People love their pets, and they also love their lawns and gardens. Unfortunately, pets and lawns do not always go well together which can be very frustrating. What kind of damage do pets do to lawns? Are there any things homeowners can do to mitigate that damage?

Types of Lawn Damage

All pets that dig and urinate can cause turf damage or die off, but dogs are usually the culprits of large scale grass damage. They are outside more often, are larger than cats, and dig because they are bored. Of all dogs, puppies and female dogs are more likely to cause damage with their urine because they squat and urinate in one spot whereas male dogs mark their territory hither and yon on every low hanging twig.

What damage does their urine cause? It dumps concentrated nitrogen and soluble salts on the grass, burning the spot of contact and causing a “greening up” effect on the grass immediately surrounding that spot. Lawns of houses with dogs will have a polka-dot appearance of burned spots and areas. In regions where rain is frequent, the damage will be less. Urine does the most damage in places where the soil is dry and during times when the grass is dormant.

Solid waste (or dog poo) also adds nitrogen to the soil, but it breaks down and is absorbed at a much slower rate. It causes more damage by covering up turf and smothering it. Dogs also dig up turf and cause unsightly holes in the lawn.

Preventing Damage to your Lawn

Before you take action, make sure that the damage in your lawn is actually caused by your pet. Some of the dead spots in your lawn may be caused by pests or disease. A professional lawn care company can help you if that is the case. If you’ve determined that Fido is indeed the culprit, the main thing you can do to preserve your beautiful lawn is limit his access to your grass. Practical steps you can take would include:

  • Picking up any dog poo (before it can smother your grass) and disposing of it in the garbage
  • Training your dog to play, dig, and do his business in one area of the yard only
  • Walking your dog instead of leaving him in the backyard
  • Planting a durable turf variety
  • Encouraging the health of your turf grass by fertilizing it, irrigating it, mowing it with a high mowing height, and reseeding it as necessary

Some people believe that with a modified diet, pets will produce urine that has lower nitrogen content and will be less damaging to grass. This is not proven, and you should never tinker with your dog’s food without consulting a veterinarian.

It’s also important to remember that while pets do damage lawns, they also give a lot of joy and happiness to their owners. You can take preventative measures and get the advice or help of lawn care professionals, but part of the solution is making peace with the idea that, if you have pets, your lawn may not be picture perfect in its entirety – and that’s okay.