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Why Dog Pee Kills Grass: Understanding and Preventing Lawn Damage

Dog peeing in grass

Your lawn is your dog's bathroom, but that doesn't mean you have to put up with brown and yellow patches. Dog life doesn’t mean you're doomed to dead grass and ugly lawns. There are ways to prevent dog pee from discoloring your grass, and no, the answer isn't to let your dog pee in your neighbor's yard.

Why Does Dog Pee Ruin Your Grass?

Dog pee contains urea and nitrates that can ultimately damage your grass. There’s some irony here since many lawn fertilizers and similar products contain nitrogen. If the grass needs nitrogen to grow and stay healthy, why does dog urine, which contains nitrogen, hurt it?

It’s because when your dog pees on the grass, it increases the nitrogen in that spot. Plus, consider that dogs tend to pee in the same place, and it’s easy to see how that area gets an overdose of nitrogen.

Some people assume that the issue is that dog pee is acidic and burns the grass. But the brown spots you see aren’t burn marks. The real issue is that excessive nitrogen interferes with moisture absorption. Therefore, in these spots with high nitrogen content, the grass gets dehydrated, dies, and you end up with an ugly brown spot. 

Other potential contributing factors that make your dog’s pee deadly to your grass are any medications, salt, and other elements that could be in your pup’s urine. But the primary reason for the dead patches in the grass is the oversaturation of nitrogen.

Not All Dog Pee Is the Same

Maybe you’ve been a proud pup parent for a while and have not had to worry much about dog pee spots on your lawn. But you adopt a dog and now there are brown patches all over your grass. What gives?

Well, not all dog pee is created equal. Some dogs can have higher concentrations of urea in their urine. Your pups could have different drinking habits and one is more hydrated than the other.

Your dog’s diet, metabolism, health, medications, and pee habits all affect their urine. In some cases, it appears that males may cause less damage to grass than females. Why? Males lift their legs and try to pee on things like tree stumps, fire hydrants, fence posts, etc. Females squat and pee in one spot, leaving a higher concentration of urine in that small area.

Dog Pee Killing Your Lawn? 8 Ways to Keep Your Grass Green

The best way to help your lawn is to prevent brown patches. Once your dog damages the lawn, bringing it back without planting new grass is much trickier. Therefore, try various methods to protect your grass from your pup’s pee so you hopefully won’t need to deal with dead spots at all.

1. Limit Fertilizer in Your Dog’s Pee Spots

Dogs are creatures of habit, especially when it comes to their potty preferences. Most likely, your dog has a few favorite spots where they like to pee in the yard. Observe where these areas are and limit using fertilizer in these spots so they don’t become overdosed with nitrogen.

2. Dilute Your Dog’s Pee

Drinking plenty of water is essential for your dog’s health and prevents dangerous issues like heat exhaustion and dehydration. But when your pup drinks lots of water it can also help your lawn. 

When your dog drinks enough water it dilutes the nitrogen in their urine, so less ends up on your grass. Therefore, keep a large dog bowl full of fresh water at all times and ensure your dog has access to it. 

You can also keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in your yard. After your pup pees, pour or spray water onto the spot to help dilute the urine and reduce the likelihood of brown patches forming.

3. Create a Designated Pee Zone for Your Pup

If possible, train your dog to pee in one spot in the yard and make that their pee zone. You can make it cute with artificial potty turf and a fire hydrant post or similar accessories. These visual markers also help your dog and others identify the spot.

4. Use a Water Additive or Supplement

There are products like Dog Rocks that claim to lower the amount of nitrates in your dog’s urine when placed in their water bowl. Alternatively, there are supplements, like Grass Guard, that reduce the negative effects of your dog’s pee on your grass. Before trying anything like this, it’s a good idea to run it by your vet.

5. Try a Product That Repairs Grass

If the damage is done, before you plant new grass you can attempt to repair the grass with products designed specifically to repair dog pee spots. You can find these products at home improvement and garden stores and online. However, if the damage is extensive, your only choice might be to plant new grass.

6. Plant New Grass

When your only option is planting new grass, choose urine-resistant grass types for your dog’s pee spots. Some good examples are Fescue Grass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass, Zoysia Grass, and Bermuda Grass. 

7. Consider Things That Could Make Urine Damage Worse

Be aware of things that could make your lawn more susceptible to damage from dog urine. Pay attention to the type and amount of fertilizer you use. You’ll likely notice that dog pee causes more damage in the weeks following fertilization. 

A small lawn is often more prone to brown spots from urine than a larger one. Likewise, a newer lawn is still developing a healthy root system, and therefore, may be more susceptible to forming brown spots from dog pee.

How much does your dog pee in these spots? Adjust your mediation efforts accordingly. For example, if your dog pees a river, you’ll want to pour more water into the area to counteract the urine.

The temperature can also affect how dog urine affects your lawn. Your lawn dries out more quickly in the dryer, hotter summer months. If it's already struggling to stay hydrated, excessive nitrogen will make things worse. Remember, too much nitrogen inhibits moisture absorption. Therefore, in the summer or whenever the weather is hot and dry, water your grass sufficiently.

8. Take Your Dog on More Walks

Exercise is good for you and your dog. So grab the leash and hit the trails, the sidewalk or wherever you like to take a stroll with your pup. Visit the local dog park and let Fido frolic and play. 

Your dog will have a blast blowing off steam, but they’ll also have more opportunities for bathroom breaks that don’t involve your grass. (And, no, this doesn’t mean bringing your pup to your neighbor’s yard every time it’s potty time.)

Dog laying in grass

Make Dog Pee Patches a Thing of the Past

These tips may not eliminate brown patches in your grass forever, but they’ll certainly help prevent them. Limit your dog’s pee spots by training them to use a particular area and keep water handy to dilute urine. 

Avoid overfertilizing in these areas. Talk to your vet about supplements or water additives that could potentially adjust your pup’s urine so it doesn’t kill your grass.

Check out the Neater Pets blog for more helpful tips and resources on living life as a pet parent.



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