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You Can Grow It - Treating doggy lawn spots

What you can do when your dog's potty habits are causing dead spots in your lawn.

There are two things that most of us really take pride in – one is our pet, and the other is our lush green lawn. But sometimes it’s hard to have both, especially when your dog uses the lawn as its potty.

Garden master Jim Duthie talks about the problem of doggy dead spots in our lawns, and gives us a few ideas on what we can do about it.

Welcome to another episode of You Can Grow It. I’d like you to meet Ellie, a very lively member of my family. Ellie loves a green lawn as much as I do. The problem is, the grass doesn’t always stay green after she’s relieved herself on the lawn. So today we’re going to talk a little about those doggone yellow spots our pets tend to leave on the grass, and what we can do about them.

Americans love their dogs. We own about 78 million of them. And of the millions of households in the U.S., nearly half own at least one dog.

American homeowners also love their green lawns. In fact, we spend $40 billion a year trying to keep them lush and green.

Unfortunately, when pets use the grass as their potty, it often results in yellow dead spots in the grass.

“Well, probably the high nitrogen content is what’s killing the grass.”

Dr. Jeff Rosenthal, a veterinarian with the Idaho Humane Society, explains that a dog’s urine has the same effect as lawn fertilizer. If you apply too much fertilizer in one spot, the nitrogen will be too concentrated, and ends up burning the roots, killing the grass. Usually it will grow back in a few weeks, but sometimes it doesn’t grow back at all, and you may have to reseed or resod the area.

Both male and female dogs can cause urine damage to the grass, but female dogs tend to get more of the blame. The likely reason is that they tend to squat in one place, which concentrates their urine in one area, while male dogs tend to go in smaller amounts and in more scattered places as they mark their territory.

“So what can you do to save your grass?”

First, water the areas affected more frequently, to keep the ground moist and more likely to dilute the dog’s urine.

“I think prevention is probably the key there as well. If you see your dog urinating and you’ve had a problem with those spots in your yard, get the water on that area and just flush it out.”

“And one way is to watch where your dog’s urinating, and just really irrigate that with a lot of water afterwards.”

That may be easier said than done, though.

You can also teach your dog to mind his P’s and Q’s, so to speak. In other words, train your dog to go in only one smaller, specific area of your yard.

“Definitely, dogs can be trained to go in certain areas.”

“When you’re taking your dog out and you’re doing that potty training, always take them to the same spot and reward him, and some dogs will learn that.”

This time of year, our hot, dry weather increases the chance of damage to the grass, bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase “dog days of summer.”

Dr. Rosenthal also suggests that you encourage your dog to drink more water, or add a little extra water to their food, to help dilute their urine.

A natural way to repair yellow spots in the grass caused by the dog’s urine is to dissolve a cup of baking soda in a gallon of water and pour on the affected area. The baking soda neutralizes the high nitrogen concentration, and it will also deodorize the area so the dog won’t recognize the spot and go there again.

Local pet supply stores carry safe and natural dietary supplements that will neutralize the dogs’ urine and prevent damage to the grass. There are also some commercial products available at garden stores that you can apply directly to the grass to help treat and revive burned areas. Hopefully, some of these products and suggestions will help with the problem, so that Spot won’t make any more spots on your lawn.

Cats can also cause dead spots in the grass, but since many cat owners use litter boxes, the problem isn’t as widespread as it is with dogs.

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