It’s been five years now since my husband and I invested in a well-constructed fence for privacy and to keep our kids safe. Out came the hedges and in went the posts, followed by the laying of fresh sod to repair the damaged ground. (Spring and early fall are the perfect times to repair your yard.) For the next month, I ensured the new grass was properly watered, hosing it down myself in areas that the sprinkler couldn’t reach. It was lush, green and pristine, until the ‘burn’ marks started to appear. At first I was baffled (did I do something wrong?), but with more dog-walking businesses moving into the area, combined with the number of neighbourhood pooches, it made perfect ‘scents’ — the culprit was doggone urine.
Say It Ain’t So, Rover
As a relatively new homeowner (at that time), I soon discovered that lawn damage caused by dog urine is not only an unsightly problem — generally appearing as a circular dead patch, with a halo of healthy, dark green grass around its edges — but a common one. It’s also a challenge to prevent and correct. In many instances, the urine damage is severe and the grass will not fully recover on its own. What’s more, if not properly treated, weeds may eventually invade and replace the lawn grass.
Saddened with the state of my newly sodded yard, I spoke with a lawn care company about how to remedy my situation. It advised applying a granular gypsum to the grass to help neutralize the salt concentration in the soil. The high concentration of nitrogen and salts in dog urine is what causes the burnt spots. It also makes it difficult for the grass to extract water from the soil, which circumvents healthy growth.
Repairing Grass Damaged by Dogs
Here’s what else I learned:
1. If lawn burn is mild, an aggressive combination of core aeration and over-seeding will generally repair the damage. Hand spot seeding with a soil and seed mixture is a good alternative for small one-off spots.
2. Before repairing your lawn, lightly rake the damaged area and remove the dead, matted down grass. This will help ensure good seed to soil contact. Water immediately after seeding and keep the area moist until seedlings emerge (up to two weeks).
3. Severely and extensively damaged lawn (more than 50% of the grass area) may require re-sodding. The best time to do this is mid-March to mid-April or mid- September to late October. New sod generally requires daily watering until it has fully rooted.
4. Regardless of whether you’re embarking on a minor or major lawn repair, it’s important to rope off the area to protect it from foot traffic. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging the new seedlings or sod before it’s fully establishment.
A Persistent, Pesky Problem
Once repaired, the most effective way to prevent grass burn is to water the area immediately after a dog has urinated — an insurmountable task for most homeowners. You can try an eco-friendly animal-safe repellant to ward off Rover, but reviews are mixed on the effectiveness of these types of products.
Thankfully, damage wasn’t extensive so we were able to repair the dead patches ourselves. But the dogs returned and so did the bare spots along with some new ones as a result of chinch bugs. That, however, is a whole other story.