Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
May, 2006
Regional Report

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Aeration and water can help these dog spots grow back.

When Rover Goes All Over

Get a group of homeowners together and invariably the subject of dog spots in the lawn comes up. Why do some lawns go to the dogs? There is no reason that you can't have dogs AND an attractive lawn.

Growing a lawn with dogs, cats, rabbits, and other domesticated animals does present some challenges that may require us to make some compromises. The idea is to have an attractive and acceptable lawn that is dog-friendly. It all comes down to a matter of training the dog owner as well as the dog. It begins with the acceptance that a business-as-usual approach to keeping the lawn may not work. If you allow your pets the run of the yard, you may need to adjust to new terms and consider some new landscaping options. Just remember, if you decide it doesn't really make a difference, then the pets will usually get the upper hand.

Designated Rest Stops
Using hardscaping can help designate a specific area for pets. Concrete or stone pavers, crushed rock or pea gravel, wood or rubberized mulches, even masonry areas can be useful to create an area just for pets. Although pets may like to tread on the soft, grassy surfaces, they can be trained to visit other designated spots. If cats can be trained to a litter box, why not consider training dogs to use a specific area as a bathroom? A hard surface can be easily washed with the garden hose.

If you are sticking to your philosophy of keeping a green carpet of grass for you and your pet, you must consider planting the most resilient grass variety that responds to dog traffic and urination. Some grasses hold up better to pet traffic, digging, and other pet activities. Among the best cool-season grasses are the improved varieties of drought-resistant Kentucky bluegrass.

Installing a more appropriate grass will solve some of the pet damage, namely the wear and tear on grass. It will solve the problem of when "Rover goes all over" with his urination urges. Dog spots are those noticeable yellow spots on the lawn caused by the salts in the dog's urine.

One solution goes back many years, to when the typical lawn contained lots of clover. Clover is much more forgiving as it doesn't burn from dog urination the way grasses are prone to do. But many homeowners today don't want a hint of clover in their lawns. That's too bad; I grew up with a grass and clover lawn and was quite fond of the look. A good-looking lawn is truly in the eye of the beholder.

Emergency Lawn Care Remedy
If you want to correct dog spots before they become a serious issue, if you don't want to renounce growing your favorite lawn grass but want to prevent the powerful impact of dog spots, here's a strategy: When you see your dog doing his business on the lawn, rush out with the garden hose. Flush out and dilute the spot to help avoid the burn.

If you have more important things to do with your time, this strategy may not be for you. Just resign yourself to repairing any areas that are totally burned out.

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