Answer: Before you take out the gravel, you may want to consider that dogs running on wet grass or on frozen ground will kill the grass and turn the lawn area into a sea of mud. This is why many dog owners have separate gravel or concrete dog run areas to protect their lawn. The harder surfaces can also be hosed off to clean them.
But if you still want to do this, you will need to remove the gravel, and then take up the underlaying landscape fabric. Then loosen the soil down at least six inches and work in a generous amount of compost or other organic matter such as rotted down autumn leaves. Also run some basic soil tests to check the fertility and soil pH. Add fertilizer and lime as indicated by the soil tests. Then level the area and rake the surface smooth.
Now you are ready to lay sod or seed the area. Keep it evenly moist like a wrung out sponge (not sopping wet) until the new lawn is fully rooted and established. The new lawn will not be able to handle foot traffic (except when you mow it) until it is well established. (Sod will handle traffic sooner than a seeded lawn.)
Plan on mowing the lawn often, setting the blades at three inches high and cutting often enough that you never remove more than an inch at a time. This can mean mowing more than once a week in spring and sometimes in fall when the lawn is growing fast.
The best time of year to do extensive lawn work is early September, so you have some time to get your soil testing and preparation done. Your local county extension should be able to help you with the soil testing and developing a lawn care plan based on your soil and the type of grass you plant.
Good luck with your project and enjoy those puppies!
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