Keep a Green Lawn, Even With Dogs!

Even though its snowy up in the Atlantic Northeast I have spring on the mind. Every year its the same problem, how do I keep the lawn lush and green despite the work the dogs put into making yellow/brown/dried-up sections.

Our lawn is growing mostly on clay, so when the grass dies, it leaves the dead blades, but also holes in the lawn down to the bare earth.

After doing some research online I have found a few home remedies, some that i read over and over and some sources that disprove all of them. Here goes:

1) Water the lawn after a visit from the dogs. The theory here is that the water will dilute the salts and nitrates in the urine and not leave such a concentration to absorb into the ground in a small area. This solution seems to be the principal behind most “cures” I have read online. Theoretically, it should work because the it is the concentration of the urine that causes the problem. Practically, it would be difficult to water your lawn after every visit by the dogs. The solution would be easy if there is a garden hose next to the door the dogs use. If the dogs are ‘brought out’ each time it would be easy to find the spots they use, but if they come and go as they please a few visits might be left unattended to. A watering can could be kept by the door if a hose is not available.

2) Sprinkle a powder or mixture over the impacted areas. Several sites recommend spreading gypsum, dish-washing powder, or baking soda on urinated sections of the lawn. Once again, this requires the dogs to be monitored when they do their business, can cause ‘white spots’ spread over the lawn before the granules of the mixture dilute, and may have cause adverse reactions to the grass. High concentrations of anything really aren’t good for a lawn; causing the pH to fluctuate or certain chemicals inhibiting growth.

3) Supplement the dogs diet with vitamins, mixtures, tomato juice, or even salt! The primary ‘science’ behind this is essentially the same as #1; it causes the dogs to drink more, making their urine less intense. Dogs digestive systems aren’t meant to be petri dishes. Like our diets, some people can handle more salt, tomatoes, acids, or other compounds better than others. Our bodies were meant to work at a specific balance of nutrients. When we throw those off with supplements it could impact our health. That’s not to say that all supplements are dangerous, but it is cautionary because proper consultation with a qualified veterinarian before changing their diet is the best way to keep your dog safe and healthy.

4) Paint. That’s right. Some solutions I found even involve forgetting about the health of the lawn, and just painting over the problem. It is a dye that you mix in your gardens sprayer, and cover the discolored areas.

5) Training your dog to do their business on un-landscaped areas. Why not train your dogs to go in a hidden part of a rock garden, or in mulch behind a tree? Keep their urine off of the lawn entirely. It seems like the most practical way to deal with the problem, despite being the most involving. It takes time to train dogs, and some with spot-mark wherever they fell necessary. If they go regularly in a confined area, it will require some maintenance like picking up after them, and some minor landscaping as that area gets damaged, but certainly is the easiest on the dogs and presents a way to prevent constant maintenance. This is the most pro-active approach I have found.

This article from Colorado State University does a great job explaining the science behind why grass burns and discolors, provides methods and grass varieties to fix and patch impacted areas, and lists some of the myths floating around.

Give it a read, and happy gardening!

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