home (maybe make that automated as I'm getting into arduinos and such).

    And to make a full sized fenced in area would cost me waaay to much right now. Both dogs can jump 5' without a problem. So the dog run would need a top on it, which again, adds to the cost, and also adds complexity as it needs to be sturdy enough to not collapse.

    Thanks for the idea. I hadn't thought of the yeast/cornmeal before. Great idea!

    1 reply