Whether it's the neighbor's Pekinese or your Great Dane, a dog's gotta go when a dog's gotta go. Their deposits contain the extra protein packed into many commercial foods -- and the nitrogen and salts from that protein can burn lawns the same as an accidental dump from a fertilizer spreader. Short of trading a canine for a cat, which brings its own challenges, strategies exist to protect your turf.
Good Neighbor Policy
Don't wait to open negotiations until after the first strike. Get to know your neighbors and their pets. When you make a canine addition to your family, toddle your pup around the block, stopping to make introductions. Provide a positive example for canine potty behavior.
- Always carry a few bags mounted on a frame that closes into piece of recycled cardboard to pick up after Precious. Share some with other dog owners.
- Insist Precious do her urinating before she leaves home rather than on a neighbor's lawn. Or aim for an open field at the end of the block.
- When the neighbor's dog leaves something on your lawn, don't seethe. You two, as the adult humans, should come to an understanding.
Remember, a determined dog defecates where his nose leads him. Intact males will mark wherever they smell another male, so keep your male dog out of the front yard.
- A fence keeps passersby on the walk, but many dogs find a fence post an attractive target, too.
- A sprinkler controlled by a motion detector can be pricey but makes the point with the dog -- and its human companion. In a neighborhood with many canines, however, it may also overwater your lawn.
Tough Stuff Turf
Although no lawn grass is impervious to the overload of nitrogen that dog do-do presents -- or to a playful dog who wears down a daily path or breaks down green grass by continual rolling -- some grasses are more resilient. If your dog is the culprit, try "planting" some of his own evidence in more resilient turf or in an area with pea gravel or mulch in the back 40 so he will do his business there and stay out of the front yard and recreational areas.
Typically, grasses that spread by rhizomes, below ground, or stolons, on the soil surface, recover from damage more easily than contained bunch grasses.
- Warm-season grasses such as Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 10, and St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum), hardy in USDA zones 8 through 10, recover most quickly. In cooler climates, zoysia grass (Zoysia tenuifolia), hardy in USDA zones 5b through 10, is a wear-resilient choice.
- Cool-season grasses recover less easily, but the fescues, creeping red fescue (Fescue rubra) hardy in USDA zones 3 through 7 and its transitional cousin, tall fescue (Fescue arundinaceaus), hardy in USDA zones 4 through 7, perform better than others.
- Water the lawn as soon as possible after the act to dilute and remove salts and nitrogen from plant surfaces.
- Mow lawns as high as allowed for the turf type. More leaf surface shelters roots and helps plants recover more quickly after hydration.
- Do not spot-fertilize dog damage. More nitrogen can only do further harm.