Dogs and lawns. They go so well together in so many ways but there are just two things in their relationship that can cause problems. Excess wear and tear and urine scorch. Both can get ugly. In this blog we’re looking at the root causes of each problem and how to overcome them. We’ll also be discussing the best turf for dogs.
Urine scorch on lawns
Urine scorch is one of the most challenging things for a lawn lover to cope with. Even if you’re an expert at mowing distracting patterns into the lawn, those brown circles surrounded by long green grass are very hard to disguise.
The root cause lies in your dog’s metabolism. Urine scorch is caused by a substance called urea in the pee. Urea breaks down in the soil to form nitrogen and nitrogen is plant food. Hence the lush green grass around the scorched area. However, too much nitrogen can kill plants which is why you get the brown patches.
To avoid urine scorch altogether is very difficult indeed, however, you can do a couple of things to reduce its impact.
- Let your dog out more often – the longer they hold their pee the more concentrated it gets, so frequent trips outside should mean more dilute pee and less scorching.
- Ask your vet about nutrition. Reducing the protein in your dogs’ diet can lead to less urea being produced. But always consult a vet first. Particularly if your dog is very young, very old or very active.
- Train your dog to use a different part of the garden for toileting.
- Go walkies more often so that Fido automatically empties his bladder outside of the garden.
Wear and Tear on your lawn
Children and dogs - a great combination but together they have the potential to damage any lawn not strong enough.
I don’t know about you, but I love to see my pup running around the lawn enjoying herself. And I also use the garden for training her which involves lots of running, retrieving, twisting and turning. My lawn was recently re-turfed using a really tough turf and now that it’s bedded in I’ve no worries about the wear and tear Patsy inflicts upon it. However, I have dog loving friends whose lawn has been destroyed by the rampaging of Treacle, Pudding and Custard – her three very boisterous Labradors.
There are two approaches to managing wear and tear on a lawn. I recommend using both at the same time.
- Make sure that the lawn grasses are very wear tolerant and that you keep up to date with lawn care tasks such as aerating, feeding, topdressing and overseeding.
- Talk to a dog trainer to learn how to provide your dog with different activities – ones that are less damaging to the lawn. It will probably mean spending 10-15 minutes every day working your dog’s brain but believe me it’s worth it. Patsy and I quite enjoy playing hunt-the-toy and learning new tricks and she’s much more settled for it.
You could also create an area for your dog(s) to play in that isn’t on the “best” lawn. Budget turf makes an excellent surface for them and can be replaced relatively cheaply every so often.
The best turf for dogs
To grow a really strong lawn, one that can cope well with dogs, I recommend using a tough turf.
Grass seed takes a good 6 months before it is tough enough to cope with wear and tear and urine will kill the tender young grass in no time at all.
Turf is normally ready to use within about 6 weeks – depending on the weather
Forget about fine turf. Fine turf is best suited to bowling greens and golf courses. It tends to be light green in colour so every piddle patch will show up horribly. Plus it’s not everso wear tolerant. It certainly won’t cope with regular attacks of the “zoomies”.
You need a turf that contains deep rooted grasses that recover quickly from damage. Similar to the grasses that are used on Football or Rugby pitches. Emerald lawn turf from Stewarts Turf in Edinburgh is ideal.
Emerald turf contains perennial ryegrass, creeping red fescue and smooth stalked meadow grass.
Perennial ryegrass has a lovely deep green colour – excellent for disguising pee patches. It’s deep rooted so doesn’t rely on surface water to stay hydrated. That means that it’s drawing water from deep in the soil – where the pee has already been diluted by rainfall/irrigation. It can still get scorched – but not as easily.
Creeping red fescue is there to give the turf its structure and keep it in one piece whilst rolled up. It will give the lawn a lovely velvety texture. We’ve chosen a variety that is disease resistant and a nice deep green.
Smooth stalked meadow grass hasn’t just come from a cow field. It’s great great great great great grandparents were selected for breeding into a good grass for sports field because it recovers well after being grazed. That was about 40 generations of grass ago. The variety we use in Emerald turf is great at repairing itself and filling in gaps AND it looks good.
Contact a dog behaviourist in Scotland. Tynewaterk9 is based just outside Edinburgh and uses reward based training methods.
Talk to The Lawn Advocates about lawn maintenance jobs to help your lawn cope with your dogs
You may also find these articles helpful
Lawncare calendar - what to do each season to keep your lawn robust, healthy and beautiful