Dog Urine killing the grass

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Oct 2001

Our female dog is ruining our lawn. Every time she urinates an ugly brown burn is the result a few days later. We cannot control where she goes all the time, although we have a side yard. Does anybody have experience with this. I was hoping for some kind of diet solution. Help!

I'm afraid a diet change won't save your grass. The acid in urine is what's killing your lawn, and you just can't eliminate that.. The best recourse is training your dog to go in a specific location. You do this by being vigilant. Watching when your dog pees and then telling her no! or whatever command you've used (we have trained our dogs on off!). A better way is to teach your dog a command for peeing, such as get busy! and then applying it to one place. This will mean leashing your dog up to piddle until she's trained. I used to do this with my dog the first thing in the morning. He'd wake me up to let him out, and instead of just opening the door for him to go in the back yard, I leashed him up and took him out front. I repeated the phrase get busy until he went. Then I gave him lots of praise. Then on walks, when he'd pee (even for marking purposes), I'd say, Good get busy! Once your dog is trained to the command, give her praise for going where you want her to go. Again, do this on leash. If she starts to go on your lawn, give her a quick jerk of the leash (known in training terms as a pop) and say no! or off! For the times you just can't leash her up, try balloons. Put a balloon in the area where you don't want her to go. She'll pop it and the sound will scare her away from the area (the downside of this is that she'll forever be afraid of balloons, so forget balloons at your kids' birthday parties). You can also try assorted products they have at pet stores to keep pets out of certain areas of your yard, but I'm not convinced they work. If all this is too much, at least pour some water over the area right after your dog does her thing to dilute the urine. That will help save your lawn. Gwynne

We had the same problem with our new grass we had installed last January. I did quite a bit research on the internet regarding it and came to the conclusion that all you can really do is dilute the urine with water as soon as possible after she urinates. This seemed impossible at first thought to us, but has actually been working out ok and the grass has recovered and is barely showing any brown spots anymore. What we do is follow our dog outside first thing in the morning, watch where he pees and dump a whole watering can of water at the spot. We don't do this any other times of the day, unless we happen to be outside and it is convenient to do so. Diluting this concentrated, first morning pee seems the critical one. Also, we are giving him a product called GreenUms. I purchased from Fosters and Smith. They are an all natural product that is supposed to dilute the pee. We really don't know if they are making a difference or not. I read that after about 1 year the grass should be established enough to handle the dog urine better. Hope this helps, it really made a difference for us. Michelle

I was told by a vet that diet does affect the amount of acid in dog's pee - that it's an indication of a diet too high in protein. At the time we had a bigger dog and were feeding her mainly canned food. We switched to mainly dry food and had much less of a problem. We now have smaller dogs eating only a (well-balanced ) dry food, because of allergies they have, and I've never seen any signs of damage to the grass. Initially we did train them as puppies to go in a dank corner of the garden, which they went on using mainly for pooping (that's the stuff I really object to having on the grass). Fiona

I hate to be the naysayer, but you should also know that even if you follow all the sage advice that was given, if your dog pees on your front lawn, all the other dogs in the neighborhood are doing it too. It's like their own version of posting to the internet or reading the newspaper. Water well, mow regularly, but don't deceive yourself. The dogs in my neighborhood LOVE the really nice lawns, and the ones that are well used. The only other thing you can do is fence, or have low shrubs facing the sidewalk that makes it inconvenient for the dogs (not guaranteed to work). My lawn is very well used, and though it doesn't appear any different (other than two different shades of green), I'd never lie down on it.

June 2007

I was reading through your web page and saw that you had cited acid in dog urine as the culprit for brown spots where dogs have urinated. This couldn't be further from the truth. The true reason is because of the high amount of nitrogen found in dog urine. In a lawn were no fertilizer has been applied, dog urine will increase plant growth and green-up the grass. The problem sometimes comes when your lawn has high nitrogen levels from fertilizer and the dog urinates. This would be an overdose of N and cause the turf to burn. It's a common misconception that acid in dog urine kills grass. The Truth is that dog urine can have a pH of 6.0-8.0(slightly acidic to slightly alkaline) which is no where near acidic enough to kill grass. True Dog urine spots will many times be brown in the middle and growing vigorously around the brown spot. If this isn't the case then you need to start looking for turf diseases such as;! brown patch, dollar spot, or possibly turf insects.
Scott F, Master of Science in Plant and Soil Science.