Tips for Having Both a Dog and a Nice Lawn

May 2, 2014 in Aerowood Animal Hospital

What a challenge it can be to have a nice lawn and a dog in the yard.  A common problem dogs create is uneven grass, spots that grow too richly and then spots that are scalded by urine.  Many, many years ago, the prevailing theory was that lawn burning was caused by the acidity or ammonia in the urine.  This has been repeatedly disproven over the past 30 years (see reference at end), but vets and gardeners alike are still prone to repeating this old theory.  Modern research shows that the nitrogen in dog excrement is what kills or fertilizes the grass.  So here are some things to consider:

  • Fertilize strategically: The nitrogen in urine that can burn your grass is the same nitrogen that people spread on their grass as fertilizer.  A little nitrogen makes a lusher lawn, and too much burns.  So if you use fertilizer with nitrogen, consider avoiding the dog’s favorite urination areas when spreading fertilizer.
  • Female dogs may be harder on the lawn than males:  People often ask if the female urine has a different chemical mix that is harder on grass.  The answer is no, but females may be harder on grass simply because they urinate in a more concentrated spot as opposed to hiking and spraying.
  • Evaluate your dog food: Cheap dog foods use low quality protein sources that result in higher levels of nitrogen in the urine.  Better dog foods (e.g. Wellness, Science Diet, Iams Premium Protection) use protein sources easier for dogs to digest (i.e. muscle and organ meat) resulting in less nitrogen being produced.
  • Water the lawn: Spraying the dog’s potty area with a garden hose within 8 hours of urinating will dilute the urine sufficiently.  Short of that, simply watering the lawn in general has been shown to reduce the likelihood of lawn burning.
  • Seed more durable species: Certain grass species are more resistant to urine scald: Festuca sp var Kentucky 31 (fescue), Lolium perrene (perennial rye grass), or clover.  But keep that fescue well away from any pregnant mares.
  • Designated dog bathroom areas: One can train a dog to urinate in certain areas of the yard.  There are even pheromone-treated yard posts designed to encourage dogs to potty in a specific spot in your yard – Pee Posts available at PetSmart and elsewhere.  There are also sprays that operate on the same concept.

Long-standing or large burn spots may have to be dug up, flushed with water, and reseeded.

*Resource: Allard A. Lawn burn from dog urine. Canine Practice. 1981 March-April; 8 (2): 26-31.


Lawn & Dog

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