Dogs and Your Backyard: Fall 2013 Master Gardener Newsletter

by UNCE Master Gardener Volunteer Vicki Jewell

UNCE Master Gardener Vicki Jewell
UNCE Master Gardener Vicki Jewell

Dogs give us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love, faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the “best deal man has ever made” (Roger Caras).

It was February 14th, Valentine’s Day, when I realized I was sitting at home alone watching the Westminster Dog Show with my own two dogs feeling perfectly content.

I love dogs, but being a Master Gardner, I also love a beautiful backyard and a lush green lawn. Since I do own two dogs myself, I would like to dispel the myths of dog urine and your lawn.

Dog urine damage is a common problem for home lawns and one that has generated numerous home remedies and commercial products claiming to be cures for the spots. The brown spot green ring pattern has been referred to as “female dog spot disease” it is not a female dog only problem. Dog spotting on turf grass is caused by the disposition of a high concentration of nitrogen (N) containing compounds and associated salts on small areas on the lawn because of the high level of nitrogen released in one area resulting in turf injury or death. Male dogs nitrogen level is just as high as a female. Females squat when they urinate thus depositing a large volume of concentrated urine in a small area and male dogs tend to aim and squirt.

The breed of dog does not matter. A larger dog produces a larger amount of urine. You might hear things like dog spots can be prevented by using food supplements that acidify a dog’s urine. NOT TRUE. There are no dietary supplements that have been proven to reduce either the incidence or severity of dog spotting in lawns. Or, dog spots can be cured by sprinkling the affected area with baking soda, gypsum, or dishwashing detergent to neutralize the urine. Again, NOT TRUE. The only product that can neutralize the urine’s negative effects is water.

To minimize the problem you need to train your dog to use a non-turf area covered with mulch or gravel. This can be done, believe me I know. I have terriers and at times they can be both oh so cute and oh-so-stubborn.

Provide adequate water for your pet. Increase water consumption and this will dilute the urine, reducing the potential for turf injury. Get the leash out every day and take your dog out for a nice long walk. This is time well spent — good exercise for you and your dog. If they do squat in a certain area of your lawn get the hose out and spray water directly on the spot.

As Audrey Hepburn once said when talking about her Yorkie, Mr. Famous: “I think an animal, especially a dog, is possibly the purest experience you can have. They ask only to survive. They are totally dependent on you and therefore completely vulnerable and this complete vulnerability is what enables you to open up your heart completely, which you rarely do to a human being.” Now honestly, what’s a few ruined chairs or brown spots in your lawn?” And you can never argue with the words of Audrey Hepburn.