Tolerant Types of Grass for Dog Owners

Maintaining a green lawn can be a challenge if your dog -- or the neighborhood dogs -- sees your yard as a potty or a playground. Unless you install artificial turf, your grass may develop brown patches from doggy urine damage or worn areas from Fido's playtime. Look to grass types that are more tolerant to your dog's natural behaviors.

Yorkshire Terrier Dog
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Small dogs, particularly males, create less urine damage on lawns.

Tolerance Is Not Resistance

No turf grass type is 100 percent resistant to dog damage. However, some grass types have a quicker recovery rate than others and grow quicker to fill in dead spots. Grasses that naturally spread by stolons or rhizomes, which are modified stems that grow along the ground, are typically more tolerant because they rebound quicker from damage. If you accompany your leashed dog outside for potty breaks, you can help mitigate urine damage by taking a watering can with you. As soon as the dog relieves itself, pour water on the urine-soaked grass to dilute the urine so it won't burn the grass.

Damage Symptoms

A common misconception is that the pH of dog urine is responsible for killing grass. However, it's actually the urea found in the urine, which contains nitrogen and soluble salts, that is the culprit. The damage it causes looks similar to applying too much high-nitrogen fertilizer -- it burns the grass, killing it and turning it brown. When dogs run back and forth across the same swath of grass, it creates wear patterns that kill turf over time. These high-traffic areas create larger patches of dead turf than urine spots.

Mind Your Pees

Three turf types may have more resistance to dog urine damage in your yard. Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) is a perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 10. Bahia grass (Paspalum notatum) grows in USDA zones 7 through 11, and zoysia grass (Zoysia spp.) is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 10. Of these grasses, Bermuda grass is denser, which means it fills in faster after urine burns.

High-Traffic Areas

Bermuda grass is the best choice for planting in dog high-traffic areas in warm-season areas, and Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pretensis), a perennial in USDA zones 2 through 6, holds up better in cool-season areas. Zoysia grass takes more time to establish, typically two to four years, but is a suitable choice for high-traffic areas after its establishment. If your dog is particularly active or it patrols a certain area in your yard, no one grass type can hold up under consistent pacing.

Victoria Lee Blackstone

Victoria Lee Blackstone

Victoria Lee Blackstone is a horticulturist and a professional writer who has authored research-based scientific/technical papers, horticultural articles, and magazine and newspaper articles. After studying botany and microbiology at Clemson University, Blackstone was hired as a University of Georgia Master Gardener Coordinator. She is also a former mortgage acquisition specialist for Freddie Mac in Atlanta, GA.