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 feel that it's just part of living with dogs. This does not have to be the case. The good news is that 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 the first step in trying to prevent it and retain your nice lawn.
- While nitrogen is an essential component in healthy soil, high concentrations of it can cause patches of grass to turn yellow or brown. Urine is naturally high in nitrogen and it 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 can 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 does not vary that much between male and female dogs, especially when they're spayed or neutered. While it may seem like 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 the 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 the best results, you might want to try more than one option at a time. However, there is 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 hide 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 covering in your dog's potty area. One great option for this is clover. Some people have had luck with seeding rye or fescue grass as well, both of which are tougher than the average lawn grass.
- Create a grass-free, dog-friendly landscape 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 a stone mulch. Just be sure that the size and texture of the stones will be 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. Dog's 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.
- Try a product like Dog Rocks. These are designed to reduce nitrogen levels in a dog's urine and are simply placed in the dog's water bowl. Some people have had success with the rocks in preventing newly burnt grass but it will not fix patches that are already there.
- Give your dog a supplement or food additive that is designed to neutralize the nitrogen in its urine. One example of this type of product is Naturvet Grass Saver. Before starting any supplement, however, you should always ask your vet. Do not attempt to alter the pH of your dog's urine unless specifically recommended by your vet. This may negatively affect its 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 is spread out.
- Since your dog is adding nitrogen to the lawn, consider switching to a low-nitrogen fertilizer. Be sure that it (and any other chemicals you apply) is 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 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 implementing the recommendations for your own dog.
Daily watering can minimize these spots. Some people also opt to use special animal deterrents. 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.