If you have a lawn and a dog, you probably have seen the dreaded patches of dead, yellowed grass that reveal your canine's favorite spots to urinate. You don't want to part with your pup, but you want your yard to be healthy, green and lush, so you need to find a way to keep dog urine from killing your grass. While a quick fix for the problem does not exist, a bit of ingenuity and a few modifications will help keep both your grass and your furry best friend happy.
Know the Enemy
Dog urine is composed of a lot of different chemicals, but the ones that affect your lawn are the soluble salts excreted from the kidneys -- primarily nitrogen. When used properly, nitrogen can cause your grass to grow lush and green. But too much nitrogen in a concentrated area can cause burned patches -- and that's exactly what happens when a dog pees on your lawn. It isn't related to the pH of the urine, and both male and female dogs can cause lawn damage.
Prevent Damage With Training
The most effective way to prevent dog urine from killing your grass is by not allowing dogs to urinate on it. Train your dog to use a specific area to urinate. Consider an area of your lawn that can't be seen, or set up a "potty area" in a small plot of gravel, sand or mulch -- anything your pooch finds appealing. You can even put up a small statue or other object to give your male dog a "fire hydrant" to mark.
Work With Your Dog
Encourage your dog to drink its fill of fresh, clean water. On warm days, including a few ice cubes in your dog's water can add novelty which will encourage drinking. When your dog is adequately hydrated, the urine is more dilute and there's fewer soluble salts to damage your lawn.
Avoid home remedies -- such as adding tomato juice -- to your dog's food and water. While some home remedies may encourage more water intake, they do nothing to neutralize acidity or reduce soluble salts that damage lawns. Also avoid commercially sold supplements to dilute your dog's urine to prevent lawn damage, unless specifically cleared by a veterinarian. When used improperly, both home remedies and commercial solutions can cause kidney or heart damage.
Working With Your Lawn
There's no magic cure for dog urine damage to your yard. Keeping your lawn healthy is one step toward prevention -- a healthy lawn is more resilient to damage. Irrigation, avoiding droughts and keeping you lawn properly fertilized can help maintain the lush appearance.
Warm-season grasses generally have an aggressive and creeping growth habit and can recover from mild burns quicker than cool-season types that have a slower growth and noncreeping habit. With severe burning, cool-season grasses may require removal of the damaged area, flooding the site with water and then resodding or reseeding. Damage is most severe during hot and dry weather conditions.
Diluting the urine with copious amounts of water as soon as you can will dilute the soluble salts and nitrogen content and minimize the damage -- and that's as close to a cure as there is.
Elizabeth Tumbarello has been writing since 2006, with her work appearing on various websites. She is an animal lover who volunteers with her local Humane Society. Tumbarello attended Hocking College and is pursuing her Associate of Applied Science in veterinary technology from San Juan College.