Pets are as much a part of our families as our kids and keeping them happy is important.

Do you know what makes for a happy dog? One of the best ways is by putting in a new lawn. Did you know that putting in grass has been shown to reduce ground temperatures by as much as 30 degrees? We continually see a trend for people to use rocks in their yards because they don’t like the perceived maintenance of a yard but in this day and age it is important to think about the environment.

Sod cleans the air and helps recharge our groundwater supplies. Turfgrass is one of nature’s finest and least expensive filters, and works to improve the environment. The front lawn of just 8 homes has the cooling effect of 70 tons of air conditioning. Just think how happy you and your pets would be to walk around during the summer months if everyone had grass in their yard.

Stewy the dog

One of the most common questions we receive is,“I want to put in a new lawn. What is the best way to manage dog spots in the lawn?” This is a little bit tricky because dogs have a tendency to be territorial and like to use the same location over and over for the bathroom. One of the best ways to solve this problem is to train your pet for a period of time where to use the bathroom. While this is not always convenient it is the best approach. Most of us just like to open up the door and let the dog go outside but I would strongly urge you to put your dog on a leash and walk her/her over to the area you would like them to go. The best place for them to go would be in the rocks, mulch, or anywhere away from your plants and lawn that you deem acceptable. Once you have your dog trained for a month or two they will usually go right to that spot and continue to use it to eliminate waste. I haven’t used the scented posts or hydrants to try and attract dogs to a certain area so they may be worth a try but training is typically going to yield the best results.

So why is pet urine so damaging to our lawns? Is this an inherently a female dog issue or does it affect males as well? Most people assume that female dogs are the biggest offenders of killing grass but males can cause the same amount of damage. The damage comes from your pet’s nitrogen concentration in their urine. We often see female dogs squat to use the bathroom which causes excess nitrogen to go in one area while many male dogs will lift their leg and go in several areas. When the male dog moves around and urinates on several objects it lessens the amount of nitrogen that hits the ground in one dose. One of the characteristic signs of pet damage from urine is the yellow/brown spot with a green ring around it. When your dog urinates it has the same effect as spilling a bag of fertilizer on your lawn. The spot immediately below your dog receives the most damage and the green ring around the spot is diluted nitrogen from your dog’s waste allowing it to be used like a fertilizer. With that being said one of the best ways to reduce damage to your lawn is by diluting the nitrogen in your pet’s urine. Outside of standing on top of your dog all day telling him/her to drink more water you can water down the area after they go or make sure they use a designated location for the bathroom. This will help dilute the urine and keep the burn to a minimum.

For those of you that already have pet damage throughout your lawn rest assured that it can be fixed but this is not an overnight fix. During the winter months you can mix up sand and seed and fill in the bad areas similar to how a golf course fills in a divot on the driving range or tees. You simply fill up the bad area, level it off and let the seed germinate on its own. During the summer this is much different because most people are using a hybrid bermudagrass or paspalum which cannot be grown from seed. These types of grasses are susceptible to pet damage but they also fill back in quickly with the proper lawn nutrition. You want to rake up the dead grass and fill in the area with straight sand. Washed mortar sand will suffice in this instance. If you have a higher grade sand that will work as well. Fill in the bad area with sand and the grass will grow back through the soil via its rhizomes and laterally from stolons. Similar to how you see your bermudagrass creep into your rock beds it will creep into the open areas. If you don’t rake up the ground first you’re not giving the grass an opportunity to grow and it will take 2-3x as long to replenish itself.

Unfortunately there is no magic formula on the market that will keep your lawn from being damaged from dog urine but spending a few minutes a day training your dog on where to go to the bathroom can ensure you have a beautiful lawn year round. Don’t let having a dog be a deterrent for you to put in a new lawn because they love having a place to run and play.

Let’s keep it real.

Until next time,