The grass is always greener

The grass is always greener, until you get a puppy.

I am constantly asked the question “Why does my dog destroy my grass?”. Dogs, especially females or males that squat instead of lifting a leg, can do great damage to a lawn, but there are ways to reduce the issue.

The first and best idea is to make an area that the dog will use as its bathroom. Many people will make a bed of Pea Gravel (yes, Pea, not Pee, but I get the irony) and train the dog to run to that area once going outside to have its tinkle, away from the precious grass. Giving the dog a high value treat for doing its business off the lawn re-enforces this, and can create behaviour that will save your lawn for the entire life of the dog. It also makes it easy to sanitize, simply hosing that area down regularly should keep it clean, and there are enzyme products that you can use if an odour builds up (don’t use cleaning solutions, use an enzyme that breaks down the urine, not just cover it up).

If you can’t get the dog trained in this matter, either because they are too old or just don’t follow directions well, preparing your lawn for being pee’d on is the next best step. Healthy, well balanced soils can handle the urine without creating a toxic area for grass. Adding in an agricultural lime product during your fertilizing or even bone meal can “sweeten” the soil, making it more resilient to the acidic urine components that cause the burn. Sometimes, even just a good fertilizer will be enough to strengthen the grass to survive the indignity of being nature’s bathroom.

A healthy lawn is more resilient, but even more so, a well watered lawn dilutes the urine components, reducing the ability for them to damage the lawn. This can be as simple as having a watering can beside the back door and when the dog goes out to pee, follow it and douse the area with a full can of water, and then go refill out of the rainbarrel, ready for the next bathroom visit.

One of the best ways to reduce the burn and at the same time, improve your dog’s health, is proper hydration. My old football coach used to say, “If you’re not peeing clear, you’re not drinking enough water”. With most dogs eating dry food, it can be hard for them to maintain proper hydration. Not only do they need to drink enough water for their own use, they have to drink water to rehydrate the dry food and the fibre it contains. Those poops you pick up contain a lot of water that did not go into the dog in their food, so that can take away from urine volume, and make a concentrated onslaught on your lawn. Adding water to your dog’s dry food can help keep them hydrated, or using an already hydrated canned or raw food.

There are miracle products offered in retail stores, but personally, I’m not a believer in the science of them. Rocks that reduce the ammonia/nitrite and nitrate in the dog’s drinking water only work if there are those pollutants in your drinking water. In my opinion, those items are removed much better by using RO (reverse osmosis that comes out of those machines in the grocery store or you buy in bottle) water, and it is much cheaper and healthier to use RO for drinking water. Sorry, just the science guy in me.

Some people swear by adding in cranberry powder or apple cider vinegar, and if that works for your dog, awesome. There are also products you can dose your dog with that are designed to change the urine pH as well, but I am cautious about such products. My first experience with one ended up with a dog having expensive surgery to remove bladder stones, something the customer said was not worth saving a few yellow patches in the lawn. Since discontinuing that product, the dog has been stone free for 12 years. So I’m in the “not worth the risk” zone in recommending those products, especially when just training your dog or watering your lawn is so effective.

Whatever method you choose for keeping your lawn green, doing a little research can go a long way to being successful. We want our lawn to look lovely, but not at the expense of our pet’s health.

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