Lawn dog damage appears more regularly in the spring than at any other time of year.
In short, dog urine and feces are wrecking lawns leaving lots of round brown patches on your lawn when the snow disappears.
The main problem we’re dealing with is the over-abundance of nitrogen in the animal waste. This happens because the kidneys remove nitrogen from the body, moving it to the urine for disposal. Both dogs and cats (these brown patches are also cat related although dogs – being larger – are the bigger problem) are carnivores and with their high metabolic need for protein, there’s an accompanying high nitrogen disposal problem leading to “dog damage”.
And, just for the record, feces are not the main problem here. Feces decompose relatively slowly making their nitrogen available over a longer period of time.
Lawn Dog Damage Is Caused By…
It’s the urine that does the lawn dog damage because it is absorbed immediately by the soil and made available to plant roots in instantly large quantities. For reasons of nature, female dogs are the main culprit in lawn dog damage problems; females tend to squat to urinate while male dogs tend to lift their hind legs.
This burst of female urine leaves a typical dead patch in the centre but a thriving ring around the dead patch where the nitrogen was not strong enough to burn the grass but adequate to give the grass a burst of growing energy.
How To Stop It
And the number one question is “how do we stop it or deal with lawn dog damage once we have it?” Stopping dogs from urinating on your lawn is as simple as putting up a fence.
Deterrents such as lemon-scented tablets and such simply do not work on dogs. We tried them once and the dogs actually seemed to prefer those fine smelling areas to their normal lawns. It seems that dogs want to “overmark” these strange scents with their own.
Motion detector water sprinklers work well on cats and some dogs as well as postmen and visitors. You’ll find all manner of training devices and methods by browsing dog training books in the library or Internet that will help you train your animal to use a small area of your property. With “visiting” animals, you’re on your own.
One thing I should caution you about is a report from Dr. Steve Thompson DVM who pointed out that because it is the volume of nitrogen being eliminated that is the important factor, modifying the dog’s diet to alter the pH of the urine does absolutely nothing for the problem. It is not the pH that is the problem but rather the amount of nitrogen being applied.
There are also a wide range of health problems inadvertently created when you start messing about trying to change the pH of urine by adding things like tomato juice to your pet’s diet.
Step One: Repair Damage By Raking
The first step for gardeners to repair this lawn dog damage is to rake the lawn. A good spring raking does the gardener good because it wakes up all those sleeping gardening muscles and it does the lawn good because it removes the debris of winter along with the animal waste. Bag and dispose of the debris.
Do not compost animal feces as they – particularly dog – can contain roundworm eggs that are quite resistant to breakdown in compost piles. Removing the feces will also reduce the fly problem and any disease concerns related to salmonella or worms that can infect children playing on the lawn.
Step Two – Sprinkle Grass Seed
The second step is to sprinkle grass seed over the area. Apply enough seed so that each individual seed is just touching another seed but not so thick that they are overlapping. Remember this is not rocket science and a bit too much or a bit too little is not cause for a lawsuit. If you have to err, do so on the side of a too many seeds.
Cover the seeds with a quarter inch of compost and water them immediately after sowing. It is important to be careful with the watering. We want to soak the lawn dog damage area but we don’t want to overwater it so that the compost washes away. Use a sprinkler with its gentle rain-like effect rather than the Niagara Falls effect of a hose. Water daily until the grass is at least an inch tall.
Once the grass is growing strongly, you can stop watering and let the spot fill in to the regular height of the rest of the lawn. If you were really being conscientious, you would allow this newly sown grass to grow to four inches tall before you mow. This allows the roots to develop added strength. Unfortunately, I never seem to be able to do that; I just mow the entire lawn because I tend to forget to do it properly.
Step By Step Directions For A Sustainable Green Lawn
If You See The Dog Using Your Lawn – Instant Flush
The one thought I’ll leave you with is that should you see a dog urinating on your lawn this summer, the way to avoid lawn dog damage is to instantly soak that area with clear water. This extra water dilutes the urine and nitrogen, preventing the grass from being burned. As long as you water within an hour of the urination, you’ll be fine. If you miss that hour of opportunity, you can look forward to another brown spot.
Female lawn dog damage is the biggest problem you’ll see this spring in your front grass. Now you know what to do.