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Is My Dog's Urine Killing My Lawn?

by Dawn West, All About Lawns Columnist

Owning a dog while maintaining a beautiful lawn can sometimes present problems. When your dog does his/her duty (urinates) on the lawn, they can sometimes cause lawn burn and dead spots where they urinated. If you notice these spots were your dog urinates, then you know what we're talking about. However, it should be pointed out that if these spots are NOT where your dog urinates, then you could have a lawn disease instead! So make sure you follow your dog's habits before you begin to treat your lawn.
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Dog urine causes dead patches and lawn burn due to the high levels of nitrogen that is released into the lawn through the urine. As we know from the section on fertilizing, nitrogen is actually a lawn-growth stimulant that encourages lawn growth when properly applied as a fertilizer. The problem presented with dog urine is that since most dogs urinate in one spot, then will introduce large amounts of liquid nitrogen (urine) to that spot thereby causing a burning reaction and even a dead-spot in the lawn. Often times, the effected spot will show vigorous grass growth around the spot due to the nitrogen levels that stimulate growth around the edges. Since larger dogs usually produce larger amounts of urine, there is a direct correlation between the size of your dog and the changes of developing lawn burn and dead spots in your lawn through urination.

Solving the Problem

  1. Saturate the urinated areas (spots) with water. The best way to help prevent urine burns and dead spots is to saturate the spots with water. This will allow the excess nitrogen to leach or dilute through the lawn and reducing the concentration in one area. It is usually best to treat the areas up to 9 hours after urination and to apply at least three-time the amount of water to urine to the area.
  2. Repair or replace the effected spot. As we know from the section on planting, dead spots can either be over-seeded or totally replaced with new seed or sod. If you have a warm-season grass, it will generally repair itself over time through the spreading of stilons and rhizomes over the effected area.
  3. Replant with a more urine-resistant grass. The most urine-resistant grasses tend to be Perennial Ryegrasses and Fescues. The worst urine-resistant grasses tend to be Kentucky Bluegrass and Bermuda. If you have a number of dogs and/or confine them to small areas of the yard, then you may want to consider re-planting with one of the more urine-resistant grasses.
  4. Train your dog to urinate in certain areas. If you have the time and location of your yard to designate as a "urinating spot", you can simply use an alterative ground covering on that spot such as a mulch. To help your dog utilize this spot, you can try moving his/her feces and/or poor their urine over the spot until they learn to associate the smell with the spot.

About the Author
Dawn West B.A. holds a B.A. in English from Harvard University and teaches writing at Oregon State University.

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