For dog owners who take pride in a beautiful lawn, it can be frustrating to look outside and see burnt grass where your dog does its business. Dog urine can create unsightly brown or yellow spots of dead grass, and some dog owners believe that it's just part of living with dogs. However, this doesn't have to be the case. There are steps you can take to prevent your dog's urine from burning your grass.
Why Does Dog Urine Damage Grass?
Grass turns yellow where dogs urinate because of chemistry. Understanding why this happens is your first step toward preventing it and retaining your nice lawn.
- While nitrogen is an essential component of healthy soil, high concentrations of it can cause patches of grass to turn yellow or brown. Urine is naturally high in nitrogen, and nitrogen alone can cause grass burns. Lawn fertilizer also contains nitrogen. An excess of either or a combination of urine and fertilizer may result in an overdose of nitrogen, thus "burning" the grass.
- Salts and other compounds found in dog urine also contribute to grass damage. Highly acidic or alkaline urine may alter the pH of the soil, adversely affecting the grass in the portion of the yard where your dog goes.
- Some people believe that female dog urine causes more trouble to the lawn than male dog urine. However, the composition of a dog's urine doesn't vary that much between male and female dogs, especially when they're spayed or neutered. While it may seem that the urine itself is the cause, it's actually the way the dogs urinate. 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.
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. For best results, you might want to try more than one option at a time. But be aware that there's no guaranteed way to end urine spots in the yard.
- Train your dog to urinate in one area to reduce the portion of the lawn that's affected. If needed, fence in a portion of your yard so your dog only goes in that area. You can camouflage this spot with ornamental 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 grass-free, dog-friendly landscaping in portions of the yard or do it in your entire yard so it doesn't matter where your dog pees. A good solution for small areas is a hardscape option such as stone mulch. Just be sure that the size and texture of the stones 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. Dogs should be drinking a lot of water to maintain their health anyway, and the extra water may dilute your dog's urine enough to reduce some of the nitrogen. Of course, this approach likely means that your dog will have to urinate more often, but the benefits may outweigh the inconvenience.
- Ask your vet about trying a product like Dog Rocks. These are designed to reduce nitrogen levels in a dog's urine and are simply placed in your dog's water bowl. Some people report having success with the rocks in preventing newly burned grass, but it won't fix patches that are already damaged.
- Give your dog a supplement or food additive that's designed to neutralize the nitrogen in its urine. Before starting any supplement, however, you should always ask your vet if it's safe for your dog. Don't attempt to alter the pH of your dog's urine unless you're specifically directed to by your vet. This may negatively affect your dog's health and can be particularly damaging to the kidneys.
- 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.
Additionally, 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.