If you’re a dog owner you know well that caring for a dog is like caring for a small child who stays a small child for their entire life. They’re a lot of work, but dogs are a part of the family and anyone lucky enough to have a canine companion will tell you that they’re more than worth the trouble.
One difficulty many dog owners face is burn spots on their lawns. Most people assume that dogs are going to kill their grass one way or another and it’s useless to try to prevent it. However, with some diligence and training you can prevent dead spots from taking over your lawn.
What is lawn burn?
Dog urine is very high in nitrogen. While a little bit of nitrogen is healthy for your soil and your grass, too much makes the soil extremely acidic which kills your lawn causing “burn” spots.
If you’ve ever gardened before you might be familiar with the concept of soil’s pH number. A pH number describes how acidic (0-6) or how basic (7-14) a substance is. Different types of plant life require different levels of acidity on the pH scale.
When you buy fertilizer or plant food at the garden shop you’re really buying a mixture of chemicals that alter your soil’s pH. The ideal pH for growing healthy grass is 6.5-7, roughly midway on the pH scale.
What can be done?
Ok, so now you know the science behind why your dog doing his business kills your lawn. But what can you do about it?
There are a number of different techniques that have been proven to be effective at mitigating or eliminating the damage caused by lawn burn.
- Training. The most effective methods of preventing lawn burn is through proper training of your dog. Find a part of your yard that you ideally want to train your dog to do their business in. This part can be dirt, rocks, or an out of sight patch of lawn that you don’t mind taking some damage. Lead them over to this area when it’s time for them to go out and give them treats and verbal praise when they do their business in that area. If they start to urinate in another area, correct them by calling them over to the area they should be in. Don’t punish them, as this will confuse dogs and they might not feel safe urinating outside at all.
- Water down. An effective method of preventing burn spots is to simply saturate the area where the dog urinated with water immediately afterward. This will dilute the nitrogen from the urine and limit damage.
- Healthy nutrition. Dog food is sometimes very high in protein which increases nitrogen in their urine. Pick a food that has healthy amounts of protein in it. Similarly, dehydrated dogs will have urine with a higher nitrogen level. Encourage your dog to drink plenty of water.
Myths about lawn burn
Many myths about dog-related lawn burn have appeared over the years. Some people argue that female dogs’ urine burns a lawn more than males. This is untrue. If a female dog’s urine does burn the lawn more it is simply because female dogs have a tendency to stay in one place while doing their business.
Other myths include the usefulness of feeding your dog supplements to eliminate spots or that certain dog breeds have more acidic urine and cause more spotting. These are also misconceptions.
The best options are to work together with your dog and make sure they are well-fed and hydrated. Soon your lawn will regrow to its former glory.