He may be man's best friend, but your canine companion can wreak havoc on your lawn, creating discolored spots as a result of urination, and large holes in your yard due to his natural instinct to dig. But your lawn doesn't have to suffer because you have a four-legged buddy; lawn spots can be managed.
Training your dog to relieve himself in a specific area of your yard can help prevent turf discoloration1, while regularly taking your pooch on long walks that tire him out can help prevent digging.2 By making repairs, taking just a few precautionary measures, and being patient with your dog as he learns, you'll be able to keep your lawn beautiful.
Grass discoloration is caused by the large amount of salt and nitrogen contained in urine.1 Female dogs are often blamed for this problem, but their urine is no different than male dogs.3 All dogs that squat, including females, puppies, elderly dogs and small dogs, can harm grass because they tend to urinate in one area. Because most male dogs lift a leg to "mark" their territory, they are more likely to target a number of areas.
Minor lawn damage will often resolve on its own as new growth emerges3; however, areas frequently used for urination will require repair.
There are two types of spots that trouble dog owners most: Green spots and brown spots.
- Green spots. High in nitrogen, Fido's urine can cause his favorite spots to become greener than the surrounding grass. This effect happens primarily on insufficiently fertilized turf.5 To determine if your grass is sufficiently fertilized, take a soil sample and have it tested. Correct the problem by applying Pennington® UltraGreen® Lawn Fertilizer 34-0-4 every three months, or as dictated by your soil sample results. This fertilizer increases drought tolerance while boosting nutrient uptake for a lush, green lawn.
- Brown spots. The most severe cases of urine damage result in brown spots — areas of dead grass. Dry lawns are already weak and stressed, making them especially susceptible to this type of damage. When patches of dead grass start to appear, water deeply once or twice a week throughout the summer season. Small areas of damage will fill in with the surrounding grass over time. But when damage is beyond nature's repair, remove the dead grass and seed with Pennington® 1 Step Complete® mixture, which contains a combination of premium Smart Seed® grass seed, fertilizer and mulch to grow beautiful, healthy grass.6
Preventing Future Urine Damage
To help prevent urine spots on the lawn, some pet stores and vet clinics offer dietary supplements that promise to change the nitrogen content or pH of dog urine. But there is no scientific evidence that these products work, and some supplements can cause urinary system problems, as well as other dangerous issues, such as calcium deposits in young dogs.1 The best way to prevent spot damage is to mulch an area of your yard, and then train your dog to relieve himself there — and only there.
Dogs, especially puppies, have a lot of energy and like to dig for entertainment, to escape or to hunt prey, such as moles.2 It might take some time to train your dog to stop digging, so follow these steps to repair holes as they appear.
- Fill holes with high-quality top soil and compress the soil in the hole with your foot. Continue filling and compressing until the solid soil surface is even with the surrounding area.
- Apply Pennington® One Step Complete® mixture to the surface of the soil.
- Water thoroughly, and keep the soil moist until the grass is about 2 inches tall. To help you determine when to water, the mulch included in Pennington® One Step Complete® mixture turns light brown when more water is required.
Preventing Future Digging
While you can't change your dog's instincts, you can provide him with appropriate outlets for his digging tendencies. Make sure he has plenty of toys to play with when you aren't around, and take him on long walks to wear him out.
For terriers and other types of dogs bred to dig for underground rodents, create an area just for satisfying those instincts. For example, build a sandbox and hide toys in it for your dog to find. Reward him with a treat for only digging in the sandbox.2
Owning a dog and having a beautiful lawn requires some compromise. While it can be inconvenient to make lawn repairs, it's a small sacrifice to make for the unconditional love you receive from your canine. Don't let your desire for a beautiful lawn stand in the way of your love for your dog; with proper training and Pennington® products, you can keep your lawn and your precious pooch.
Pennington, Pennington 1 Step Complete and Smart Seed are registered trademarks of Pennington Seed, Inc. UltraGreen is a registered trademark of Central Garden & Pet Company.
- Alison O'Connor, Tony Koski, "Dog Urine Damage on Lawns: Causes, Cures, and Prevention," Colorado State University Extension, October 2014
- "Dig This: How to Get Your Dog to Stop Digging," The Humane Society of the United States
- Ali Harivandi, "Lawns 'n' Dogs," University of California, 2007
- "Dogs and Lawns," University of Florida Extension
- Cale Bigelow, Nolie Parnell, Zac Reicher, Tom Voigt, "Animal Urine Damage in Turf," Purdue Extension and University of Illinois Extension, May 2006
- Christopher Enroth, "Dog Gone Lawn," University of Illinois Extension, December 2014