By: Heather Rhoades
Dog urine on grass is a common problem for dog owners. The urine from dogs can cause unsightly spots in the lawn and kill grass. There are many things you can do to protect grass from dog urine damage.
Is Dog Urine on the Grass Really the Problem?
Believe it or not, dog urine is not as damaging as many people believe it is. Sometimes you may blame the dog for brown or yellow spots in the lawn when in fact it is a grass fungus causing the problem.
To determine if dog urine is killing the lawn or if it’s a grass fungus, simply pull up on the affected grass. If the grass in the spot comes up easily, it is a fungus. If it stays firm, it is dog urine damage.
Another indicator that it is dog urine killing the lawn is that the spot will be a bright green on the edges while a fungus spot will not.
How to Protect Grass from Dog Urine
Potty Spot Training Your Dog
The easiest way to protect grass from dog urine is to train your dog to always do her business in one part of the yard. This will make sure that lawn damage is contained to one part of the yard. This method also has the added benefit of cleaning up after your dog easy.
If your dog is smaller (or you can find a really big litter box), you can also try litter box training your pet.
You can also train your dog to go while you are on a walk in public areas, such as parks and dog walks. Remember though that many areas have laws about cleaning up after your dog, so make sure to do your civic duty and clean up your dog’s doody.
Changing Your Dog’s Diet to Stop Dog Urine Killing Lawn
Modifications in what you feed your dog can help reduce damage from dog urine on grass. Adding salt to your dog’s food will encourage him to drink more, which will dilute the chemicals in the urine that are harmful. Also, make sure that you are providing enough water for your dog. If a dog does not get enough water, the urine becomes concentrated and more damaging.
Reducing the amount of protein in the food can also help keep dog urine from killing the lawn.
Before making any changes to your dog’s diet, make sure to talk to your vet. Some dogs cannot take in too much salt while others need extra protein to stay healthy and your vet will be able to tell you if these changes would harm your dog or not.
Dog Urine Resistant Grass
If you are re-seeding your lawn, you can consider changing your grass to a more urine resistant grass. Fescues and perennial ryegrasses tend to be hardier. But be aware that changing your grass alone will not fix the problems from dog urine on grass. Your dog’s urine will still damage urine resistant grass, but the grass will take longer to show the damage and will be better able to recover from the damage.
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The reason why urine turns grass brown or yellow has to do with chemistry. Understanding why this happens is your first step toward preventing it and retaining your nice lawn.
Nitrogen is an essential component of healthy soil, but high concentrations of it can cause patches of grass to die and turn yellow or brown. Urine is naturally rich in nitrogen, and high concentrations of nitrogen can cause grass burns. Lawn fertilizer also contains nitrogen. Oftentimes the dead grass is surrounded by an exceptionally lush, green ring of growth, which occurs due to the fertilizing effects of lower concentrations of nitrogen.
Salts and other compounds found in dog urine may also contribute to grass damage. Highly acidic or alkaline urine may alter the pH of the soil, adversely affecting the grass in the areas of the yard where your dog urinates.
Some people believe that female dog urine causes more trouble to the lawn than male dog urine. However, the chemical composition of the urine doesn't differ much between male and female dogs. It's actually the way the dogs urinate that is to blame. Female dogs can cause more damage to grass simply because most tend to squat and urinate in one place many males lift a leg and "mark" upright objects in multiple locations. For example, when a male dog pees on a tree trunk, only some of it may drip down to the grass and cause damage. This is less noticeable than the round spots of damage made by urine puddles.
Does Dog Urine Kill Grass?
It is possible for your dog’s urine to burn the grass in your lawn. This manifests itself in brown or yellow spots. You should, however, keep in mind that other factors such as lawn grub may be to blame for the discoloration. The key is to know how to accurately determine if your dog’s urine is actually responsible for killing the grass.
Is Dog Urine Killing Grass?
Before you conclude that your dog’s pee is the actual reason for the discolored grass in your lawn, you should check out the following:
- Do the brown or yellow spots occur in areas where your dog commonly pees? If you are keen enough, you will notice a spot in your yard where your canine friend prefers to urinate.
- How firm is the grass in the discolored sections of your lawn? Lawn grub feeds on grass’ root which makes it loose. Pulled up, grass affected by lawn grub will come off easily. On the contrary, the grass will not come off that easily if you are actually dealing with a case of dog urine killing grass.
- Are the green rings on the outer edges of the brown or yellow spots? It is not uncommon for the yellow or brown grass burn spots to have a typical green outer edge. This is usually the result of dilute urine in these areas, which then acts as a fertilizer.
- Could your neighbor’s dog be finding a way into your yard? This is just as important a question. Taking measures to neutralize your dog’s urine will not be a conclusive solution if your neighbor’s pooch has a role to play in the problem.
What Causes Dog Urine To Burn Grass?
There is a myth on the reason for dog urine killing grass stating that it has to do with urine acidity. While that sound like a logical explanation for the problem, it is not true. The actual causes of lawn burn include alkaline urine (the pH should be between 6.0 and 6.5) and the nitrogen excreted in dogs’ urine.
As carnivores, dogs take lots of proteins in their diet. Once in the body, protein is broken down, with the process giving off nitrogen-laden by-products. These are excreted in urine. When your dog urinates on the grass, the nitrogen is transferred to the lawn. This may be beneficial to the grass. However, when the urine is too concentrated or is availed to the same spot way too frequently, grass burns occur. A similar effect is seen when nitrogen fertilizer is poured in excess amounts.
How to stop dog urine from killing grass naturally
When it comes to protecting your garden, prevention is often the best option. Here are some of the most reliable solutions for helping protect your garden from future grass burns:
1. Dog Rocks
One of the most popular natural remedies for preventing grass burns across your garden are those Dog Rocks on Amazon I’ve already mentioned.
Adding these rocks to your dog’s water bowl will naturally filter the water. It helps to remove some of the ammonia, nitrates, and other impurities to ensure that less of these elements are being ingested, and then deposited back onto your suffering lawn.
Although many owners report success with just this remedy on its own, it may be necessary to combine this with a few other solutions to ensure a spotless lawn.
2. A balanced diet
Although a high-protein diet is essential for keeping your dog healthy, one consequence of this is that it tends results in urine that is high in nitrogen. To help with this, many experts recommend adding more “human food” to balance out your dog’s diet.
One of the best additions you can make to your dog’s diet is fruit and vegetables. Not only will this help with your garden, but it has substantial health benefits for your dog as well. A recent study by Purdue University demonstrated that by adding vegetables to your dog’s diet three times a week, that it reduced the risk of bladder cancer by a significant margin.
Some of the best vegetables you can add to your dog’s diet include:
- Green beans
- Sweet potato
- Brussel sprouts
If your dog refuses to eat these raw, you can always try cooking them into something more appealing, such as a dog-friendly quiche.
Additionally, try adding fruit such as:
- Peeled oranges
- Peaches (only once pitted)
- Pears (only once seeds and pit have been removed)
However, please be aware that not all fruit and vegetables are safe for your dog to eat. In some instances, such as grapes and raisins, they can even be toxic for dogs.
3. Keep your dog hydrated
Although this might seem counter-intuitive, it is crucial to keep your dog hydrated to ensure they are maintaining a balanced and healthy diet. Doing this will also help to dilute the nitrogen levels in your dog’s urine.
You can stop dog urine from killing your grass naturally by making sure your dog is kept well hydrated.
In light of this, it’s essential to leave out unlimited water for your dog. Water should be replaced twice daily, and the water bowl should be cleaned with soap and water every other day.
Many experts also recommend replacing plastic drinking bowls with ceramic or metal dishes, as these are less likely to develop harmful bacteria that might discourage your dog from drinking.
4. Train your dog to pee in a designated area
Another popular method for saving your garden from grass burns is to train your dog to use a particular area in the garden as his toilet. Although the area doesn’t need to be big, there should be enough space for your dog to sniff around and circle.
To avoid any ugly brown spots, you can dig up any grass you might have in this area, and replace it with gravel, or cedar mulch. Doing this will also help with your training, as it will teach your dog to associate this type of ground with going to the toilet.
Once you’ve prepared a suitable space, it would be best to gate off the rest of the garden if you can. Just as you wouldn’t allow a puppy to have full roam of the house while he’s still potty training, its best to restrict access to the rest of the garden while you’re training your dog to go in one place.
Keep a close eye on your dog, and when you notice him giving signals that he needs to go outside to relieve himself, take him out to the designated area.
If he tries to go somewhere else (perhaps that small sliver of grass he still has access to!) then interrupt him and bring him back to the toilet area.
When he does urinate in the right place, reward him for good behaviour by giving him treats and rewarding him with playtime.
If he does manage to urinate somewhere else, quickly douse the affected area with water, but otherwise ignore your dog. With time it will sink in that going in the right place will only get him good things.
Additionally, you will need to keep the new toilet area clean by removing any faeces and rinsing the ground where he has urinated. A dirty toilet will only encourage your dog to look for different places to relieve himself.
5. Plant a hardy grass type
Certain grass types are more susceptible to grass burns, and will not fare as well with a dog romping around. Although a grass type that is fully resistant to dogs doesn’t exist, you can plant more hardy grass types that will survive the ordeal a little better. The best grass types you can plant include:
- Perennial Ryegrass
- Kentucky Bluegrass
6. Avoid using fertilizer on your lawn
Doing this will only damage your lawn further as a key component of fertiliser is nitrogen. If you already add fertilizer to your garden, try holding back on this for a bit and seeing if it makes a difference.
7. Keep your lawn healthy
A lawn that is already struggling under poor conditions will soon give way under the additional strain of an energetic dog.
Keeping your garden healthy will not be enough to stop grass burns by itself, but it will help to make the grass more resistant. Over-seeding, proper irrigation, controlling weeds, and improving the soil will all help to promote a stronger, healthier lawn.
Handy Hint: Dog urine can also kill trees, but you need to do different things to protect them from the urine. Here are my 8 tips you can use to save your trees.
Are there any natural supplements I can give my dog?
Although supplements are available, which claim to neutralize the pH balance in your dog’s urine, many vets recommend against this option. Although the pH balance of your dog’s urine does have some impact on the severity of grass burns, it is not the main culprit.
Not only will these supplements do very little to help your garden, but anything intended to alter the pH balance of your dog’s urine can cause bladder infections, bladder stones, UTIs, and other digestive issues.
How do you neutralize dog urine naturally?
If you’ve just discovered your dog peeing on the grass, the most effective way of naturally neutralizing dog urine is to douse the area with water.
Grab your garden hose or a watering can and soak the ground to help dilute the nitrogen. Experts recommend using three times as much water as urine.
Does vinegar or tomato juice stop dog pee from killing grass?
Some people advise adding apple cider vinegar or tomato juice to your dog’s drinking water or food to neutralize the pH balance of your dog’s urine. However, acidic or alkaline qualities in dog urine are not the main culprits for brown spots on your lawn, so this will likely be ineffective.
Will baking soda neutralize dog urine on grass?
Another myth suggests that dog urine can be neutralized by adding baking soda. However, this has more risk of damaging your grass than anything else, so it’s best avoided.
How to repair grass damaged by dog urine
If you’re already faced with a mottled back garden covered in dead brown patches, you’ll be happy to know that repairing a damaged lawn is fairly straightforward.
First, you will need to remove as much of the burned grass as you can. To do this, rake the area thoroughly. Now that you have a few bald patches in the middle of your garden cover the affected areas in topsoil and then sprinkle over with grass seed.
These areas will need to be watered daily, but after a few weeks, you should notice your garden looking much healthier.
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Here are some more related articles you might be interested in.
How to Tell if Dog Urine Is Killing The Grass
If the grass suddenly shows yellow or brown patches in coordination with you getting a new dog or your dog getting older and bigger, it’s a good sign that your dog is responsible.
When you tug the damaged grass, if it has strong roots, your dog is probably responsible for the damage.
If grass is turning yellow or brown for other reasons, it likely will have a weak root system.
However, grass that has been damaged from above will have a strong root system but be brown or yellow on top.
How to Keep Pet Urine from Damaging Lawn
Last Updated: December 1, 2020 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Mike Garcia. Mike Garcia is a Licensed Landscape Contractor and the Founder of Enviroscape LA, a full-service landscape design and construction firm in Los Angeles, California. With over 30 years of experience, Mike specializes in sustainable landscape practices. Mike holds an Ornamental Horticulture degree, C-27 Landscape Contractor and D-49 Tree Service Contractor licenses, and Permaculture Design, California Naturalist, International Certified Professional Pond Contractor, and Pond Building certifications. He is one of eight Internationally Certified Pond Builders in the world. Enviroscape LA has won landscape and water feature awards from the International Professional Pond Contractors Association (IPPCA), National Association of Pond Professionals (NAPP), and the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA). Mike is a past president of the CLCA and currently serves on their local Board of Directors. Enviroscape LA has been featured in PONDS USA Magazine, Pond and Garden Lifestyles Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times. Mike has appeared on Extreme Home Makeover, HGTV's Landscapers Challenge, and A & E's series Fix That Yard.
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If you enjoy allowing your dog outside without a leash, you may also be having problems with lawn burn. This is a common problem that occurs when your dog's urine damages the grass. Lawn burn is caused by a high-level of nitrogen in dog urine. A small amount of nitrogen can be good for the grass, but an excessive amount can cause damage.  X Research source You can keep pet urine from damaging your lawn by adjusting your dog’s diet and habits, and by making changes to your lawn.
Can supplements help?
We’d never recommend giving your dog anything that will upset the natural pH of their pee (which doesn’t help with the brown patches anyway). This could cause all sorts of problems – infections, bladder stones etc. It’s best to use one of the methods above to help stop urine scalding on the lawn as these methods will not harm your dog.
There are products available that claim to stop your dog’s pee killing your lawn without changing the pH of their urine, for example ‘dog rocks’. If you’re considering a product like this, we’d recommend researching it thoroughly first and reading the reviews. Again, avoid anything that will upset your dog’s natural pH or give them an upset stomach - you may want to have a chat with your vet before using these products.
And maybe consider that a few brown spots on the lawn are a small price to pay to see your pampered pooch enjoying your garden!