How to Keep Dogs from Damaging Your Lawn
By: Julie Day
“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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dog-On-It Lawn Problems (Texas A&M University)
- Rascal Spots (product for repairing damaged lawns from Natural Solutions)