No dog owner in the world is crazy about those ugly stains caused by their dogs’ urine. Unfortunately, they’re kind of inevitable … or are they?! I’m going to share a few workarounds I’ve found to prevent pet urine from killing grass.
I’m Barbara and I write regularly for That Mutt. I’m also a blogger over at K9s Over Coffee.
Why does dog pee kill grass?
First things first, why does dog pee actually kill grass? Well, dog pee is high in salts, and too much of these cause those ugly yellow burn patches on the grass.
It won’t affect it too much if a dog pees on the grass just once, but obviously that’s not a realistic scenario. If you have a yard and one or even several dogs, they’re going to be peeing on your grass on a regular basis.
It’s that regular exposure that gives formerly green grass that ugly yellow burnt look.
Male and female dogs can kill grass, not just females
Just to clear up one common myth – male dogs kill grass too, not just females. You may have heard that female dogs cause more damage to green grass when they’re peeing on it.
It is true that females usually squat to pee, therefore covering a smaller area with a larger amount of urine. But make no mistake – male dogs can do just as much damage to grass when they’re peeing, especially if they pee all in one spot.
Lindsay’s male dog Remy usually squats to pee as well, and boy has he left plenty of yellow patches on the lawn!
How to prevent pet urine from killing the grass
The following ideas are all effective, but they do require a certain consistency when you first get your dog used to them, along with rewarding the correct behavior.
1. Train your dog to pee on cedar chips or rocks instead of grass.
Cedar chips and rocks are a great option if your yard consists of nothing but grass.
They’re both inexpensive, and all they require on your part is a quick trip to your local Walmart or home improvement retailer like Lowe’s or Home Depot. By the way, a positive side effect of cedar chips is their flea repelling benefit!
A word of caution: If your dog has a tendency of chewing on the cedar chips, make sure to opt for organic cedar chips. Dogs who chew on rocks can loose teeth to that activity, so make sure to tailor your dog’s alternate peeing surface to his or her habits. You could also chose gravel instead of rocks.
Take your dog out on a leash to the cedar chips or rocks
You’ll need to train your dog to pee on a different surface than the grass that he’s likely used to.
This is easiest to teach when your dog is still a puppy. That’s because they pick up anything you teach them like a sponge, especially during their first 4 months of life. That’s why it pays off to socialize your puppy to walking and taking care of their business on different surfaces. For example grass, sand, asphalt, rock, cedar chips, pine needles, etc. You get the idea.
However, it’s entirely possible to teach your older dog that new trick as well! You’ll just have to show your pup what you expect of him, and the easiest way of doing that is to leash him and walk him to his new potty area every time. Then reward with praise and treats.
The process might take some dogs a week or two and others may need several weeks of consistency.
Reward the right behavior with treats and/or praise
Make sure you bring your happy voice as well as tasty, high value treats like cut up hot dog or string cheese. Anything smelly like dried fish or green tripe treats works wonders, too.
You may want to make things easy on yourself and just have a treat bag within close proximity of your back door. That way you don’t have to fumble around for it every time you get ready to head outside with your pup.
As soon as your pup goes potty in the correct area, praise him warmly and hand out one of those high value goodies. Good boy!
He’ll soon get the idea to associate the new space with his toilet area. It just takes some repetition to form this new habit. Keep walking him to that area on a leash until he gets the message that you only want him to pee there.
Tip: Once your pup understands where you want him to pee, slowly reduce the amount of treats you hand out. You also no longer need to treat him on a regular basis. Instead, praise him verbally every time but make a treat reward more random.
That way he’ll learn not to rely solely on treats for offering the right behavior. Also, remember that treats have calories too, so it’s important to adjust his food intake accordingly.
Teach your dog to pee on command
Go ahead and associate a specific command like “go potty” or “get busy” with your dog peeing (and/or pooping while we’re at it). That’ll make it a no-brainer for your dog to figure out what you want from him.
If your dog hesitates to go potty on the cedar chips or rocks, take him to that area when you know he really has to go. Like first thing in the morning, or after an afternoon nap or a playtime session. Praise and reward as soon as he pees on the new surface!
For a male dog, you could place the cedar chips or rocks around a tree or next to a bush if you know he likes to lift his leg.
2. Pour water over the dog pee every time.
OK, so you might not want to put rocks or cedar chips in your yard.
Another approach is to pour water over your dog’s pee spot in your yard every time he pees on it. Use a pitcher or a water bottle. Just have it ready by the door every time.
This works really well, as you can see in the below picture. That’s my yard. It’s been raining so much here in Central North Carolina that Wally’s pee got washed away courtesy of the sky!
3. Walk your dog down the street every time.
You can also completely avoid your own yard if you’re up to that extra work! If you have empty lots in your neighborhood or wooded areas nearby, it won’t be too much of a challenge.
Just walk your dog down the street every time he needs a potty break. (Those of you who live in apartments have been doing this multiple times a day, every day. It’s just part of life for many!)
However, if you live in a residential neighborhood and are surrounded by homes, do make sure not to piss your neighbors off!
I remember walking my previous Boxer pups in my former neighborhood and letting them pee on the patch of grass that’s by the curb. You know, that area that’s between the sidewalk and the street. Technically, that area belongs to the city, but it’s the homeowner’s responsibility to care for it.
You probably want to respect your neighbors’ grassy areas
The owner of the home happened to be on her front porch and saw Buzz lift his leg on it. She must have had a really bad day because she called the police on me for allowing Buzz to pee on that stretch of grass!
The police officer who showed up on my front porch was nice enough to let me know that technically it really wasn’t that person’s property. But he suggested not to let my dogs pee on it anymore since it bothered that lady. Fair enough.
So I did my best not to allow the pups to pee on those grassy areas anymore. For the most part, I let the pups go potty on empty lots where construction hadn’t started yet, close to a wooded area.
Side note: The woman who called the police on me had 3 dogs herself, who were always out in her fenced-in backyard whenever I walked by that house. I wonder what her backyard grass looked like if she had any…
4. Teach the dog to go in a certain area or corner of the yard.
Even if you don’t feel like going out and getting cedar chips, gravel, or rocks, you can still teach your dog to pee in a certain area or corner of your yard.
To do that, use the same methods I outlined earlier:
- Leash your dog and walk him to the area where you want him to pee
- Praise and reward with a happy voice and/or high-value treats
Remember that consistency is key and that some dogs learn faster than others.
How to prevent other dogs from peeing on your grass
Now that I’ve pointed out several ways for your own dog to not kill the grass, what about keeping other dogs off your lawn? After all, you can’t patrol it yourself 24/7/365!
Well, it’s most helpful to make your grass unattainable by fencing it in. It should be a physical fence made of wood, plastic, metal or aluminium. An electrical fence doesn’t keep any strange dogs out of your yard.
Another idea is to put up a sign that clearly states that your yard is a no-pee/poop zone, especially if your front yard can’t be fenced in. Sometimes that’s the case when HOA rules forbid it. It’s definitely a nicer move on your part than to immediately call the police like that one person did with me!
Obviously this will only work for dogs who are being walked by responsible owners/handlers who respect your wishes. It clearly also won’t have an effect on any loose dogs who happen to walk by your property and decide to take a potty break on your grass.
Supplements you can give your dog to prevent killing grass
There are a few products that claim they help prevent pet urine from killing grass. One of them are Dog Rocks, another is called Pet Honesty Grass Green Snacks. I’m not necessarily recommending these product. I haven’t tried them. I’m just letting you know what’s out there in case you want to give them a try (do let me know!).
Dog Rocks to prevent killing grass
Dog Rocks are rocks that stop the burning urine patches on real grass by removing the amount of nitrates from his drinking water. They’re an Australian product that I first came across when I attended the Global Pet Expo in Orlando, FL, back in 2016. According to the company, they’re naturally occurring paramagnetic igneous rock.
This is how they work:
- Place into your dog’s water bowl
- Top water off
- Only replace water every few days
- Replace rocks every 2 months
Why Dog Rocks don’t work for me personally:
- I don’t believe in only topping water off every few days. I replace my dog’s water every single day.
PetHonesty GrassGreen Snacks
These Grass Green Snacks are doggie chews that reduce nitrogen levels in a dog’s urine. However, we know that it’s actually the salts in the dog’s urine that ends up killing your grass.
GreenGrass Snacks are made in the USA with these ingredients:
Carrot, Coconut Glycerin, Flaxseed, Mixed Tocopherols, Natural Duck Flavoring, Oat Flour, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Palm Fruit Oil, Powdered Cellulose, Rice Bran, Rosemary Extract, Sorbic Acid, Sunflower Lecithin, Sweet Potato, Tomato.
I personally haven’t tried them, but they seem to work quite nicely according to the reviews I looked at! The chews received 2,074 reviews with an average rating of 4.4 stars out of 5 possible ones on Amazon. A 90 chew container costs around $28.
Plant grass that is resistant to dog urine
Some types of grass are more resistant to dog urine than others. Depending on where you live, you could go ahead and plant the grass that does better with exposure to dog urine!
Grass types to avoid if you are in the northern part of the United States with “cool season” lawns:
- Kentucky Blue Grass
Instead, plant these types of grass. You can find them at your local home improvement store:
- Fescue grass
Grass types to avoid if you are in the southern part of the United States with “warm season” lawns:
- Bermuda Grass
Now we’d like to hear from you!
Have you used any of these approaches to prevent pet urine from killing grass?
Do you have any additional advice? Let us know in the comments!
Barbara Rivers writes regularly for That Mutt. She is certified in raw dog food nutrition from Dogs Naturally Magazine and the author of three ebooks about balanced raw dog food. She is a blogger at K9s Over Coffee.
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Why Dogs Love Their Own Pee?
Saturday 5th of September 2020
Dogs don't seem simply to pee. They seem just to LOVE peeing. Dunno. There's something about dogs and their own pee that makes any thinking human ponder.
Something else that made me ponder was why cedar chips and not some other kind of wood? Is there something particularly special about this kind of chip that makes it preferable to choose over other kinds? How about a pile of mulch? Does it really matter?
I like the idea of having a special pile of something for the dog to target practice on it. I can only imagine what the clean-up duty will smell like after a few days. But better to have it all concentrated in one place for immediate removal than all over the yard leaving chemical burn marks everywhere.
But why cedar?? Just curious, Barbara...
Tuesday 18th of August 2020
Hello. I really liked the article. I have been struggling with a problem for a long time, neighbors' dogs go to pee on my lawn. After all, I can't sit all day and look at my yard so that there are no dogs in my yard. The grass on my lawn looks bad and unhealthy. I often try to water the lawn with water to wash off the urine of the dogs. But that doesn't help much in my case. I am now planning to remove the lawn from my yard and put in plain granite tiles. I am sure that after that, I will no longer worry about the neighbors' ill-bred dogs.
Saturday 8th of August 2020
Thanks for the info!