A lawn care problem with a capital ‘pee’

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Strange topic to be writing about, perhaps, but one that I suspect some of you can relate to. My wife and I own two Shih Tzus, Tessa and Cassie. When the weather’s nice, they’ll pretty much use our entire backyard to ‘do their business,’ and it doesn’t damage the lawn. The problem is during the cold, winter months, they’re smart enough to walk only three or four steps off the patio and pee in essentially the same spot every single day. They don’t want to spend more time outdoors in freezing cold than necessary. So, day after day after day my dogs refuse to venture from the same spot just a couple feet from our patio to urinate.

So every spring when the grass begins to turn an emerald green, there are always two or three spots near the patio that remain brown and lifeless. There’s actually a name the lawn care industry has given this problem. It’s called ‘Female Dog Spot Disease.’ I’m serious as can be! Female dogs tend to be the worst culprits of killing grass by urinating in the same spots of turf. Although I don’t personally have any experience with male dogs, I’ve read that they also can kill grass, although they don’t usually empty their bladders all at once, like female dogs, so it doesn’t tend to be as big a problem. In short, females typically squat and pee in one spot (depositing a whopper load of solutes), whereas males tend to urinate in smaller amounts as they wander from spot to spot.

Anyway, getting back to my lawn, I was left this spring with three areas just off my patio where the turf is dead, and my dogs are to blame. Now don’t get me wrong. I love my pets. But I’ve all but concluded that dogs and a perfect yard are not compatible. This year I’ve dug out all the dead turf and removed a couple inches of topsoil, replacing it with a good quality garden soil. Then I re-seeded the area. Thanks a lot, Tessa and Cassie.

Dog urine is comprised largely of Nitrogen, which, in moderation, is good for your grass. It’s an effective fertilizer. Too much nitrogen, however, will kill your grass. You might actually notice dead patches in your grass will sometimes have a dark green ring on the outside. This is evidence the nitrogen in the urine has improved the grass that receives a small amount of urine while killing the grass that receives too much.

Another factor is urine pH. Dogs should have a slightly acidic urine pH of between 6 and 6.5. Vegetarian mammals like rabbits and horses naturally have a very alkaline urine pH. There are products you can purchase to lower your pet’s pH level, although you don’t want your dog’s pH level to drop below 6. If you think your dog’s pH level might be too high, I recommend consulting your vet before using any product to alter your pet’s pH.

So what can you do? At Fayette Lawn Care, we don’t suggest getting rid of your pets, any more than Annie and I would consider getting rid of Tessa and Cassie. A couple options include sprinkling the spot with water immediately after your dog urinates. This will dilute the effects of the urine. This response probably isn’t necessary unless your dog tends to pee in the same spot every time he or she goes outside. Another option if your dog uses the same spot every time it urinates is to cover the spot with two or three inches of straw. It will absorb much of the urine before it reaches the grass. As I’ve said, my dogs only seem to use the same spot in the winter when they want to hurry back indoors. Finally, it’s a good idea to keep your pup hydrated. Make sure he or she drinks plenty of water. Not only is this good for your dog’s health, it will dilute the level of urea in your dog’s urine naturally.

I’ve seen a commercial product available, and although I’ve never used it I’ll mention it in case anyone wants to give it a try. I should mention that it’s rather pricey – about $80, which might explain why I haven’t tried it. (My lawyers at this point would probably want me to include a disclaimer that Fayette Lawn Care does not necessarily endorse this product and you should use it according to instructions at your own risk.) It’s called ‘Dog Spot Solution.’ I haven’t looked for it at the bigger retail pet supply stores. You can purchase it online, but be prepared for a case of sticker shock. Still, if your lawn looks bad due to dog urine, buying this product is an option. Let me know if it works.

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