How to Keep Dogs from Damaging Your Lawn

Are there any soil additives or other recommendations to neutralize dog urine so that it doesn’t kill my grass? I am trying to grow grass in a fenced yard where my dog exercises.” – Carrie

This is one of those topics that abounds with home remedies, old wives’ tales, and myriad commercial products, all claiming to “neutralize” dog urine either in the dog (through dietary supplements), or on the ground (through lawn additives).

While everything from feeding your dog tomato juice to pouring sugar on the urine spots has been touted to work, the actual success of these remedies is anecdotal at best.

Facts:

  • Dog’s urine is high in nitrogen. This concentrated nitrogen “burns” your lawn in the same way that too much fertilizer does. That’s why urine spots are often brown in the center, where the contact was greatest, and green around the edges, where the diluted urine acted as a fertilizer.
  • It’s the nitrogen content that damages grass, not the acidity, so products designed to neutralize acid are ineffective.
  • Supplements designed to alter the pH of your dog’s urine not only don’t work, but they can also upset your dog’s biological balance and cause bladder infections.
  • While there’s no real difference in male and female dog urine as far as plants are concerned, female dogs often do the most damage to grass since they release their urine all at once in open areas of the yard. Male dogs tend to “mark” trees, shrubs, and fences with small amounts of urine, which results in more dead garden plants.

Solutions:

  • Water your lawn: The best way to reduce the damage to your lawn is to dilute the urine by saturating the spot with water immediately. By the way, this approach also works should you accidentally spill fertilizer on your yard, too.
  • Water your dog: Make sure your dog is well hydrated to dilute the strength of the urine. Adding some canned dog food, or moistening dry food with a little water, is another way to add water to their diet. Many dietary additives make your dog thirstier (usually by adding salt), leading to more water consumption. So there is no real magic there.
  • Examine diet: Consult your vet to see if you are feeding your dog the right amount of protein. The nitrogen in urine comes from protein metabolism, and some dogs might benefit from a lower-protein diet. This is not something that should be undertaken without a vet’s analysis of your dog’s diet and lifestyle.
  • Buy high-quality dog food: In general, higher-quality dog foods have higher-quality protein sources, which are more easily digestible and less likely to leave by-products in the urine.
  • Train your dog: Train your dog to go in a designated space away from the main lawn. While this may sound like a daunting task, dogs really can be trained to go in specific places on command. Make sure the area has mulch or pea gravel that is easy to replace and keep clean.
  • Plant resistant grasses: Fescues and ryegrass are more resistant to urine burns than grasses like Kentucky bluegrass and Bermuda.
  • Keep your lawn healthy: A healthy, well cared for lawn can withstand the occasional overdose of nitrogen better than a stressed lawn.
  • Choose supplements carefully: Your local pet store likely has a variety of products claiming to bind and neutralize urine. Results are not proven on these products, and you should consult your vet to make sure they are safe before using. Generally, I feel it’s better to use solutions that work with biology and nature, rather than trying to alter it.

Further Information

Julie

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8 Comments on “How to Keep Dogs from Damaging Your Lawn”

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  • Official Comment:


    Thomas Boni Says:
    July 7th, 2018 at 8:57 pm

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  • Trish Lane Eubanks Says:
    July 3rd, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    Thank you guys so much for this great article about dog urine damaging your yard! This topic is so misunderstood considering that so many of us own dogs. Here is my story: My front yard has gorgous fescue that I have put many hours into so that it looks great, and the back yard is for the grandkids and dogs–so what if it isn’t perfect, right? You can’t see it from the street! My dogs do go out into the front yard once a day on average, so I keep a 1/2 gallon water pitcher near the front steps that we can grab and water the spot down right away when needed. Max saves his urine to pee on the fence, but it is the Grace that does the damage, so this water pitcher is for Grace. You are absolutely right about the females causing the most damage because Max also saves it for his walks and my giant marigolds. We refill the pitcher and put it back out as soon as we use it so that it is always there–I even have my husband trained to refill it 🙂 This was an excellent article for me because I learned that the reason water works so well is because of the nitrogen and NOT the acid that I thought was the culprit. Thanks for clearing that up.

    Sincerely,

    Trisha Lane Eubanks
    Hutchinson, Ks



  • Elizabeth Thorne Says:
    May 27th, 2018 at 11:06 am

    How often should soda mix be used for fungus?



  • James Young Says:
    March 28th, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    My names dog is killing my shrubs. will a small amount of baking soda in the dogs water stop this?



  • Linda Says:
    June 20th, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    I put a teaspoon of cider vinegar in the water bowl each time I change the water. The dogs pee all over the lawn but it does not show at all!



  • John Says:
    October 11th, 2015 at 10:15 am

    Is there anything that I can put on my lawn to keep dogs off, so they stop doing their business on it? Some people do not respect other peoples property.
    Thanks,
    John



  • mavis Says:
    September 16th, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    Is there something I can apply to my grass so that dogs won’t want to go on it?



  • Arday Ardayfio Says:
    November 3rd, 2009 at 3:20 am

    I really appreciate this article. Thanks, this is a big problem for me, hope these will help fix it.


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How to Keep Dogs from Damaging Your Lawn