Is Dog Pee Killing Your Grass? Here’s Why It Happens and How to Fix It


Is Dog Pee Killing Your Grass? Here’s Why It Happens and How to Fix It

Even if you’re not a landscaping whiz, these tips will help save your lawn and give your pupper plenty of room to roam. Tracey L. Kelley headshot
Tracey L. Kelley headshot By Tracey L. Kelley June 01, 2022 Advertisement Pin FB More Tweet Email Send Text Message Print beagle outside on grass with leash looking up at the camera
beagle outside on grass with leash looking up at the camera Credit: bruev / Getty

On This Page

  • Does Dog Pee Kill Grass?
  • How to Neutralize Dog Urine on Grass
  • How To Revive Grass From Dog Pee 
  • 2 Ways to Keep Your Dog's Pee from Killing the Grass

Ahhhh, languid days spent in the lush green of your backyard are truly a gift. Your family, friends, and canine pals make many happy memories during those times. But have you noticed crunchy brownish-yellow spots scattered all over? Dog pee killing grass is likely the cause. 

Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to not only revitalize your lawn but also use positive reinforcement training to help your pup earn a gold star in bathroom management skills.

Does Dog Pee Kill Grass?

Yep! Just fries it to a crisp. We asked Teri Valenzuela, the natural science manager at the lawn care company Sunday, for the reasons why. 

"Their urine contains lactic acid and urea, which can damage or even kill grass when sprayed on concentrated areas," she tells Daily Paws. Combined, these two chemicals have high levels of nitrogen and salt. While nitrogen is often a component of lawn fertilizer, too much of a good thing is what damages the grass, as it can inhibit the turf's ability to absorb moisture. 

"Female dogs tend to have a larger impact than male dogs," she adds. "Female dogs' urine is more acidic or harmful to grass, and female pet spots are harder to repair, as they tend to go in the same areas." Further, female dogs and puppies squat when they go, concentrating urine to a single area. 

Mature male dogs, on the other paw, often have a greater impact on plants, shrubs, and trees, Valenzuela says, particularly low-lying or short-stature landscape plants if they repeatedly go on or mark them. 

How to Neutralize Dog Urine on Grass

A temporary fix to the greater problem is to "not let the yellow mellow," Valenzuela says.  

"Using a hose or watering can, wash out the pet urine to reduce damage to your grass. The sooner you can do this the better—that is, right after you notice your dog urinating if you can!" She adds that this can be a tedious task and requires knowing where your dog is going each time.

Will baking soda neutralize dog urine on grass? Not effectively. Valenzuela recommends that you don't try to flush away dog pee with baking soda or another common suggestion, gypsum. Additionally, garden lime, a recovery solution in some cases, isn't 100-percent safe for dogs, depending on the application. 

How To Revive Grass From Dog Pee 

Has the damage already been done? You can still salvage what's left:

  • Repair the bad spots. This process differs based on where you live. Valenzuela says the grass of some warm-season lawns might simply grow and naturally fill in dead or dying yellow spots. However, severely damaged areas or cool-season lawns might require grass seeding, sprigging, plugging, or sodding in early spring or late fall.
  • Lawn care companies often have specialty products that help disperse soil contaminants and encourage new grass growth. For example, Sunday offers Pet Patch, SoundSoil has Lawn Mutt, and HumicGreen sells PetiGreen. Some can be used preventatively, too. Research all ingredients in soil amendment products to make certain they're safe for children and pets.
  • Valenzuela also suggests letting the lawn grow a bit. "Longer grass is stronger and more resilient. Plus, it will help hide and blend in any discolored spots while they heal." She offers this handy mowing height chart by type of grass. Simply mowing on the highest deck setting works, too.

RELATED: Pet Waste Pros Are Bagging Tons of Dog Poop. Here's Why Business is, Er, Picking Up

Under no circumstances should you try to "fix" your dog's output by giving them more water to dilute their urine. If you've noticed a change in urge frequency or urine concentration and intensity, consult your veterinarian. 

2 Ways to Keep Your Dog’s Pee from Killing the Grass

The most natural way to stop dog pee from killing grass is to be more proactive both in potty training your dog and caring for your lawn.

1. Train Your Dog Where to Pee

Lauren Novack, ACDBC, KPA-CTP, FPPE, is an associate certified dog behavior consultant with Behavior Vets of NYC. She says you can teach your dog to go on a particular spot every time.

"This will be easiest to do with a puppy who's just starting to build their potty habits, but it can be done with adult dogs, too." The designated place, which should be close to the door, can be a square of dirt, a patch of gravel, "or a particular post you're okay with your pup lifting their leg on." 

Now here's the training Novack recommends, step–by–step:

  1. Leash your dog and walk them to this spot every time you let them outside.
  2. Be boring and stand at that spot. Give them a few minutes to pee. 
  3. If they don't pee within 5 minutes, go back inside.
  4. If they do pee, give them a treat, unclip the leash, and let them have free access to the yard for fun.
  5. Once your pup is peeing as soon as they get to their spot, you can start telling them to "go potty" right before they pee.
  6. Next, you can take the leash off but walk out with them and make sure they pee first thing. If they don't, bring them back inside.
  7. Finally, you'll be able to open the door, tell them to go potty, watch them potty, and then call them back inside for their treat. This is especially helpful during weather events.

Novack does caution that for some dogs, allowing them to lift their legs to mark their territory is essential. 

"Leg lifting and marking is an important part of normal dog behavior and communication that you have to accept as a dog owner. It would be cruel to not let your 'dog be a dog'," she says. "However, if you teach your pup to empty their bladder as soon as they get outside by going to their pee spot, when they lift their leg to mark other parts of the yard there will be very, very little pee that comes out, which will save your landscaping."

RELATED: Why Do Dogs Bury Bones and Other Goodies?

2. Plant the Right Grass Varieties

So now that your canine pal knows their role in all this, prep your lawn to be a vibrant green playground resistant to any accidents. Valenzuela says to introduce better turf varieties that are:

  • Adapted to your climate.
  • More resilient to drought conditions and urine.
  • Made for lower input nutrient programs. 

"While grass seed varieties may not be the sole factor as to why pet urine is harming your lawn, it does help to introduce more tolerant species," she says. Here's what she recommends:  

  • If you have a warm-season lawn, Bermuda grass and zoysia grass have been identified to be more tolerant of lactic acid in dog urine. "Most varieties of warm-season, like St. Augustine grass, will naturally grow back in bare spots after treatment, but for quicker results you can plant a plug into the patch, whereas Bermuda grass can be filled in with seed." 
  • Cool-season lawns of tall fescue, fine fescue species, perennial ryegrass, and Kentucky bluegrass are known to be more tolerant to pet damage. "However, fescue and bluegrass spread more slowly, so we recommend patching the damaged area with grass seed as soon as possible."

And now, with such a snazzy clean lawn, that leaves more space for dog-friendly backyard fun!

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