Dogs and Lawns Can Get Along!

Dogs and Lawns Can Get Along!

Dogs and high-quality Australian lawns sometimes do not mix.

But they can, with a bit of effort and some simple training for the pet and the owner. 

That’s according to two prominent turf researchers from the University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

Simply titled: “Dogs and Lawn”, researchers David Hensley and Brad LeaMaster have found that the most frustrating lawn problems for all homeowners come from dog urine and feces. (Refer to http://turfgrass.ctahr.hawaii.edu/downloads/dogs%20and%20lawns.pdf )

The two researchers have put turf, plus doggy urine and faeces under the microscope and found that, on a positive note, the smallest amounts of urine and feces may produce a green-up, or fertilizer, effect. While larger amounts of doggy urine and feces result in lawn burn or dead patches.

“Most burn spots recover with time and regrowth, but large dead areas may require reseeding, plugging, or sodding,” that’s according to Hensley and LeaMaster.

“For homeowners who are also dog lovers, this presents a dilemma, particularly when one family member prefers the dog and another prefers a well-manicured lawn. Therefore, understanding the interaction between dogs and the lawn is the first step to resolving the problem.”

In layman’s terms, the basic problem with urine or feces on the lawn is the nitrogen (N) content and concentration. Nitrogen waste products are the result of protein breakdown through normal bodily functions.

The problem is that carnivores, including cats and dogs, have a high protein requirement, and the volume of urine produced varies with the animal’s size. Urine is a more serious problem for lawns because it is applied all at once as a “liquid fertilizer”.

So the answer is simple, since dog’s faeces are usually solid, owners have the option of frequent manual removal to limit damage to the lawn. And regularly wash down your lawn after your notice a urine circle formation.

But then you have the lawn problems associated with a dog’s sexual maturity. In domestic dogs, sexual maturity occurs between six and nine months of age.

And according to Hensley and LeaMaster, “… social maturity is the time during which problem behaviors (roaming, mounting, urine marking, fighting, etc…) develop”.

But never fear, these problems can be prevented, or greatly reduced, by neutering, especially in males. Female dogs may also mark territory, although less commonly than male dogs.

So in re-addressing the primary concern of urine damage to lawns, it is simply about minimizing the N concentration added to the lawn at any single time.

Hensley and LeaMaster state that “…female dogs, being less likely to urine-mark and more likely to squat, are the primary culprits of lawn damage”.

Females are more likely to also urinate anywhere on a lawn and usually release all the urine at once therefore resulting in a single strong dose of N application confined to a small patch of grass.

Apparently, the brown spot that results often has a green ring around the outside with the N overload at the center causing the grass to burning.

The good news is that as the urine concentration is diluted toward the periphery, the N has a positive fertilizer effect for the lawn.

According to Hensley and LeaMaster, this characteristic brown-spot-green-ring pattern has been called “dog spot disease” by some people.

But, again a solution is quite simple, implement problem avoidance techniques if you don’t want your dog to “mark” your lawn, such as GOOD FENCES or more practically plant warm seasoned turf.

There are ways of repairing and recovering damaged lawn areas. For instance, watering the spot after doggy urinations effectively dilutes the N dose with no ill effects on the dog. This is an easy, inexpensive way to avoid the problem. To work, however, it requires that someone to go out with the dog and spray the spot. If the dog consistently urinates in one area, it can be sprayed once or twice per day to lessen damage.

Hensley and LeaMaster also found that using gypsum or lime on N spots works.

Other pet-related problems for lawns

Dogs will sometimes wear paths along a fence or other boundary. Constant traffic and wear, even from a dog, will damage turf, compact the soil, and cause bare areas or increased weed infestations.

Homeowners can periodically core-aerate or top-dress their turf with fine-screened compost thus reducing compaction and helping to recover the damaged areas.

Finally, select a grass from the different varieties that wear well and tolerate high traffic – these are Kenda Kikuyu, OzTuff Australian Couch or Empire Zoysia.

Visit the Quick Lawn Selection Guide to see which lawn suits you and your pets.

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