Have you ever peered over the fence at your neighbour's lawn and thought, "Hey, the grass actually is greener on the other side!" Don't worry you are not alone in this struggle. Pet owners all want a beautiful, lush, green lawn for our dogs to frolic in, but the reality is that it’s more common to have large yellow patches of damaged grass and dirt.
Lawn stains are unsightly, and those yellow patches can prove more difficult to correct than we’d like. Before we can even start fixing our grass, as a dog owner, we first need to understand what causes this damage and what are some lifestyle factors that may be contributing to them, causing you to have a yard full of brown spots and dead grass. So, what is dog owner to do to prevent dog urine turning grass yellow?
Why does dog pee kill grass?
You're probably wondering why your pet's urine is wreaking so much havoc on your poor lawn. Well, dog pee contains a variety of nitrogen compounds. Don’t worry, it’s totally normal, as nitrogen is present in all amino acids and is a by-product of protein digestion.
When proteins are broken down and synthesized, they produce both urea and ammonia, two common nitrogen compounds that must be excreted through the kidneys. Depending on your dog’s diet, genetics, and environment, they may produce more nitrogen compounds than other dogs. High concentrations of nitrogen can be threatening to your yard.
You may be thinking, “Wait a minute, isn’t nitrogen the main component of lawn fertilizer?” Why do I end up with burnt grass from dog urine?
You're right, it is. It may seem odd to say that the thing that is damaging our lawns, is the same thing that we use to regrow it, but too much a good thing can be bad.
In the correct amounts, nitrogen will help your grass grow strong and healthy, but high levels of nitrogen from your pet’s urine, especially when it’s concentrated into a small area, will burn the grass.
You may even notice that some of the healthiest, tallest grass is located around the edges of those nasty yellow stains. That’s because those yellow areas received the highest concentration, causing damage, and the surrounding grass received the fertilizing benefit, helping it grow.
Tips from a Lawn Care Expert
We do our best to mitigate the damage, but not all of us were born with a green thumb. We spoke with lawn care expert William Horner of HHS Contracting in Edmonton, to get some advice on how pet owners can care for their lawns. He was able to provide some valuable information about lawn care, and some easy maintenance tips.
Tip # 1 - Spring Clean-up
Giving your yard a thorough spring clean-up after winter will start your grass off on the right foot. Spring clean-ups should include:
- Core Aeration
- High-quality granular fertilizer
He also warns against fertilizing spots with heavy damage from repeated urination. Adding more nitrogen to a spot that is already saturated with the nitrogen from your pet’s pee, will have an adverse effect.
Check out Advantages of Hiring a Lawn Maintenance Company to find out how easy spring clean-up can be with the right help.
Tip #2 - Patch Kits
A mixture of ½ premium potting soil, ¼ sand and ¼ premium grass seed can be used to patch any area of the yard right away. Just rake the affected area really well with a garden rake to remove the thatch and loosen the soil before applying the mixture and watering.
Keep in mind that new turf/sod is more susceptible to the effects of the nitrogen so you may need to deter your pet from using those freshly sodded areas until they are well established.
On top of the maintenance and repair aspect, a big part of the battle is prevention, made possible when you train your dog. There are a number of factors that contribute to how much nitrogen your pet produces and how their habits can affect the health of your grass. With the proper nutrition you can dilute the urine your dog produces so that it does not harm your green grass.
According to our expert, the main grass type in Edmonton and Alberta is Kentucky Bluegrass. This type of grass is the worst in terms of bouncing back after the turf has been damaged, so preventing damage should be your first priority.
Let’s look at a couple of factors that can contribute to lawn stains.
Your dog’s diet is a factor in how badly their urine damages the grass. Higher protein diets can lead to higher levels of nitrogen compounds being secreted in the urine, but don’t just focus on quantity.
The quality of those proteins will also play a role. Higher qu ality, fresher, and less processed animal proteins will create less by-product than those of lower quality. To learn more, check out Dog Nutritional Requirements.
Fresh, raw diets, for example, tend to produce less waste, due to increased digestibility. This means fewer and less severe lawn staining.
There are promising studies being done, in both animal and human medicine, to determine if the digestive system, specifically the large intestines, can be used as an alternative method for excreting urea and nitrogen compounds from the body.
The large intestine already excretes a small portion of the nitrogen compounds produced during digestion, but a method, colloquially known as nitrogen trapping, may increase the number of nitrogen compounds being filtered through the large intestine.
This is done using prebiotics and probiotics. The bacteria aid in removing nitrogen from the blood and filtering it through the digestive tract with their stool.
While this won’t completely eliminate urine stains from your lawn, it can contribute to a reduction in nitrogen in your dog’s urine.
Pre and probiotic supplements are available, and can easily be added to your pet’s normal diet. If you are looking to add a supplement into your pet’s diet, check out some of these brands:
Pre and Probiotics should always be used as directed. Increasing dosages may not give you the result that you are looking for, and in some cases can create digestive problems in some pets.
Male dogs vs. female dogs often present different severities of lawn staining. It’s not that one gender produces more nitrogen than the other, but because of the way they pee, females tend to leave more severe urine stains.
Because males, usually, lift their legs, their urine is more spread out over a larger area, while females typically squat, creating a puddle and heavily saturating a smaller area of grass.
This isn’t the case for all dogs, as each has its own unique bathroom habits, but it is more common to see larger and more damaged lawn spots with female dogs.
Keeping your pet hydrated is very important to their urinary health and digestion. Pets that eat mostly kibble or dry diets often do not drink enough water throughout the day to offset the dry matter they consume.
This leads to dehydration, even in their digestive system and urinary tract. Dark or very golden urine is a good indicator that your dog is dehydrated.
Moisture aids in digestion and helps dilute harsh digestive by-products like nitrogen in their pee, reducing the severity of lawn staining.
Fresh water should always be available to your pets, but additional moisture can be added through diet. Feeding fresh meats, raw bones, and fresh produce can increase their moisture and keep them hydrated.
Beyond these factors, there are some simple tricks you can try to help prevent lawn damage.
These tips may not be a perfect fix for everyone, but if you are looking for a simple home remedy to reduce lawn damage, these just might do the trick:
Diluting the area where your dog pees can reduce damage from their urine. By diluting the nitrogen (dilute the urine), you limit the burning effect that the nitrogen has on your grass.
Our local lawn care expert, William, recommended using a cup of water or the hose to dilute the area right after your dog pees. This could be a very effective method of reducing the burn to your lawn if done in a timely manner.
Designated Potty Area
Another great tip from William was to train your pet to use a small portion or select area of the yard to make it easier to manage. While you will have to be extra diligent with this patch of land, the rest of your lawn will remain healthy and vibrant.
Here are some products that can encourage your pet to use the designated potty area:
Simple Solution Pee Post
This post uses a simulated pheromone scent that tells your puppy to "go" here. Just push the stake into the ground, leaving only the cap showing.
To get your puppy started by taking him to the pee post every time you let him outside, and rewarding when he pees in the vicinity. Eventually, your puppy will build a habit of going to this area and the pee post will no longer be needed.
Simple Solution Puppy Attractant
Want to re-scent your pee post? The Simple Solutions Puppy Attractant uses the same pheromone that coats the Pee Post. Use this on a variety of surfaces, like pee pads, to teach your puppy to stick to one area of the house or yard.
Doggy Litter Box
You can also convert the “designated potty area” into a gravel or sandbox. This will require a little more training, but it an easy clean-up option and will completely protect your grass from further pet damage. Keep this option in mind, especially if you are a dog owner to small dogs
Lawn Care for Pets
Tried the home remedies but they just didn’t cut it? Well, here are a couple of products that will definitely help control your yellow lawn woes.
You may have heard of these weird magic rocks and thought, “there’s no way that’ll work!” Well, you’d be surprised how much they can help when used as directed.
It may seem mystical but it’s actually pretty simple. Dog Rocks are made from a naturally occurring paramagnetic igneous rock from Australia. These rocks naturally absorb nitrogen compounds and other impurities that are in your dog’s water, and our tap water.
By placing the rocks in your dog’s bowl or fountain, it will remove excess nitrogen from the water and allow your dog’s natural, healthy levels of nitrogen excretion to once again act as a fertilizer and help your lawn regrow.
I know, it seems to good to be true, right? Well, there are a few practices that need to be followed to get the maximum effect from Dog Rocks:
- 200g Dog Rocks (1 bag) work most efficiently in about 2 litres of water. Any more and they won’t be able to remove enough of the nitrogen.
- Before adding the rocks to your dog’s water, rinse the rocks to remove any sediment that may have collected in the bag.
- The rock works best when left sitting in the water for 6-8 hours, so it’s recommended that you top up your pet’s bowl in the evening before bed, and replace the water completely every few days.
- All water sources need to be treated, so if you have more than one bowl in your house, you need to all have a full pack of Dog Rocks in each. For pups that like to drink out of the toilet, keep those lids down.
- For larger dog’s and multi-pet households, you can add multiple packs of Dog Rocks in a larger container or bucket, and use that bucket to top up water dishes. Depending on the amount of water, this can either be less effective, or you may need many packs.
- Dog Rocks work effectively for approximately 2 months. After that they will be less absorbent and should be replaced.
One of the more desirable qualities of Dog Rocks is the fact that it is all natural and doesn’t alter your pet’s pH balance in any way. This product is safe to use all year round, so the big defrost at the end of winter won't reveal 3-6 months of concentrated lawn stains below the surface of the snow.
Most people see a noticeable difference in the occurrence of new spots within 3-5 weeks. Consistent use will soon produce a normal healthy lawn.
Naturvet Grass Saver
As nice as the Dog Rocks sounds, some pet owners are looking for something a little less onerous. Grass Savers are an edible treat that works to regulate your pet's pH levels.
That usually gets pet owners a little nervous, but fear not, the active ingredient is dl-Methionine, which is a format of the essential amino acid Methionine. This amino acid helps to maintain a healthy and appropriate pH balance in your pets urinary tract.
This reduces the burning effect that urine can have on grass. Grass Savers can be used all year round, and will not trigger urinary tract issues like some pH adjusting supplements on the market.
Some products that do have a significant impact on your pet’s urinary pH can create environments that allow bacteria and crystals to thrive, leading to potential urinary tract infections, blockages or even stones. Products that alter pH drastically are designed for seasonal use only, as opposed to all year round.
In the first two weeks of using this product, heavily water your lawn to help bleach out the yellow spots. After the initial two week period, you can reseed the damaged areas, as your dog’s urine will not create new ones.
All Naturvet products are backed with a money-back guarantee. If you are not satisfied with the results, the product can be returned for a full refund.
For easy feeding, Grass Savers come in chewable tablets, tasty wafers, or biscuits to further ease the treatment method for your pet. They think they are getting a treat, in reality, you are helping them and your lawn stay healthy.
Depending on the extent of the damage to your lawn, some or all of these methods may need to be applied to get your lawn back to its gorgeous green self again. Regardless of which method you try, your pet and your lawn will benefit from feeding a high-quality diet.
Which lawn treatment worked best for your pets? We’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions in the comments below!