For many of us, a backyard isn’t a backyard without a dog. But sometimes man’s best friend is not such a good friend to your lawn. That’s why dog owners need to practice proper lawn maintenance. Healthy turf can withstand pooch poop and pee much better than a sickly one. In fact, if you keep your lawn in good shape, you may see little damage from pet waste. The change of seasons means paying extra attention in two areas:
Fall is the season for fertilizing many grass varieties, but if you have dogs, it’s wise to test your soil first.Dog urine and poop contain nitrogen, a key ingredient in most fertilizers. Too much nitrogen will chemically burn your grass, which will show up as brown or dead spots. If your grass tests high in nitrogen, fertilizer may do more harm than good.
There’s a common misconception that dog droppings will act as a natural fertilizer. While it may lead to some growth and greening, the dangers of leaving it in the yard outweigh the benefits. In addition to an overabundance of nitrogen and phosphorus that can damage turf, dog feces is loaded with parasites and bacteria. That bacteria can survive in your yard for years and threaten the health of humans and animals alike. Pick it up and get rid of it.
Your yard needs 1 to 1½ inches of water per week. In the absence of enough rain, that means watering even as the weather turns cool. Watering will also dilute dog urine and help prevent brown spots. Dogs often pick certain spots to pee, so it’s a good idea to water those areas with a garden hose between regular waterings. Keep a sprinkler can handy for when you catch your pet in the act.
Make sure your dog has plenty of fresh, clean water outdoors. Not only is hydration important to her health, but the more she drinks, the more her urine will be diluted.
The pleasant days of fall are a good time to take other steps to ensure your yard is both attractive and pet-proof. This is the right time of year for putting in new turf or re-seeding. Choose a dog-resistant variety. Rye and fescue tolerate waste better than Bermuda or Kentucky bluegrass.
Consider making a doggie bathroom. Find an out-of-the-way space to cover with mulch or small gravel and train your dog to do her business there. The training will take time, especially with older dogs that are used to having the entire yard as their domain. This doesn’t mean the dogs can’t use the rest of the yard. Put their favorite rope toys and balls in the section reserved for play. Make sure you engage with your dog, then take a break and walk the pooch over to the potty area.
If your dog likes to dig divots, give him a spot of his own. Till or dig up a small plot and chop the soil to a fine texture. Dogs prefer digging in soft dirt. Once he has his own area, he'll leave the rest of the lawn alone.
Some dogs like to patrol regular routes, which results in worn paths in the grass. Provide him his own sidewalks of concrete, pavers, or gravel.
Dog-proofing your yard will take time, effort, and a little expense. But with diligence, you can have both your backyard buddy and an awesome landscape.