Is there such a thing as a dog-proof lawn? Sadly the answer is “no”; But there are ways to avoid problems and to compromise. Read more about lawns for dogs.
I am rather fond of dogs – I have 3 assorted mutts at the moment – and there are not many things I enjoy more than sharing my garden with them. Do they ruin the lawn? Actually no. Even though they are all bitches, my lawn generally looks OK. Here are some of my tips for dog-proofing a lawn.
Choose natural grass
My first plus point for natural grass is that it drains well. Dog urine (which is what most people worry will damage their lawn) just soaks in. No need to hose it away, disinfect the area, worry about stains or smells. Sorted. Natural grass definitely makes the best lawns for dogs.
One of my “girls” flatly refuses to wee on concrete, tarmac or the like. At the risk of sounding crude, she hates it when the pee runs over her paws. She’ll cross her legs until she reaches grass bless her.
Natural grass growing on soil is supported by a very high population of soil microbes. These are Mother Nature’s cleaners. They break down organic substances – dead grass, dead insects, spilt tea, dog urine etc and turn them into plant food. Awesome. And you don’t find them in artificial lawns.
One garden designer relayed a tale to me whereby her client, who owned a beautiful chocolate lab, insisted on an artificial lawn. It looked lovely. Until the lab produced a litter of 10 healthy puppies. With 11 Labradors excreting onto what was effectively a carpet, the garden soon developed an “interesting” aroma. The plastic lawn was replaced with a natural one with a much nicer perfume.
Choose tough turf
Dogs can inflict quite a lot of wear and tear on a lawn. Especially if they are young, active and accompanied by children. The grass species used in ornamental lawns are beautiful to the eye and super soft to sit on – but they’re not tough enough for racing and skidding on.
When creating lawns for dogs, try to incorporate plenty of tough grasses. Dwarf perennial ryegrass is perfect and modern varieties are quite fine-leaved. Smooth stalked meadow grass is another one to include. It reproduces via underground stems so if you do get a bald patch, the lawn will repair itself.
Mow little and often
Your mowing regime will make a big difference to the appearance of your lawn. Pee patches tend to show up on a lawn as being darker green than the surrounding area and faster growing. If you mow twice-weekly, you won’t notice the taller patches and the colour difference won’t be quite as marked (must be an optical illusion but don’t knock it!)
Maintaining the grass at around 2.5cm tends to keep the whole lawn greener. It still looks good. In fact I think it looks better than a really close mown lawn. And there are a whole plethora of other benefits too – more on that in another blogpost.
Feed your lawn regularly
Keeping your lawn well fed not only helps the grass plants cope with wear and tear, it tends to even out the colour of it. The only difficult thing about feeding your lawn is remembering to do it. Mark the dates on the calendar or put a reminder on your smartphone.
Choose a good quality lawn feed – I like this one – and apply every 6-8 weeks. It doesn’t take long and it’s well worth doing.
If you can, get your dog (s) into a routine. That way they’ll become used to relieving themselves whilst out on walks and they’re less likely to use your lawn.
Plus, they’ll burn off excess energy on a walk and then sit quietly on the lawn instead of running around. At least that’s the theory.
Stuart Reed from Waggy Tails Dog Training has two lively dogs and a beautifully manicured lawn. He attributes his successful lawnmanship to plenty of walks and interacting with his dogs to keep boredom at bay. His dogs are well trained which makes walking and spending time with them a pleasure rather than a chore.
Stop. Don’t read any more until you’ve digested this first sentence. DO NOT ADJUST YOUR DOG’s DIET BEFORE CONSULTING A VET.
Got that? Good.
Excess protein in your dog’s diet get excreted in the urine. It contains an element called nitrogen. Nitrogen is a plant nutrient. Too much nitrogen in one place will scorch a lawn. …which is why you must be careful how you apply nitrogen fertilisers.
By reducing the amount of protein in your dog’s diet you can reduce the risk of brown pee-patches appearing in your lawn. BUT if your dog is very young, very old, very active or has an underlying condition, you can make him or her poorly by messing with meals. Always consult the vet if you are thinking of changing its diet. And don’t listen to people who tell you to add ketchup to the dog’s dinner or put rocks in the water bowl. Neither of those things actually work.
If all else fails, just don’t let the dog on the lawn. That’s an awful shame but I have seen gardens ruined by dogs that race around all day. A fenced off a doggy play area with plenty of toys, a bowl of water and some shade/shelter is a super compromise.