Getting your puppy to actually pee outside comes with a feeling of pride. As their bladder muscles grow stronger, accidents in the house become less frequent. Some dogs might even develop a favorite spot to pee.
Successful potty training can feel like a win for you but might feel like a losing battle when it comes to your lawn. Dog pee can kill grass, leaving behind dead patches and bare spots. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to save your lawn and ensure that it remains a safe space for dogs to do their business.
Why Does Dog Pee Discolor Your Grass?
Through eating food and taking supplements, some nutrients get absorbed into your dog’s bloodstream while others are filtered out by the kidneys. The unabsorbed nutrients get expelled from the body through urination.
The problem for your lawn is not the pee itself but rather the chemical compounds that are contained in it. As the water in their pee evaporates, what’s left behind is a high concentration of nitrogen. If left untreated, the grass will appear brown at the center and green at the edges where the nitrogen is less concentrated, which leaves those nasty yellow marks.
“While nitrogen and nitrates are beneficial for grass and even used for fertilizer, too much can actually be harmful,” explains Dr. Chyrle Bonk, DVM, a remote veterinary consultant at PetKeen. “If you already fertilize your lawn with nitrogen and then your dog pees concentrated nitrogen in one area, it can overdo it and kill the grass.”
Do Female Dogs Cause More Damage?
It might seem as though female dogs are the bigger culprit behind grass burns. However, this apparent sex difference has more to do with the way dogs pee rather than the chemicals in their urine.
Some male dogs tend to lift their leg and pee on standing surfaces like tree trunks and backyard fences, and they will also disperse their scent rather than in one concentrated spot. In contrast, female dogs are more likely to squat and pee directly onto the grass. Damage to your grass can occur as your dog pees in the same area repeatedly.
Can Changing Your Dog’s Diet Help?
Encouraging your dog to drink more water is good for their skin, bladder, and digestive health. Plus, the increased water consumption may have the added benefit of reducing damage to your grass. According to Bonk, feeding a raw or homemade diet that is less processed can reduce the amount of nitrogen in their urine
Keep a bowl of fresh, clean water accessible to your dog at all times. You could also try adding water or goat’s milk to your dog’s food or swapping out commercial dry food (i.e., kibble) for wet food. Hydrating fruits such as blueberries, slices of apple, watermelon, or cantaloupe can also help increase water consumption. Always consult with your veterinarian and choose a diet that is safe and nutritionally balanced.
Exercise caution when using enzyme supplements that claim to prevent grass burns. These products can change the acidity or alkalinity of your dog’s pee, potentially affecting their health. Besides, there are other options for keeping your lawn in good shape.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Lawn?
Designate a pee spot. Train your dog to pee in a certain place. That way, the damage is restricted to one area as opposed to your entire lawn. You can also fence in part of your yard for potty breaks.
Create a plant-free zone. Bonk suggests setting up a “mulch or gravel area where they can go so that grass isn’t affected at all.” Another option is to ditch your plants altogether by covering the entire lawn with bark or stones. Whatever material you use, make sure the texture is comfortable for your dog to walk on and won’t injure their paws.
Choose resilient plants. Try seeding your lawn with low-maintenance options such as ryegrasses, fescue, and sedges. These can replace your lawn or be sown in with the existing grass.
If you’re looking to reduce the area of turf lawn, consider planting ornamental grass, clover, or moss. These grass alternatives are durable, resistant to pee, and require less watering. Make sure that the plant varieties you choose aren’t toxic to dogs or other animals.
Wash down the area. To the extent possible, rinse off where your dog pees using a hose. If creating a designated spot doesn’t work, allow your dog to pee on different parts of the lawn so that the pee and water aren’t accumulating in one area.
Maintain your grass. Reseed the dead patches and switch to a dog-friendly fertilizer that contains less nitrogen. Water your lawn regularly, ensuring the water penetrates deeply into the soil. “You can also leave the grass length a little longer so that it isn’t as sensitive,” Bonk says.
If you have your heart set on a green lawn, those unsightly brown and yellow spots can put a damper on having your dog do their business in the backyard. With a little patience and ingenuity, you can create an outdoor haven that satisfies your dog and your green thumb.