If you're a dog owner who takes pride in a beautiful lawn, it can be frustrating to look at your yard and see dead grass where your dog has peed. Dog urine can create unsightly brown or yellow spots of dead grass. Some dog owners believe that it's just part of living with dogs, but this doesn't have to be the case. There are steps you can take to prevent your dog's urine from ruining your grass.
Why Does Dog Urine Damage Grass?
The reason why urine turns grass brown or yellow has to do with chemistry. Understanding why this happens is your first step toward preventing it and retaining your nice lawn.
Nitrogen is an essential component of healthy soil, but high concentrations of it can cause patches of grass to die and turn yellow or brown. Urine is naturally rich in nitrogen, and high concentrations of nitrogen can cause grass burns. Lawn fertilizer also contains nitrogen. Oftentimes the dead grass is surrounded by an exceptionally lush, green ring of growth, which occurs due to the fertilizing effects of lower concentrations of nitrogen.
Salts and other compounds found in dog urine may also contribute to grass damage. Highly acidic or alkaline urine may alter the pH of the soil, adversely affecting the grass in the areas of the yard where your dog urinates.
Some people believe that female dog urine causes more trouble to the lawn than male dog urine. However, the chemical composition of the urine doesn't differ much between male and female dogs. It's actually the way the dogs urinate that is to blame. Female dogs can cause more damage to grass simply because most tend to squat and urinate in one place; many males lift a leg and "mark" upright objects in multiple locations. For example, when a male dog pees on a tree trunk, only some of it may drip down to the grass and cause damage. This is less noticeable than the round spots of damage made by urine puddles.
How to Stop Grass Damage
There are a few ways to prevent brown or yellow spots on your lawn that are caused by dog urine. Although there's no guaranteed way to end urine spots in the yard, you can take steps to minimize the damage.
- Train your dog to urinate in one area to reduce the portion of the lawn that's affected. If possible, fence in a portion of your yard so your dog only goes in that area. You can camouflage this spot with plants like tall grasses or low bushes so it's less visible from other parts of the yard.
- Plant a urine-resistant ground cover in your dog's potty area. One great option for this is clover. Some people have also had luck with seeding rye or fescue grass, both of which are tougher than the average lawn grass.
- Create plant-free, dog-friendly landscaping in the area of the yard where your dog pees. Or, do it in your entire yard so it doesn't matter where your dog pees. A good solution is bark or stone mulch. Just be sure that the size and texture of any stones you use are something your dog won't mind walking on. Sharp or rough edges may damage your dog's paws or be so uncomfortable that it won't want to go there.
- Increase your dog's water intake. Feeding wet food rather than dry is a simple way to accomplish this, although it can be somewhat expensive. Dogs should be taking in a lot of water to maintain their health anyway, and the extra water may dilute your dog's urine enough to reduce the nitrogen below the threshold where grass damage occurs. Of course, this approach likely means that your dog will have to urinate more often, but the benefits may outweigh the inconvenience.
- Use a garden hose to immediately rinse off the area after your dog urinates. Encourage your dog to urinate in a different area each time so the urine and the watering are spread out.
- Because your dog is adding nitrogen to your lawn, consider switching to a low-nitrogen fertilizer. Be sure that your fertilizer and any other chemicals you use on your lawn and garden are pet-safe.
- Supplements and products like Dog Rocks are advertised to help with grass burns. However, be aware that some products can be dangerous if they significantly alter the pH of a dog's urine or have other negative health effects. Talk to your veterinarian before you add anything to your dog's diet.
Keep in mind that other animals might have access to your yard, and their urine can cause lawn damage as well. A fence will keep out any dogs that are passing by, but cats and various wild animals are not so easy to stop. This may explain why you continue to see brown or yellow spots in the yard after you've tried everything with your own dog.
Daily watering can minimize these spots. Some people also opt to use a special animal deterrent. If you do this, make sure it's safe for your dog and other animals. The idea is to repel the animals, not harm them.