As we were doing the weekly lawn treasure round-up yesterday in the back yard (dog owners know what I’m talking about!), I realized that I have not addressed this issue in the blog yet. Whether you have a dog or not, if you care about your lawn, you know the effects of dog urine or feces on grass – dead spots.
You know that your lawn (and every plant) needs nitrogen to grow, but too much nitrogen can cause a “burning” effect, killing the grass. Dog waste has a lot of nitrogen (as does the waste of most carnivorous mammals, actually).
Number 1 – When dogs repeatedly mark the same spot, or if a dog releases a lot of urine onto the same spot, the nitrogen content can be too much for the grass plants to handle. On the other hand, when dogs mark several different areas with small amounts of urine, it can actually have a fertilizing effect.
Number 2 – Nitrogen from dog poop is released much more slowly, so the longer you leave it on your lawn, the more likely it will be to negatively impact your grass. Grass underneath is also not exposed to sunlight or air, which can also contribute to dead spots on the lawn.
So what can you do about it?
- If you don’t care about dead spots on the lawn, you don’t have to do anything.
- If you don’t have a dog and don’t want dead spots, you can put up a sign to deter dog owners from allowing pets on your lawn. Fences also work for this purpose.
- If you do own a dog, you can make an effort to walk it to an appropriate area that is not your lawn (and you’ll both get some exercise!).
- As a dog owner, I know that point 3 is not always feasible. Another solution is to train your dog to go in an acceptable area on your property.
- If your dog does go in the yard, you can water the area to dilute the nitrogen content. Somebody actually did a study on this and determined that if you water the area within 8 hours, the urine will have a fertilizing effect and won’t burn the lawn. However, if you water after 12 hours, the likelihood of grass burning increases with time.
Bonus Myth Buster – A lot of people think that female dogs are the major contributor to dead spots on the lawn because there is a difference in their urine. The real reason is that female dogs tend to squat more often than male dogs, who tend to mark several different areas. Female dogs simply deposit more nitrogen because they are releasing more urine in one small area.
Much of this information was pulled from an article provided by the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension. If you want even more detail about this issue, check out the full article. The photo is courtesy of icanhascheezburger.com, where you can find several other funny dog/lawn photos.