Is Dog Pee Killing Grass in Your Yard? Here’s How to Fix It
Clear up those unsightly brown spots (and prevent them in the future) with these tried-and-true tips for dealing with dog urine.
Q: My older dog doesn’t like going for walks anymore, so we just take him out to the front yard to take care of his business. He always pees in the same spot next to the front walkway. The dog pee is killing grass in the spots where he eliminates. Can you explain how to repair grass from dog urine?
A: Dog pee killing grass can be a real problem for many homeowners. We work hard to keep our lawns watered, mowed, and fertilized, so it can be frustrating to see brown spots in the areas where our dogs relieve themselves. Fortunately, this problem is avoidable, and dog pee doesn’t have to accidentally ruin your lawn.
If you’d like to learn more about why dog urine kills grass and how to fix dead grass from dog pee damage, continue reading.
Why does dog urine kill grass?
Before exploring how to stop dog pee from killing grass or how to fix yellow grass from dog urine, let’s take a look at why dog urine can cause grass to change color. Urea is a type of nitrogen that is formed when protein is digested. Because dogs eat a high-protein diet, they have high levels of urea in their urine.
Nitrogen is a fertilizing nutrient for lawns and can help your lawn turn lush and green. However, the concentrated levels of nitrogen, or urea, in dog urine can have the opposite effect when they are all deposited in one area of the lawn. Just as too much fertilizer can cause fertilizer burn, when your dog pees in one spot over and over again, the nitrogen from their urine will burn the grass and cause it to turn brown.
While some may believe that female dog urine has a different chemical makeup that makes it more likely to kill grass, there isn’t any significant difference in dog urine damage by gender. However, because female dogs are more likely to squat and urinate in one spot—compared with males who tend to spread out their urine to mark different areas—brown spots are more likely to be a female dog’s doing. And anytime a dog pees in one area repeatedly, it can kill the grass.
Dog urine spots typically have a dark green ring.
Identifying dead grass from dog urine and ruling out other types of damage that could have been caused by lawn fungus, pests, or another problem is relatively easy. In most cases, dead grass from dog urine will look like a brown spot surrounded by a dark green ring. The brown spot is where the high levels of nitrogen in the pee killed the grass. Sometimes the spots may be yellow, which indicates that the grass is not dead yet.
Remember that nitrogen is used in fertilizers. The dark green ring shows that the area around the brown (or yellow) spot received the right amount of nitrogen to act as a fertilizer and make the grass greener.
To fix green patches, start with a soil test.
In some cases, dog urine may leave green spots on the lawn instead of brown spots. This can indicate that the soil has very low levels of nitrogen. So, rather than killing the grass by overfertilizing it, your dog’s urine is actually helping get the nitrogen levels in the soil where they should be to help your lawn stay lush and green.
If you think this may be the case for your lawn, begin with a soil test. Perform the test away from the area where your dog pees. If the soil test indicates that the nitrogen levels are too low, applying a fertilizer with nitrogen in it can improve the health of your lawn and make it match the darker green spots caused by the dog pee.
After repairing grass from dog urine and making your entire lawn lush and green, you’ll still need to be careful with where your dog pees. Now that the nitrogen levels are where they should be, any new pee spots might turn brown from too much nitrogen.
Brown spots caused by dog pee will require reseeding.
Yellow spots from dog pee indicate the grass is not dead yet and might be able to regrow with watering. However, if that patch of your lawn is brown, the grass is dead and will need to be reseeded in that area.
To repair brown grass, start by raking the area and removing any dead grass or other debris until you see a clear patch of soil. Then, thoroughly soak the area with water. You want to rinse away as much of the nitrogen from your dog’s urine as possible.
After watering, wait a little bit. The spot should still be moist, but not so wet that water is pooling. Cultivate the soil in the area using a trowel.
Next, spread a 2:1 mixture of garden topsoil and peat moss over the area and mix it in with the loose soil. Sprinkle a generous amount of grass seed over the spot. You could also try using Bermuda grass, tall fescue, or Zoysia grass, all of which are more resistant to damage from dog urine.
Water the seeds daily and avoid walking over the area for several weeks. You’ll also want to keep your dog away from the seed and new grass as it grows.
How to Stop Dog Pee From Killing Grass
Now that you know how to bring back dead grass from dog urine, consider the following tips to prevent dog urine from damaging your grass in the future.
- Designate a grass-free zone in the yard where your dog can take care of his or her business: Set up an area of your yard with mulch and train your dog to urinate in that area. Just take care to choose a mulch made without cocoa bean hulls, which can be toxic to dogs.
- Keep your grass longer: Adjusting the setting on your lawn mower to keep your grass a little taller can help, too. When the grass is longer, the effects of the higher nitrogen levels from urine will be less, and cause less severe stress and damage to the grass.
- Reseed the lawn with urine-resistant grass or consider artificial grass: Reseeding your lawn with a urine-resistant grass, such as tall fescue, Bermuda grass, Kentucky bluegrass, zoysia grass, or perennial ryegrass can help prevent future brown spots. Artificial grass is also dog-friendly; urine seeps down without damaging or staining the grass.