Why Do Female Dogs Get Blamed For Dead Grass?
How many times have you heard that female dogs kill grass? I heard it plenty growing up, though I never knew the reason why. I’ve got a female dog that’s urinated thousands of times in my yard and I have yet to see a dead patch of grass.
But there must be some truth to it if we’ve all heard it so many times, right? So I decided to dive in and take a look at why female dogs get blamed for killing grass.
This article goes over why dog urine kills grass (and why it’s not just a problem with female dogs), and what you can do to prevent your dog’s urine from damaging your lawn.
Does Urine From Female Dogs Kill Grass?
Do you have dead spots of grass in your yard? If you have a female dog chances are you’ve heard that it’s their urine that’s causing it. Lawn care companies and those familiar with landscaping even have a name for it; they call the phenomenon “Female Dog Spot Disease.”
So why do female dogs get blamed for dead grass? Simply put it’s because of the squatting. Since female dogs squat when they urinate it pools in a collected area. That pooling of the urine in one concentrated area is what can lead to dead grass.
When male dogs lift their leg to pee it gets sprayed all over, rather than collecting in one spot (some male dogs squat to urinate rather than lifting their leg). It’s true that female dogs are more likely to kill grass, but it’s important to remember that it isn’t because their urine is any different — it’s just because of the way it gets deposited on your lawn.
The Nitrogen in Dog Urine Is What Burns Grass
High concentrations of nitrogen in dog urine is what kills grass. Urine consists mainly of water and urea, a form of nitrogen. And when our dogs urinate that excess nitrogen is deposited onto the grass. And while a little bit of nitrogen is good for grass too much will cause damage.
When a high amount of nitrogen is deposited in a single spot it can kill grass — much like putting a concentrated amount of fertilizer in the same location. Lawns can handle small spots of nitrogen better than large volume pools.
Urine, consisting mainly of uric acid, delivers large amounts of nitrogen and salts to a small area. The result is similar to the “burn” caused by overapplication (e.g., accidental spilling) of lawn fertilizers. It is the soluble salts (primarily nitrogen compounds)in urine that kill the grass, essentially pulling water out of turfgrass blades and causing death of leaf tissue through dehydration. – “Lawns ‘n’ Dogs,” University of California, DNR 2007
Does the pH Balance in a Dogs Urine Kill Grass?
While there are some valid medical reasons to have your dogs pH balance checked fixing your lawn isn’t one of them. Although commonly cited as one of the causes of burnt grass there’s little evidence that the acid in urine has much effect at all on grass. The nitrogen in your dogs urine, not the alkaline balance, is what causes lawn burn.
There are many supplements available that claim to reduce a dogs urine alkalinity. Unfortunately there has been no scientific evidence that such supplements reduce the severity or number of dead spots of grass caused by urine. If you suspect your dog has a pH imbalance consult your veterinarian.
Dr. A.W. Allard, a Colorado veterinarian, examined numerous variations in dog urine and the effects on several common lawn grasses. His results support the fact that volume of urine (nitrogen content) and urine concentration had the most deleterious effects on lawns. The pH of the urine did not have any variable effect nor did common additives designed to alter the urine pH.- “Dog-On-It” Lawn Problems, Dr. Steve Thomson DVM, Purdue University
4 Reasons Why Dog Urine Kills Grass
Just because you have a female dog it doesn’t mean they’re automatically going to kill your lawn; there’s more factors involved. Here’s the most common reasons why dog urine kills grass:
- Many fertilizer treated lawns are already high in nitrogen
- The quality of protein in your dogs diet effects the amount of nitrogen produced in urine
- Squatting to urinate cause pools of urine that may lead to increase risk of lawn burn
- Larger dogs create more urine increasing the likelihood of burns
DIY Solutions for Urine Burnt Grass
If your dog’s urine is killing your grass there are a few DIY solutions you can try. Here’s some basic tips for preventing burnt grass:
- After your dog pees saturate the area with a few cups of water
- Have your dog drink more water or add some moisture to their food to dilute their urine
- If you have lots of dead grass train your dog to urinate in one designated spot
Diluting urine pools with water is the most effective when it comes to preventing lawn burn, and the quicker it’s applied the better. Some recommend using baking soda, lime, Gypsum, or dishwasher detergent to dilute urine spots, but in many cases these products can cause more harm than good. When urine spots are diluted with water they end up having the same effect as fertilizer.
Gypsum and baking soda are salts and may compound the problem. Dishwashing detergents, which act as wetting agents or surfactants, may enhance water movement into and through the soil. While this theoretically could promote leaching and dilution of accumulated salts, some dishwashing detergents can burn grass plants. – Dog Urine Damage on Lawn, University of Colorado, Colorado Master Gardner Program, October 2014
Dead Grass Isn’t Just a Female Dog Problem
Next time someone tells you that those spots of dead grass are caused by a female dog kindly remind them that any dog can cause dead grass – not just females. Any dog, big or small, male or female, can cause dead grass if their urine contains enough nitrogen. Lawn spots can occur with any dog; especially when they tend to urinate in the same spot over and over.
Most lawn spots are mild and will repair themselves over time. If you’d like to keep your lawn spot free the most effective way to negate the effects of all that excess nitrogen is to dilute the urine with water.
Does Your Dogs Urine Cause Dead Grass?
Do your dogs cause dead spots of grass? What solutions do you use to repair the damage? Have you had any success with diluting the spots with water or any other products?
Check out out the Rest of Our “Why Do Dogs” Series:
- Why Do Dogs Feet Smell Like Fritos?
- Why Do Female Dogs Hump?
- Why Do Dogs Go Crazy After a Bath?
Kate Obrien says
Interesting post. Not all of my dogs have caused damage – neither Maggie or Jack do, but Sally used to. Probably related to diet.
Lauren Miller says
Thank you for posting this! My girls have never caused any urine burn spots! We’ve had several “interesting conversations” with the inlaws and their neighbor about it. (When we lived there. Thankfully we don’t anymore!!)
jana rade says
Jasmine used to kill any grass she squatted on until she was started on home made meals. Then she didn’t.
Haley urinates mostly in one area of the yard and there are times when the grass in that area looks slightly less green, but it’s barely noticeable and never kills the grass. I have to laugh at the thought of someone standing behind their dog with a watering can, ready to water the spot of grass even before the dog’s finished going. Makes me glad I’m not a perfectionist, haha! 🙂
Jen Gabbard says
I know I have that same vision in my mind; and it’s me holding a blue plastic watering can for some reason lol.
Jeanne Melanson says
Yes, we have dead grass. Our Jake is old and tired and achy, so he doesn’t go far from the side door. As a result, the grass always dies there. Every spring we reseed it and it comes back up. I like your idea of pouring water over the urine though after he goes. I think I might try that. Thanks!
Paul Loucka says
Did the watering after dog pees help with dead spots
Our female 80 lb lab dog kills our lawn like crazy. Tried lots of solutions with no luck. If she pees there it dies. I love my dog but I can’t deal with it anymore. Walking her a couple blocks away everytime she pees. Very annoying but it’s the only thing that works.
Vern Roth says
The last post (April 26) about the only real solution being “walking a couple blocks away every time she/he peas – now we’re talking. Thank you. And, walking the dog to a forested or grassy roadside ditch to pea really makes sense and will save everyone, dog owners and their neighbours, lots of grief.