We people get nothing but unconditional love from our dogs, but our lawns - not so much! Everyone likes to have green and healthy grass to play on during the warmer months, but it can be a real challenge to have a great looking lawn when a pet's potty habits wreak havoc on even our best landscaping efforts!
Urine burn on your lawn is caused by the chemistry of your pet's urine. Without subjecting you to Chemistry 101 (who wants to go back there?), dog pee contains a varying amount of concentrated nitrogen resulting from protein digestion and the presence of compounds in your pet's drinking water. But wait, you say, "nitrogen is a key component of the fertilizer I buy to apply to my lawn!" While your assertion would be 100% true, too much nitrogen delivered in a rapid burst kills the grass in the center of the pee spot (which is especially true for larger and female dogs). The more dilute concentration of nitrogen on the outside of the spot is something the grass can handle - and even enjoys - thus giving the "green ring" around the center clump of dead grass. When we apply our own fertilizer to our lawn, and then your dog adds to the fertilizer load in concentrated blasts, the damaging effect on the lawn can be even greater. It's a classic case of "too much of a good thing!"
Consistent damage to your lawn from dog urine can become both unsightly and costly to repair, but there are some proven ways to reduce or even entirely eliminate the issue!
1) Train your pet to eliminate in a specific area in the yard. This is a method I use with all of my dogs because it costs little to set up and does not require any changes to your dog's diet. First, designate an area of your yard that is the "target" area for your pet to pee in. I use river, or "pea" (no pun intended) gravel in my dog run area, because it gives your dog a visual and textural reminder of where the pee zone is. A flower bed substrate like mulch or bark (again, no pun intended) works fine, as well. The area should be at least big enough for your dog to "circle around" and squat in. Erring on the larger size is better than too small. Male dogs might like something "vertical" to be placed in the area, too, for more fun and target practice while lifting their leg (my pee zone happens to be next to a fence, which my doq Quincy likes)!
Start out by taking your puppy or older dog on a leash to the designated area. Softly repeat a command phrase like, "hurry up" or "go potty" until your dog eliminates in the proper spot. Once they do, give them a ton of praise and an occasional treat. Your dog will need to be supervised on their potty breaks for at least a few weeks until they get into the new routine. Once they are trained to a particular spot, you can walk out a few steps with them off leash to see that they go to the proper area and reinforce them with praise when they do!
2) Increase your pet's water intake. If you can't train your pet to pee in a specific, "safe zone," try to increase the content and quality of water that your dog drinks. There is some debate as to whether the nitrogen content or the pH of pet urine is the "killer" ingredient that does the most damage to your lawn. In either case, increasing the amount of water your pet drinks will dilute their urine to a greater extent and make it easier for your grass to handle the pee (especially if you water on a daily basis).
ALWAYS have cool, clean water available for your pet to drink, especially in the warmer months. For some pets, adding "wet" food in the form of canned or raw food can significantly increase the quantity of water in their system. A pet fountain, that moves and filters water, can also tempt some pets to drink more liberally.
A growing number of our customers have also found success with "Dog Rocks," a product made from a special type of rock mined in Australia that sucks up nitrogen from tap water that can add to the nitrogen load of the urine and increase lawn damage.
3) Modify or supplement the diet. If all else fails, changing your pet's diet to a better quality food or adding a supplement might be your best bet to prevent lawn problems. Higher quality foods contain better protein sources, like real meat, that are far more digestible than cheaper proteins derived from filler grains like corn, wheat or soy. If more protein sticks in the dog during the digestive process, less damaging nitrogen waste products end up in your pet's urine.
There are also a number of supplements available that you can offer your pet to digest nitrogen and bind it up in the urine. Grass Guard liver flavor chewables for dogs contain a unique blend of natural probiotics, digestive enzymes, amino acids and botanicals to help prevent lawn burn and yellow spots on grass. However, the success of a supplement may vary from one pet to another and consistent use is required to offer your lawn continuing protection.
Take heart! With these approaches to managing pet urine burn, you don't have to wince every time you let your dog out to potty. If you have had success with any of these methods or have one of your own, offer up your comments below!