When your dog wrecks your grass

Posted by on Friday, April 15th, 2016 at 11:09am.

We love our dogs but hate what they to do the grass.  It’s glaringly apparent in spring when the grass turns green everywhere but your pup’s favourite pee spot.

No doubt neighbours have given you all kinds of advice of home remedies of what to feed your dog or put on the ground to neutralize the damage.  That includes giving your dog tomato juice (heard that one?) to putting sugar on the grass where your dog has just gone.  Some might be successful, some not.

What we do know

A doggie’s urine contains high volumes of nitrogen.   This is what is burning or killing the grass.  It’s what happens when you put too much lawn fertilizer on one spot. You’ll notice that the grass circling a pee spot is quite green and grows quickly.  That’s because diluted urine on the periphery of the spot acts just like fertilizer.  So it’s the high concentration of nitrogen that kills the grass, not the acidity of the urine so tomato juice or anything that claims to neutralize or resort pH balance isn’t going to work.

Beware of supplements from your local pet food store that claim to help.  Again, if the label says it will change the pH balance, that’s not the issue.  Supplements may also affect your pup’s digestive system and cause it to go out of balance.  Bladder and kidney infections would also be a result of products like these so work with a veterinarian to get the true story.

Some says that it’s only the urine from female dogs that damage the grass, but really there’s no difference in the composition of urine between the sexes.  Females seem to create the most damage because they tend to pee all at once.  Male dogs like to mark their territory so if they lift their legs on garden plants, which spells death.

What you can do

If you’re prepared to put some effort into it, there are a few things you can do.

  • You can water your grass to dilute the urine.  Follow your dog out into the yard and dilute the spot they voided in with water right away.  This is something you would do if you spilled a pile of fertilizer on your lawn by accident.  Same principle.
  • If you feed your dog dry food, you can add moisture to his diet by moistening the food or adding wet dog food.  You can’t make your dog drink more water than he or she already does without a little encouragement.  You could try adding some salt to their food to make them more thirsty but that’s not particularly health.
  • You can talk to your vet to make sure your dog’s diet is appropriate.  The nitrogen in your dog’s urine is metabolized from protein.  If their diet is too high in protein, reducing it might help with nitrogen levels that are out of whack.  One of the ways to do that is to buy better quality dog food.  More expensive types of food have better quality protein which can be more easily digested and will perhaps mean there are fewer by-products such as excessive nitrogen in the urine.
  • You can actually train your dog to pee in a particular spot.  A gravel spot beside the house or a designated space where it doesn’t matter if the grass is brown or on mulch.  It might sound like a lot of work but you can train your dogs to go on command.  Service dogs, police and military animals are trained to go on command.  The training might be hard initially but it can be done.
  • If you are just thinking about planting sod or sowing grass seed, think about a type of grass that is resistant to burning.  There are varieties of fescues and ryegrasses that can withstand large amounts of nitrogen.

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