Lawns for Dogs
Dogs and lawns are not always easy to manage simultaneously. A dog is no respecter of a lawn. A dog doesn’t worry about stripes, bare patches, texture or sward. He (or she) sees it the lawn as a cross between a toilet, a playroom and a gym.
Maggie and her brother Buster on my front lawn. This picture was taken in high summer so the lawn was a bit brown but it's OK. Maggie is a monster now but the lawn is coping well.
So is there a way that the two can live in harmony? I’m a dog owner and a gardener and I’m coping – just.
Creating a dog resistant lawn
I think there are two secrets to making life with a lawn and a dog easier.
- Turf type
Make your lawn big enough
I do appreciate that I’m lucky to have plenty of outdoor space. Not every home in Scotland has a big garden. Particularly new build properties.
The smaller the lawn, the harder it is to distribute wear and tear. Either go large or adapt the garden design so that the dogs don’t use the lawn so much.
A friend of mine has three Labradors and a small-ish garden. The lawn went through a spell of being thoroughly abused when the boys were younger. (she has three boys, a black lab, a chocolate lab and a yellow one. Aptly named Treacle, Pudding and Custard) Now that the dogs are a bit older, they’re calmer and more respectful of the garden but Sally has also changed the design of the garden to accommodate the dogs better.
In the early days the lawn took up most of the garden. It was surrounded by fences on two sides, a shrubbery at the bottom of the garden and a patio near the house. The boys would chase each other round and round and round and soon wore a muddy path around the lawn. Sally has gone with the flow and replaced the outer edges of the lawn with bark mulch.
The lawn in the middle is now much smaller and the 3 dogs are less inclined to run on it. Sally has trained them to use the bark path for toileting too. Which makes lawn maintenance a lot easier.
Buy tough turf
The two ways that dogs really damage a lawn are wear and tear and urine scorch.
To combat damage due to wear and tear, create your lawn using good quality topsoil and really tough turf. Ideally, the turf should contain a good proportion of ryegrass. Sportsman Turf from Stewartsturf in Edinburgh is ideal. It’s been developed for sports pitches so can take quite a lot of rough treatment.
Coping with urine scorch is unfortunately a bit more difficult. I’m lucky enough to live 2 minutes-drive away from a lovely woodland walk so I can encourage my dogs to “go” outside of the garden. It doesn’t happen every time. That would be impossible so I do have to live with an occasional patch in the lawn. Personally I don’t mind – I can’t see my lawn from an upstairs window so barely notice the damaged spots.
Sally’s idea of having an area of barkmulch and encouraging the dogs to use that as a toilet works well. Her lawn is in good shape these days.
Urine scorch is a lot more noticeable on fine lawns and where the grass is cut really really short. If you have a dog – or if you plan to have a dog in the future – avoid buying fine turf. You’ll end up pulling your hair out. Go for a robust, landscaping turf or a sports turf and don’t cut it too short.
A lawn looks good whatever height the grass is. Think how beautiful a field of wheat looks. That’s just a different type of grass. Provided all the plants are the same size – and regular mowing will make sure that’s the case – your lawn will look great. AND the longer the grass, the greener it stays in summer and the more wear and tear it will take. Bonus.
Turf laying tips including - what to eat for breakfast and working with the weather