It’s spring time in Idaho and the grass is starting to recover from a very hard winter.  If you have some brown or dead spots in the yard and you have pets, there may be a correlation.  Dogs have a tendency to damage lawns because of the concentration of nitrogen in their waste and because of the wear caused by their traffic patterns.

Dogs have a tendency to create ruts in the lawn through their repeated traffic patterns.   They may like to run up and down the borders of the yard, especially if there are people or dogs on the other side of a fence that they can bark or chase after.  Dogs are also creatures of habit and tend to walk the same path to and from the house. The bigger your dog, the more noticeable these traffic patterns can be. 

One of the problems with trying to fix the damage caused by pet traffic patterns is that if the behavior isn’t changed, they will just eventually wear down any new grass as well.  You can try ways to change their behavior of repeatedly tracking through the same areas of the grass which may be easier said than done.  Some pet owners have made changes in their landscaping that either aids in changing their behavior such as invisible fence collars or have accommodated the dogs behavior and simply added landscaping such as planned pathways for the dog’s use or hedges and fences that screen off the areas that they like to patrol.

The most common damage that dogs cause to grass is lawn burn.  Diagnosing Lawn burn is easier when the grass is green and actively growing.  You will note somewhat round brown or dead looking spots that can be a few inches to a foot or more wide depending on the dogs size and routine.  Occasionally there will be a green ring of taller grass growing around the perimeter of the dead spot because the nitrogen concentration is acting more like a fertilizer around the edges where the waste concentrations are less damaging.

It’s important to note that a stressed lawn will show more damage than a healthy lawn.  When a lawn is stressed from disease or drought the roots will absorb more of the urine and thus too much nitrogen.  

There are many ways to decrease the damage from your dogs.   You can spray water over the spot where they have eliminated their waste to water it down.  This means you have to be extra diligent in watching your dog when they are “taking care of business”.  You could encourage your pet to drink more water which would dilute the urine.  You can also do some research on pet supplements and dog food that are formulated to decrease the strength of the nitrogen output.

It is possible to train your dog to only relieve themselves in a certain section of the lawn with the understanding that you are sacrificing a little lawn for the sake of the pet you love.  Some people have even trained their pets to use a small section of gravel rather than the grass.  You could also choose to take your dog on walks so that they can relieve themselves elsewhere.  If you choose this option, please respect your neighbors’ yards and always carry a bag to collect and remove waste.

If you do have lawn burn there are some steps you can take to repair the damage.  For an instant fix try laying sod over the damaged area, making sure that the sod is the same mix of grass as the current grass.  You can also reseed your lawn but this needs to be done in the appropriate seasons depending on the grass type you have and the area you live in.  If you want more information, check out our April 21, 2017 blog post on Overseeding.  Keep in mind that any fix might be temporary if your dog continues with the same behaviors.

We know that most people will choose their pet over a perfect lawn.  But there are steps you can take to achieve a beautiful healthy lawn as well as enjoy your pets.  if you would like assistance on changing your landscape or repairing you lawn, give us a call for a free estimate, 208-884-8986.

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