Trying to maintain a beautiful lawn worthy of the white-picket fence, two-and-a-half kids suburban lifestyle but your golden retriever keeps peeing on your dreams?
Well, we’ve got a series of lawn care tips to save you from the wrath of the homeowner’s association.
5 Ways to Keep Your Lawn Looking Good
These lawn care tips for life with dogs fall into two general categories: change something about the lawn or change something about the dog. There are ways to make your lawn more suitable to sharing space with dogs, and there are ways to feed, water, and train your dogs so they behave more respectfully when it comes to the lawn.
1. Keep Your Pups Well-Fed, Well-Hydrated, and Entertained
On the simpler end of things, just keeping your pup on a healthy diet can help improve your lawn.
Those unsightly burn spots on your lawn form when there’s too much nitrogen in your dog’s pee. Excessive amounts of nitrogen hurt the grass.
So, lessening the amount of nitrogen that ends up in your dog’s pee will help keep your lawn in tip-top condition.
Make sure your pup is drinking plenty of water – keeping your dog well-hydrated will make sure the nitrogen in his pee is more diluted so it hurts the grass less.
Healthy and high-quality dog food will also help with the nitrogen problem, as the ingredients are better quality protein sources and are easier to digest – that means there will be fewer nasty by-products in the dog pee.
Similarly, the less protein in the dog food in general, the less nitrogen that’ll end up in your dog’s urine. Low-protein foods are good choices for less active dogs. Just be sure to check with your vet before making any big food changes.
More concerned about the holes than the potential pee spots? Dogs dig for many reasons. They may be chasing an animal they hear or smell moving around underground out of hunting instinct or curiosity. They may be digging themselves a mellow spot to sit in the cool dirt on a hot day. They might just be bored.
Just like how a dog with separation anxiety will destroy your couch while waiting for your return, dogs not getting enough attention or exercise tend to release destructive energy too – sometimes, dogs will take out their frustration on your yard by digging holes when they get antsy. If you don’t give them something to do, they’ll find something to do – and they can be mischievous little beasts.
Thankfully, preventing your pooch from becoming a god of destruction has a fun solution – play with them. If you tire out your pups with walks, frisbees, fetch, or tug-of-war, they’ll be content to chill and not terrorize your indoor or outdoor belongings.
2. Create Safe Zones for Your Dogs in the Yard…
…and then train your pup to use them!
If you can’t stop your dogs from destroying the lawn, then make them a lawn space all their own. Find an out of the way or undesirable spot in your yard and turn it into your dog’s bathroom or digging space (but not both, dogs are like us – they don’t like to hang out where they go to the bathroom).
Dogs are eager to please – we’re their whole world and they love to see us happy (plus training is bonding time for you and your pet, and it exercises their brain muscles).
Teach them to use a designated section of the lawn for their business – it can be where there’s already a dead patch of grass, or you can cover the ground with some other dog-friendly material. It would be like training your pooch to use a pee pad inside, except it’s a mulch yard section outside.
Dogs already tend to pee in the same spots anyway (this is what causes the burn marks, after all), so you can just use treats and train them to change their preferred potty spots.
Dogs learn best with positive reinforcement.
Are your dachshund’s instincts picking up again and leaving your yard riddled with holes? Train your little guy to quit digging or to search for badgers and rabbits somewhere else. Better yet, you could turn your pup into your own little garden spade with training to scoop out little holes for vegetable seeds or plants.
Again, dogs dig for many reasons. They could be hiding bones or hunting. If your dog is acting as your personal pest control but you don’t like the holes they leave behind either, find a way to get rid of the pests. You can tell it’s a prey problem if the holes are around the roots of trees or shrubs, or if they’re in a cluster or path pattern away from the yard’s boundaries.
If your dog digs to make herself a comfy spot to lay and cool off, provide her with a dog house or shady space instead so she doesn’t have to resort to the lower layers of dirt to cool off. Alternatively, train her to use a special space for her cool-down holes.
Does your dog do her digging for her own entertainment? Try training her to use a sandbox to dig herself to paradise. Bury safe items like toys and bones in the sand for your pup to discover.
3. Opt for Hardy Grass that Can Take on Your Dog
Want to avoid some of these maintenance tips altogether? There are types of grass that are particularly resilient to the evils of dog pee, so consider filling your yard with a grass that fights back.
Fescue and perennial ryegrass are known for being fairly resilient grasses and would be good choices if you’re having dog pee problems.
Kentucky bluegrass and bermuda grass on the other hand, are highly sensitive to dog urine and form unsightly burn spots easily.
Another option is using clover to cover your lawn. A clover lawn has some advantages over a regular grass lawn, one being that dog pee won’t stain them and cause those ugly brown burn spots you want to avoid. Plus, clover will still give you the green carpeted lawn look of grass.
4. Opt Out of Grass Altogether
If you’re just not interested in upping your lawn maintenance for your pooch, be aware that your lawn doesn’t even have to be grass. Instead, you can use hardscape to avoid lawn care problems altogether.
Instead of keeping a grassy yard your dog might inadvertently destroy, you could use concrete patios, brick, stone, mulch, or stone mulch to cover your yard. You can still decorate the area and grow plants, and it’ll be much more low-maintenance than a grass lawn anyway.
You can also use fences or chicken wire to keep the dogs away from any plants or areas you don’t want them messing with. The areas will then be safe from urine, digging, and biting.
5. Keep One Eye on the Yard and One Eye on the Dog
Is the dog just causing a minor lawn problem? Are you not up for a major change? Then just keep a look out. Hose down their pee spots. Pick up their poo. Kick dirt back over their little holes, play with your pup, and reinforce positive behavior when you can.
If you’re wholly dedicated to that flawless 2 ½-inch evergreen lawn aesthetic, you can immediately spot-check any piddle-puddle your pooch leaves behind with water. Water will dilute the urine so it’s not as harmful to your grass. If you get into the habit of watering down any pee spots when you first notice them, your lawn will thank you.
Get friendly with your shovel, pooper scooper, or poop pick up bags. Don’t leave your dog’s poo just sitting around (be courteous to other lawns on your walks too, and in parks). You can always pick up a few extra plastic Wal-Mart or Kroger bags the next time you’re grocery shopping too, if you need to poop-scoop on a budget.
Is your pup trying to escape? If so, you’ll find his holes near the borders of the yard. To prevent escape, you can bury your fence posts deeper, partially bury large rocks, or chicken wire near the fence line.
Have a Dog Without Hating on Your Lawn
As you can see, it’s totally possible to maintain a lawn beautiful enough to make your neighbors jealous even while puppies run circles around your legs.
Stop those pups from digging, peeing, and pooping where you don’t want them to with great positive reinforcement training.
Consider switching up your landscape to avoid high-maintenance grass-lawn-with-a-dog situations.
Just take good care of your yard and good care of your dog and you’ve got your lawn care down, wild pup or not.