Is dog pee killing your grass? Here are some solutions.

by Rees Cowden on June 5, 2008 · 40 comments

in advice,All Posts,Animals and Pets,Grass and Lawns,Problems and Solutions

A problem I am asked for advice on regularly is how to stop my dog’s urine (or the neighbors’ dogs’ urine!) from killing my grass.

Here is an Excerpt from my newest eBook on GROWING GREAT LAWNS available HERE at Rainforth Home and Garden.

For my post on repairing lawn click (here)

 

If you want to learn why this is happening read on. All dog’s urine contains urea, a form of ammonia which converts to nitrates. Concentrated nitrates burn plants. It’s as simple as that! The level of urea will vary, with the first morning pee having the highest concentration. Urea can actually be good for your lawn if used in low doses; in fact, it’s a component of many fertilizers.

If you pay attention, you will see that the area immediately around a dead spot in your grass will actually be dark green and growing well. You would see a similar result if you poured a cup of fertilizer in one spot on your grass. The spot where you poured that fertilizer would probably die, but the surrounding areas would turn dark green. So you see, the problem is not necessarily the pee, it’s the concentration of the urea in the animals’ pee.

Here is the easiest short term fix:  Immediately dilute the pee.

How? Well, I suggest you keep a watering can at the ready, in the area where your dog usually goes.  As soon as she is done doing her thing, sprinkle a little water there and…presto!  Dilution complete! That should take care of the problem. See how easy that was? (Great Gardens Simplified)

I’ve heard the suggestion that you can add things like tomato juice to your dog’s diet, but that seems silly and probably won’t work. It’s not an acidity issue like some say.  Not to mention the fact that a dog with an upset stomach in the house is a worse problem than a dead spot on the lawn, if you know what I mean!

Another good suggestion is to train your pet to go only in one location. A good idea if you can do it, makes it easier to use the watering can in only one spot too.

I’ve also heard that Petsmart carries some supplement that you add to your dog’s food, but I don’t have any personal experience with it, and in general I’m against adding anything unnecessary to my pet’s diet.

Another good idea is to keep your pup hydrated. Make sure your pet always has fresh water available.  This will help dilute the level of urea in your pup’s urine naturally, and may be a sufficient solution in some cases without the need for a watering can.

So how do you fix existing dead spots in your grass that your dog has already killed? Repairing and patching is simple. Just scratch the dead lawn away, sprinkle a good portion of grass seed on the spot, cover it thinly with peat moss or some other organic mulch, and water it. In a few weeks the spot should begin to fade as the grass fills in. Make sure to try to match the grass seed with whatever type of turf you already have.

If you are planting a new lawn, I am told that perennial ryegrass and fescue are a little more tolerant of high urea levels, and they make a great looking lawn when blended together.

I hope this helps before your lawn looks like this one.If you want details on how to grow great lawns read my eBook GROWING GREAT LAWNS Here at Rainforth Home and Garden

There are also lots of good questions and my replies in the comments below so be sure to check them out too.

Craig Rees Cowden

{ 2 trackbacks }

Dead Grass? Here is how to fix it.
November 4, 2010 at 9:09 pm
Cats and dog pee killed my lavender plant
August 10, 2011 at 4:46 pm

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

deb June 6, 2008 at 3:54 am

great ideas. Now, do you have any suggestions regarding lawn killed by a German shepherd constantly running the fence?

rees cowden June 6, 2008 at 11:43 am

Well Deb, I have a couple of solutions that I’m positive will work but you probably don’t want to hear them :)
Rees

Soph July 15, 2008 at 3:17 pm

My next door neighbour’s very sweet dog keeps weeing on my potted plants (I don’t have a garden, just some pots sitting about) – any tips on helping the lavender, sunflowers etc survive, other than using repellent (I like it when the dog comes to visit me!)?

Mastiff Lover September 13, 2008 at 8:38 pm

I think your solution sounds good, but we have a large yard and our dog goes wherever and whenever he wants. He has ruined the backyard and now prefers the front yard. We just layed new sod in the back so I guess it will be a never ending battle!! My poor neighbors.

craig February 23, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Hey Deb,
Your problem of your dog running the perimeter of your yard is quite common.
There is no way for the turf to survive constant wear from a big dog. You can’t fight his nature so I suggest you think about laying a strip of fake turf around the edge about 2 ft wide or whatever width you think is necessary. I’m generally not a big fan of fake turf but it seem like a good option in this case. There are some pretty realistic products on the market and if you fertilize regularly the colors should blend pretty well.

Rees

i need a job June 2, 2010 at 12:19 am

Thanks for the tip. My border collie is doing a number on my lawn (no pun intended). I will try the watering can solution.

~Larry

Sarah June 15, 2010 at 7:17 pm

I have HUGE areas, not just little spots like the picture above…..I will try the watering can. Thanks for the tip! My husband doesn’t think grass will ever grow in the area b/c the ground is so saturated? What do you think about that?

Rees June 15, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Hi Sarah,
Thanks for the comment. Unless you have other problems that are causing your lawn to die, the dog urine issue can be solved and you should be able to have a nice lawn eventually. Maybe your husband has an aversion to mowing …….can’t say I blame him. I get so many readers of this “dog pee killing my grass” post I’ll be writing another post shortly that focuses on how to repair a lawn once you have solved the doggy problem, watch for it soon.

Thanks,
Rees

Bachatu July 21, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Hi any ideas to prevent other people’s pets from doing nasty business on my front yard. I have no grass, but red mulch, with red pea gravel over top and lots of perennial plants. Am getting fed up with the clean up! Don’t have any pets of my own and now I remember why…lol Any suggesstions greatly appreciated.
thanks in advance :)
Bacha2

Joe August 26, 2010 at 4:46 pm

We have a medium sized dog and to offset the lawn problems are thinking about a doggy litter box outside under the deck. I have not seen many comments about litter boxes for dogs, except for the manufacturers web sites. Wondering what others have experienced or might recommend? Thanks!

sheri January 13, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Hi, I have three little dogs an terrier,two chihuahua’s. the only place that they can use the bathroom is in my front yard because it’s all concrete in the back . my front lawn was very pretty at first but now my lawn is full of brown spots. Please help with my promblem . WHAT CAN I DO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rees January 13, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Hi Sheri,
Thanks for stopping by. I feel you pain but just know you are not the first and this can be solved with a little work. The first step is to stop further damage and you have a couple of approaches here. In this post I have suggested a few. I think the best place to start is to see if you can train them to go in a smaller area. It may take some work on your part but dogs are really pretty smart and want to please so if you are more stubborn than they are you can get them trained. Pick an out of the way corner and once you have them trained I would convert the area to a small fenced off area with a gravel bed, only then would I go about repairing the lawn. Here is a link to my article on repairing lawns (here) and I know you can find training techniques on the web. With small dogs like yours I know people have found success with the small doggy litter boxes noted in the link above.
If you want more information watch this site for a note about a book that I have almost finished called Growing Great Lawns for Rainforth Home and Garden’s Secrets and Solutions series . There is a section on pets and how to deal with them. If anyone has other suggestions please chime in…….
Rees

wendy April 5, 2011 at 8:54 am

will the dead grass ever grow back as normal again?

Rees April 5, 2011 at 9:11 am

Hi Wendy,
Dead grass will not grow back BUT dead LOOKING grass may. Here is my suggestion. Water the heck out of it for a week or two and after about three weeks take a close look and see if there are any green sprouts coming up. If there are enough of them they will eventually fill in a small dead area but beware, weak and damaged lawns are big attractions to weeds and you may have a fight on your hand. If you see green sprouts then I would give the grass a shot of a complete fertilizer like 16-6-8 or 21-7-14 or something close to that. If you are lucky your grass will fill in well. If you want to consider filling in with seed now is a perfect time to do that. Here is a link to a post on filling in dead spots. http://greensideupblog.com/2010/11/dead-grass-here-is-how-to-fix-it/
Good Luck.

Sabine McElrath June 7, 2011 at 1:08 pm

I’ve been fortunate to share my space with various boxers for the last 22 years, and my current female boxer was doing a number on the lawn here outside my townhouse. I also did lots of research and tried to remember to dilute it every time I saw her pee. Not the easiest thing in the world to do, especially at night after her last pee of the day.

Earlier this year, I bought a countertop water filtration system. It turns my tap water into the silkiest, smoothest drinking water I have ever experienced. I immediately started giving it to my dog as well. At the time I got it, there was still snow on the ground here in Maine, but as spring came and now nearing summer, I was astonished to discover that my backyard doesn’t have any brown spots on it!

I can’t explain why really, but that has been the only change I’ve made with her. She still is on the same diet and regimen as she has been the last 6 years! I suppose it is possible she is drinking a lot more water (I know I am!) but that is hard to measure. I always thought it funny when the vet would say to have her drink more water. Apparently dogs are much like horses in that you can lead them to water, but not always make them drink more.

Anyway, wanted to share my experience with you.
Regards,
Sabine

Richard Austing August 9, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Hi I have the dead spot problem due to young Ben peeing. I was walking him today and chated with a fellow dog owner. She suggested adding a tea spoon of vinigar to his drinking water to neutralise the nitrates. What your opinion?

Charrie December 19, 2011 at 7:03 pm

It is winter here and not practical to keep a watering can to dilute the dog pee spots. I will need to attend to it in the spring when new grass starts to grow. What can I do at that point?

Rees December 20, 2011 at 8:01 am

Poor puppy having to go outside in the freezing weather. :) My guess is that with frozen ground the urine won’t penetrate too deeply into the root zone until a good thaw. At that time you can try diluting it or maybe you will get lucky and the spring showers will be enough to dilute the urine. If you find that you still have dead spots in April and May then you will need to go into patching mode. Here is a link to an article I wrote on repairing patches.

Amber April 13, 2012 at 12:57 am

I have a black lab. As wonderful as he is, half my front lawn is now dirt because of his urine. My problem is that he loves to be outside for hours at a time. How will I know when and where he relieved himself if I am inside doing chores? Is there something I can sprinkle or spray on the lawn to bring down the PH in his urine?

thelma jean May 9, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Can I plant ground cover over dead grass from dogs?

Rees May 25, 2012 at 3:43 pm

I got this question from a reader Kelly and I thought others may be asking the same thing.

Hi Rees, I just read your post on dog urine and grass, thanks for posting that!! My question is, how important is the timing of the dilution? Like say my dogs pee in the morning, do I need to spray the spot down immediately or can I do a twice per day spray of the entire lawn (like once in the morning and once at night?)

The answer is…..drum roll…..it depends. If it is cool outside and your soil is already damp you may be able to get away with watering the spots twice a day. In the summer, if it is warm outside, if you have a sand soil this twice a day watering won’t be successful. Best solution is immediately diluting the urine but you can buy some time with cool weather.
Good luck Kelly!

Rees

Rees May 25, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Hi Thelma,
Thanks for stopping by.
Most groundcovers are more durable and the issue with dog urine will be less. I say most but not all. The tender groundcovers like scotch moss will and baby tears will not work but ornamental strawberry, all the ivys and most other ones should be fine. Good Luck!
Rees

BethRA June 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Suggestion for those interested in creating a specific area for their dogs to wee in: make sure wherever it is, and whatever you have on the ground there, is pleasing to the dog and make sure you clean it periodically (hose it down) or it won’t work.

Most dogs have specific preferences about what’s around them and what’s underfoot when they go – mine likes mulch or soft earth underfoot, and will back his tush into tall grass or shrubs to poop if he has the option. If you notice your dog likes to go on certain surfaces when on walks, that’s going to be your best bet for a “litter box.”

tom beebe August 15, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Bouht a house with the front lawn completely shot. Neighbor says previous owner kept dog chained out there. I’ll try ryegrass and straw, plus water each day (dry here like elsewhere). Any more suggestions appreciated.

michelle rizzi October 21, 2012 at 10:46 pm

The water is a great idea. It’s amazing how much diluting the urine can help. When I walk my dogs in the summertime, I usually take along a small jug of water to pour over the spot my female dog pees on. The first one is the killer since she’s been holding it all night! Neighbors appreciate this as well.

Carole January 3, 2013 at 6:30 am

Hi Rees,
I have a 5year old cocker spaniel and believe me she kills my lawn with her pee, I use dog rocks to try alkaline her pees infact I double the rocks so my lawn will not die. Also water where she pees so it won’t die. Her diet consists of meat and vegs; all natural so I’m at a lost what to do. She’s my best friend as it’s just her and me, but my poor lawn suffers. Can you give me some advice what to do. Thankyou. Carole.

Karen Bond February 22, 2013 at 10:40 am

What is the cause of the grass totally ruined by 3yr old male boxer, I have had male and female dogs before and never had this problem – Please help

Rees March 14, 2013 at 9:11 am

Hi Karen,
I can’t say why one dog creates a problem while another breed doesn’t but I think if you follow the advice above it should help.
Rees

Rees March 14, 2013 at 9:15 am

Sorry to hear about your problems Carole,
I’ve got two dogs and love them to death. I’m not familiar with dog rocks but try your best to follow the advice above and it should help. The hot seasons are the worst as the lawn gets very thirsty. I’d make a big push in the spring to get the turf healthy so it can make it through the summer better.
Rees

Rees March 14, 2013 at 9:17 am

Great suggestion Michelle.
Rees

Rees March 14, 2013 at 9:24 am

Hi Tom,
For some reason I just saw this post today. How is the lawn coming along?
Rees

Rees March 14, 2013 at 9:28 am

Good suggestions Beth.
Mine prefers to go in a area where I’ve spread old tree leaves….
Rees

ash March 21, 2013 at 7:05 pm

My 2 year old boxer is chained outsided and killed the grass where she is at. Now there is a big dead of dirt, and it looks terrible is there any way I can fix it?

Rees April 18, 2013 at 9:55 am

Sure there is Ashleigh,
Follow my instructions and it should work out fine if you prevent further damage. I suggest a very good drenching over a one week period to leach all the nitrates out and then start over with turning the soil and seeding or sodding.
Thanks for asking,
Rees

Paula April 23, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Found your site helpful. Today our new puppy comes home, two days before our new lawn is put in. I see I have my training book and water tin ready. My question is it male or female pee that kills grass or both?

Rees April 24, 2013 at 8:39 am

Hi Paula,
Thanks for stopping by and so cool that you are getting a new puppy. My latest is 6 months now and so much fun.
As for your question, there really is no different between males and females urine except that the girls are easier to train and tend to go potty in one area while the boys tend to scatter it all around as a way of marking territory. Direct them to the appropriate spot while they are young and you should’nt have much trouble….and keep the water can nearby just in case.
Have fun with the new one :)
Rees

Scott Blakely May 8, 2013 at 5:21 pm

To : Deb the problem with dog running fence line. Dogs are a creature of habit. I f your dog has developed this habit then try puting things in the path like long boards extending out from the fence line. this will make it more work for your dog to maneuver around and disrupting his run on you might have to put several 2x4x14 out in differnt locations along the fence line this way he has to run around them to chase what ever he is goung after. I you make the play less easy dogs will usually find othet things to do . Also I found a dog training shock coller is a great way to break old gabits and build new ones It was recommended by my vet to trsin my boxer and it worked great and it doesnt hurt the dog . Dog training pro’s use them .

Laurie June 17, 2013 at 3:20 am

Hi Rees;

Thanks for the “watering can” suggestion. When I’m at home this could work but…my Shepard spends a lot of time in the back yard. I’ve patched my grass from the damage done over the Winter/Spring but new spots will keep appearing. Have tried the yellow pee pole from Petland, didn’t work. Tried the rocks in the water, didn’t work. I’ve had male Shepard’s before and never had this happen. Any other thoughts?

Thanks
Laurie

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