Is Dog Pee Killing My Grass?
Even if you’re not exactly a green-thumb, this is the time of year you’d like your lawn to look as nice as possible with no patches or dead spots. Your best friend can make that seem impossible, but lush, emerald turf is well within your ability if you know what to do.
When I was a little kid, my first dog was a female Labrador named Princess. I remember growing up under the impression that female urine is somehow more acidic, and that it “burns” grass more than male urine. Now that I have a female pit bull, and my own fenced in backyard, I can’t help but go back to that line of thinking in caring for my grass. But that bad reputation that female dogs get for somehow having stronger pee, well…it’s not exactly true, but there is some merit to that thinking.
THE CHEMICAL REASON
Like us, dogs expend toxins and metabolic waste in their urine. Unlike us (or at least unlike most of us…looking at you, Uncle Nick), they do it in the yard. There happens to be enough nitrogen in that waste to have an effect of the grass, especially in more nitrogen-sensitive grasses like Bermuda and bluegrass. While males and females have urine with similar chemical composition, you’ll notice that male dogs lift their leg in small amounts all over the yard, but female dogs squat and unload their bladder in one massive rush. That pooling of nitrogen-rich liquid saturates the soil and roots in that one patch, and throws off the balance, much like accidentally spilling fertilizer in one spot when applying it to your lawn.
WHAT TO DO
While you can change your dog’s diet or supplement their food and water to produce less nitrogen, I wouldn’t personally recommend it. We already feed our dogs what is good for them, not what is good for the grass. Pit bulls especially require a protein-rich diet because of their lean musculature, and nitrogen is a natural byproduct of that. You can plant grass that is less sensitive to nitrogen and urine (for example, fescue or rye), but that seems extreme, and it is certainly more work than I would like to do. So that leaves us with getting our dog to pee somewhere that is not grass.
TRAINING FOR ONE SPOT
If you have a mulched or pine-strawed area of your yard, this is a perfect place to train your dog to go instead of on the grass. If you don’t have an area like this, you can designate a “sacrifice” part of the yard and just accept that your dog will kill that grass, instead of the entire yard. After you identify the spot, you will need to use a leash to train your dog to use that area. This could take weeks, but after they develop the habit and routine, they should start to go there without the leash. Training your dog is the most dependable way to ensure they go where you want them to go. What could be better than spending more time with your dog?
Whether you are successful or not at training your dog to use one spot, there are products available that effectively minimize urine’s effect on the grass, like See Spot Run
This is a natural formula that hooks up to your garden hose, and distributes microbes that balance out the soil. Although it will not bring dead grass back to life though, keeping your sacrifice area small will make products like this more effective.
Overall, we advocate for this training route to make your lawn a little less brown. Changing your dog’s behavior by spending the required time and energy with him/her is what we are all about. Although it might seem like a lot of work at first, if you really care about your lawn, this is worth it!