Few dog owners have pristine and manicured lawns unless their pets don’t spend much time in the yard. This isn’t because they don’t care about their home’s curb appeal. But the culprit is usually the adorable and playful canine.
Grass is excellent for dogs. It has a nice texture, is fun for your dog to play on and dig up, and is a comfortable place for Spot to relieve himself.
While all of this is great for a dog, it can be a nightmare for the owner. It’s tough to train your dog to go against his nature but you can introduce more dog-friendly and hardier grass species to keep your lawn looking in tip-top shape. So I am going to run you through the best grass for dogs, and offer some tips for lawn maintenance too!
- Do I Need Special Grass for My Dog?
- How Your Dog Can Destroy Your Lawn
- Characteristics Of Dog-Proof Grass
- Top 6 Dog-Friendly Grasses
- Tips for Maintaining Your Lawn With Dogs
- How Do I Fix Dog Lawn Damage?
- Final Thoughts On Creating a Dog-Friendly Lawn
Do I Need Special Grass for My Dog?
You don’t need special grass if you don’t mind a spotty lawn. But replacing regular turf grass with tougher varieties can help your lawn hold up to Fido’s wear and tear. Here are a few things your dog can do to your lawn, and we’ll also give tips on how to counter each of these behaviors a bit later.
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How Your Dog Can Destroy Your Lawn
Dogs like to dig, and that’s a fact. It’s a very difficult behavior to correct and, in my experience, it’s best to tamper and contain it rather than eliminate it. Some dogs are more prone to digging than others. Regardless of if your dog is an avid digger or just the occasional pawer, this behavior can really do a number on your grass.
Yes, something as natural as peeing can destroy your lawn! This is especially true if your dog prefers going in the same spot each day. It’s less of an issue if your pooch likes to mark all around the garden, but doing it on a specific location time and time again will degrade the grass blades, and leave a yellow spot or a bare patch.
Running and Playing
It’s really looking like dogs and perfect lawns don’t go together if even simple acts like running and playing can ruin your grass. The aftermath of running and playing is similar to digging — just less extreme. Your dog’s nails and dew claws will crush the grass and loosen the dirt, which could impact the healthy growth of the grass.
Lastly, number two can also hurt your garden. Dog poop contains harmful bacteria and germs that do no favors for grass, which is why it’s important to pick them up right away.
Characteristics Of Dog-Proof Grass
There are a few qualities to look for when you’re perusing around the home improvement store for more robust grass. Don’t worry if you’re not a green thumb and don’t know where to start, because I’ve recommended some specific turf varieties below!
Hardy and Deep Roots
The roots of the grass are the first things to look at. You want grass that has deep roots. The deeper reach the root system has, the less likely your dog’s activities will damage it. Wear and tear may still happen over time as bacteria from poop and nitrate salts from pee seeps down but grass with deep roots is generally more durable.
Fast Growth Rate
You want the grass to grow quickly to recover from potential damage. If you have bare patches or dead grass, you want the grass to grow quickly to cover up the bald spots. You will find your lawn recovers from damage and wear much faster this way.
A Good Match for Your Climate
Not every dog-friendly grass species will be a good match for where you live. It’s crucial to find grass that will thrive in your climate. If you sod your lawn with grass that isn’t a good fit, you’ll find problems before your dog even sets paws on it. Not only should you consider the climate but you also have to account for how much rain and sun your lawn gets.
Top 6 Dog-Friendly Grasses
As promised, I have a list of go-to dog-approved grass varieties if you don’t have the time to do the research on your own. It doesn’t matter if you live in a humid climate or one that’s hot and dry, you’ll find something on the list that will meet your needs.
1. Perennial Ryegrass
One of the fastest-growing species of grass is perennial ryegrass. It’s also easy to maintain with thin blades (very nice on the feet and paws) and a strong root system. Perennial ryegrass takes the top spot on my list because it is very tough and can handle dog urine quite well. It does well in heat or cold — though ryegrass is technically a cool-season species — which makes it a very suitable choice for many regions.
However, you have to be ready to water perennial ryegrass quite often and fertilize it more than you would some other types of grass.
Fescue, in general, is another type of robust grass. There are various types of fescues that are suited for different climates, so select one based on the weather in your city. Fescues can absorb moisture quite well, so if your lawn is suffering specifically due to your dog’s urine then it can be the perfect solution. Fescues also do well in areas without a ton of sun.
Fescues are pretty absorbent, which makes them a great choice for families with more than one pet that urinates on grass or those with large dogs.
3. Kentucky Bluegrass
Speaking of hardy grass, I can’t skip Kentucky bluegrass. It’s very common in the U.S. and is especially popular in the northern regions since it does well in colder climates. You don’t find it much in the South because Kentucky bluegrass doesn’t handle the heat as well.
Aside from being strong, Kentucky bluegrass also grows very quickly. This quick growth means it can withstand the heavy paws and rough actions of your dog. True to its name, Kentucky bluegrass boasts a beautiful hint of blue among the green.
Zoysia grass is definitely worth the effort if you have the time to cultivate it. It can take a few years for zoysia to thrive but it’s pretty dense, which makes it like an outdoor carpet (nice on your feet and your dog’s paws). Personally, it’s my top pick for hot climates. It’s so tolerant of heat that it can also withstand minimal droughts.
Because of its density, zoysia does well for wear and tear. So, if your lawn is suffering mainly due to your dog’s consistent running and playing, zoysia is the way to go.
Don’t let the name scare you off, centipede grass actually looks very nice. It’s of a coarser texture, and the color is very lush green, giving it a little bit of a ‘“fake lawn” kind of look because it can be pretty perfect. It’s great for warmer weather and a lot of sun, but some shade will do it some good as well. I wouldn’t pick centipede grass if you live in colder areas or have alkaline soil but its low-maintenance nature makes it a big winner for warm climates.
If you’re in an area that is prone to droughts, I’d also suggest steering clear of this choice. Centipede grass requires a lot of consistent watering. Yes, it’s a lot of work to upkeep but its strength and resilience against dog urine make it worth it.
Lastly, I recommend looking into Bermuda grass. As opposed to centipede grass, Bermuda requires more maintenance and mowing but you won’t need to water it a whole lot.
It’s also fast-growing and fast-healing, which makes it a definite winner in our books. The deep roots of Bermuda are what make it such a tough cookie.
What’s also really cool about Bermuda grass is it goes to sleep during colder winters. You will find your lawn turns brown during the latter months of the year but it will revitalize and come back to life in the spring as the weather warms.
Tips for Maintaining Your Lawn With Dogs
Now that you know what to look for in a dog-safe grass, the next step is to learn how to maintain the grass so that your dog’s antics will not destroy all your hard work.
Clean It Up Quickly
The first tip we have is to clean up the mess quickly. This can be hard to do If you are tending to the garden and aren’t keeping an eye on your dog the whole time he’s out in the yard. But be sure to do a quick sweep of the vicinity before you head inside.
The longer dog poop and urine are left, the more quickly and easily it will erode the grass. Just pick up the poop with a bag, or pooper-scooper if you have one, and rinse off the area. According to Illinois State University, watering dog urine spots within 8 hours can reduce turf grass damage.
Of course, the best way to avoid waste damage on your lawn is to prevent your dog from going on it altogether. You can do it by taking your dog on a walk to try and empty his or her bladder as much as possible or with training, which brings me to the next section.
Dog Potty Training
It’s almost unfair to give your dog access to a wide expanse to roam and explore but not allow him to do his business. It’s okay because there is a middle ground. You can section off an area that is out of the way specifically for your dog to do his business and potty train him to go there. Make the spot pretty by lining it with decorative stones, potted plants, or lawn decor to make it less obvious that it’s basically a glorified outdoor potty.
You can also choose not to plant any grass there. Instead, line the surface with wood chips, mulch, or gravel — anything that has high absorption and isn’t harmful to your dog.
Give Your Dog Access to a Larger Area
It will take a lot of time, patience, and consistency to potty train your dog to go to a specific area of the yard to do his business — not everyone has the time. Another way to prolong the lifespan of your grass is to give your dog the freedom to roam the whole yard.
This will result in damage that is more spread out and minimal, rather than one very obvious bald patch. Remember that this is just slowing down the damage and not actually fixing it. However, it’s a good idea to try if you’re in the process of implementing one of the other methods on the list.
No Playtime on Wet Grass
Wet lawns usually suffer more damage from the same activities than dry grass. Keep your pooch off the lawn right after it rains or after you water it. Give the grass time to soak up the water. In my experience, playing on wet grass usually equals muddy footprints you don’t want in the house or on your clothes anyway.
Keep Your Dog and Lawn Hydrated
Keeping your dog hydrated will dilute the nitrates in his urine and make it less impactful on the grass. Regularly watering your lawn will also help to water down urine salts and wash away harmful chemicals.
Training and Supervision
If you have the time, then your best bet is distracting, training, and supervising your dog. Discourage him from destroying your grass deliberately by giving him something better to do. It could be occupying his attention with a toy or playing a game of fetch with him. Teach him that not ripping up the grass will get him rewards such as his favorite treats with positive reinforcement.
Section Things Off
If digging is the biggest problem, sectioning off an area where he can go nuts and do what he wants will restrict the damage to a small area and keep most of your garden intact. It’s a little similar to potty training your dog in one area but instead of peeing and pooping, it’s for digging.
This method is also the opposite approach to letting your dog have access to the whole yard. It will certainly make a difference if the damage is done over time from urine salts but digging will show immediate results. It’s best to limit destructive activity to one area where you don’t have grass.
Consider using a wireless dog fence if you want to set an invisible boundary for aesthetics.
One further note is grass seeds and the small risk they pose to dogs and other pets. If you seed a new lawn, it is possible for the small grass seeds to lodge themselves in your dog’s ear, or even to penetrate the digs skin and sit under the surface of the skin causing an infection. Remember grass seeds are the same shape as a grain of rice, with sharp pointed ends that can break the surface of the dogs’ skin.
If you seed your grass, it’s best to keep your dog away for at least two weeks until the seed has germinated and taken root.
How Do I Fix Dog Lawn Damage?
There are many ways to prevent lawn damage from happening but how do you remedy it after the fact?
The best way to handle urine spots is to dilute them with water and cultivate new grass. I don’t suggest using home remedies for the fear that it could make things worse. Aside from diluting the pee spot, also irrigate your lawn more to slowly wash away residual salts and nitrogen.
If the grass and the roots are still alive, the patch will fill in itself in a few weeks or a few months. If the turf beneath is dead, then you will have to re-sod or seed the area for new growth.
No matter what you do to fix your lawn, make sure that you are not using anything that may pose harm to your dog. This includes using weed killers and fertilizers. Even if products are advertised as pet-safe, it’s always good to err on the side of caution.
If all of this sounds like too much work, you can always opt for artificial grass, which requires virtually no maintenance and can last for years. However, just know that your dog may not get to experience the joys he would get from real grass.
Final Thoughts On Creating a Dog-Friendly Lawn
Potty training, crate training, and getting your dog used to the environment are just some examples of what dog parents think about when they welcome a new pup home. Not many of us think about lawn care during the hectic first few months. It’s only when we start to notice the yellow spots and the bald patches that we take a hand to our forehead and scramble to find a solution.
Now you have grass replacements, methods to fix the damage, and extra tips to help you maintain a luscious green lawn!