Ask The County Agent: Limiting pet damage to your yard

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By STEPHANIE BUTCHER, Coordinator, UGA Extension Coweta County 

Question: My dogs are damaging my turf. What can I do? 

Agent: Pets can be tough on turfgrass, especially if your goal is to have a perfectly manicured lawn that resembles a golf course. However, even if your expectations are not that high, you may still want a lawn without dead spots appearing in highly visible areas. 

Most pets repeatedly visit the same general area, and over time small urine spots can become large dead spots. Minor damage will look like patches of dark green grass that are taller than other areas of the lawn, while more severe damage appears as dead patches 3 to 6 inches in diameter with dark green perimeters. 

Sometimes this damage can be confused with lawn diseases like dollar spot and brown patch, but diseased turfgrass usually lacks the dark green perimeter around the dead spot. Instead, diseased turf will have a lighter green or yellow ring, called a halo, around the spot. 

Damage from animal urine can occur in any turfgrass species in any climate, but the most severe damage occurs when soil moisture is low, and the weather is hot and dry for an extended time. Sounds like a typical Georgia summer, right? 

Here are some tips to limit damage caused by pets to your lawn:

  1. Keep your pet off the most visible parts of the lawn and/or train your pet to use a designated area away from the main lawn. 
  2. Water the area your pet uses. This can help minimize serious damage but may not completely stop a greening response in the turf. 
  3. Walk your pet in a neighborhood common area, dog park, or other area where the visibility of the turfgrass is not as important. 
  4. Maintain a healthy turf that can more easily recover from damage. Proper fertilization, mowing height and irrigation are very important for a healthy turf.
  5. During times of drought, water deeply and infrequently to maintain adequate soil moisture. Two inches of water once a week is much better than shallow watering (1/2”) 2-3 days per week, which encourages shallow root growth and weaker turf.  

It is important to note that there are products available that claim to repel animals to keep them from urinating on particular areas, but these products have not been proven effective. Consult with your veterinarian about any products that claim to repel animals from certain areas or that claim to provide dietary modifications that help limit turf damage caused by animal urine.

For more information about turfgrass management, contact the Coweta County Extension office at 770-254-2620 or email [email protected]

(Special thanks to Purdue Extension and University of Illinois Extension turfgrass resources for contributions to this article.  Photo Credit: North Carolina State Extension)

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