Dear Porky and Buddy,
I don’t know whether this is a pet question or a gardening question but now that spring is “almost” here, I can see the spots on my lawn where my dogs go out to pee and boy are they ugly!
And they will stay ugly all summer and get worse.
Is there anything I can do to prevent those spots or at least deal with them better.
I know my dogs have to pee, but this is getting ridiculous.
Remember this. We started keeping dogs as pets millennia before we started creating “lawns.”
Really, except for ludicrously rich people, lawns as we know them just did not exist until the 20th century.
And dogs have always peed wherever.
That said, we love our lawns, and yes, there are some practical steps you can take to make this problem not exactly go away but maybe become less of an annoyance.
First the science.
Those burnt looking spots are the result of the nitrogen in dog urine.
Although nitrogen is a necessary nutrient in plant growth, too much of it will kill plants.
There is a common misperception that the spots are caused by more acidic urine but that has been disproved.
That is why the problem is more pronounced with female dogs who squat to pee all in one spot, as opposed to male dogs who lift their legs and sprinkle it over a wider area.
The aesthetics of dog urine stains on your yard art is another topic altogether.
Now the gardening.
Some common lawn grasses are much more prone to excess nitrogen damage than others, the worst culprit in our area being Kentucky bluegrass.
Switch to perennial rye grasses and fescues, which are generally easier to maintain anyway, and you will be better off.
What you want is a lawn, not a golf course.
And don’t over fertilize your lawn.
Get a soil test done and use only what you really need.
Most gardening experts will tell you that lawns are frequently highly over-fertilized.
That isn’t good for your wallet, the groundwater, or the lawn.
For burns that you don’t catch in time, once you flush the area thoroughly, you should be able to re-seed or apply sod to repair the damage.
Research shows that if you can flush the urine away within 8 hours, you can minimize or eliminate the damage.
So once daily watering won’t help much overall, but having a watering can handy and using it when you see your dog in action will help a lot.
Applying things like lime to the spots is probably useless.
Your lawn may well need lime occasionally, but not because of urine burns.
What you have to do is reduce the excess nitrogen, by either removing it or preventing it.
Which brings us to pet care.
Prevention is always the best solution.
And pet training is always the best prevention.
Establish an area in your yard that you can cover with gravel or some other fast draining material.
Put up a fake hydrant.
Take the time to walk your dogs to that area first thing in the morning and whenever they go out so that they get used to that spot to pee in.
If you figure out how, pour a cup of dog urine in the area first so it will have the right smell.
Dogs are creatures of habit.
You have to substitute this habit for the front yard habit.
It may take some time, but think of it as extra bonding time with your dogs.
Beware of some supplements that are sold with the claim that they will prevent those dead spots in your grass.
They don’t work and some of them can cause health problems much more serious than an ugly lawn.
Don’t use anything like that without consulting with your vet first.
Your vet may also be able to suggest pet foods that contain more easily digestible protein that will result in less excess nitrogen in the urine.
There is a really informative article about all of this at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/turf/dog_lawn_problems.html.
Dr Steve Thompson at Purdue University actually researched this issue and his findings are both interesting and practical.
So good luck, it looks like you have some dog walking and lawn work to do.
Speaking of lawns, why not you go to the Oliver Paine Greenhouses, at 125 South Granby Road, Fulton, May 20 and 21 to buy your summer plants from their huge selection of annuals and perennials.
If you take our Spring Fundraiser flyer with you, 15% of your plant purchases will be donated to the Oswego County Humane Society.
Download your flyer from www.oswegohumane.org or call the office for a copy.
You can never have too many flowers.
The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County.
Located at 29 W. Seneca St., Oswego, NY.
Email: [email protected]
Because People and Pets Are Good for Each Other.