Most dogs love grass. They love to roll in it, run on it, dig in it, eat it, play on it, and, yes, pee and poop on it. They spend a lot of time on it. But as a primary element of a dog’s environment, all grasses are not created equal. So what is the best grass for dogs?
The best grass for dogs should be able to stand up to your dog’s business and their other habits, like running and digging. Some of the best grasses for dogs include Perennial Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, and Bermuda. Centipede, Zoysia, and Fescue are three other popular grasses for dogs.
If you’re planting a new lawn or considering moving to a home with a particular type of grass, it’s worth looking into what are the best grasses for dogs. Using a grass appropriate for dogs can help you maintain a clean and presentable lawn, despite your dog’s natural inclinations to make it otherwise.
Here we take a look at popular grass species for dogs as well as how dogs destroy grass, how to prevent them from doing it, and how to fix any damage they do.
What Qualities Make a Grass Good for Dogs
First, let’s look at what makes one grass better for dogs than another. Since dogs are inevitably going to be hard on their lawns, there are a few qualities of grass that are desirable.
Grasses with deeper roots will be more durable. The grass will be less likely to be torn up by running or digging paws if it is anchored more deeply and strongly.
When grass does get damaged, a fast-growing grass will heal these lawn wounds much more quickly. Slower growing grass will leave these blemishes visible for much longer.
Different grasses thrive better in different climates. You want to choose one appropriate for your specific climate. You also want to make sure that the grass is compatible with your sun exposure conditions. A yard that is mostly in the shade will need a different grass species than one that is exposed to sunlight all day.
The Best Grass Species for Dogs
Perennial Ryegrass is a common grass across the United States. It can grow and establish quickly, and it creates a fine-bladed lawn that can stay green throughout the year. This grass is an excellent choice whether you live in the south or the north as it can tolerate heat and cold.
Often used to overseed lawns as well as to fill in gaps, Ryegrass has a reputation as a companion grass that blends with and complements other grass types well.
The grass has a strong root system, so it can withstand a lot from you or your dog. It’s a very durable grass, but if it does get damaged, it does not recover as easily as some other grasses. It does require some maintenance to keep looking good, but it’s still a nice choice for lawns with moderate shade and those with sun exposure.
Kentucky Bluegrass is another popular grass you will find in many US lawns. It’s especially common throughout the northern regions because it can handle cool weather. The grass does very well during the winter, and some varieties can’t tolerate much heat. It doesn’t handle drought well, nor does it thrive in deep shade.
It can take a while to grow, so it may not be a quick fix for your yard if you don’t already have it. However, it can come back from damage quickly, so if your dog does its business or digs too much, the grass can go back to its healthy dark (almost blue, hence the name) green color.
Kentucky Bluegrass grows quickly and therefore requires a fair amount of maintenance, including more frequent mowing and fertilization.
Another grass to consider for dogs is Bermuda (also known as Bermudagrass). Originally grown in Africa, this grass is great for warmer climates, and you can find it on more than just lawns. The grass can remain green in areas with warmer winters, and it will go dormant in colder spots.
Bermuda is a high maintenance grass as it grows aggressively and requires frequent mowing. You can water it daily or rely on rainfall, and then you can mow the grass when it’s two inches (5 cm) tall. Mowing can help toughen the grass so that it can handle whatever your dog does.
A warm weather grass, Bermuda is ideal for withstanding heavy dog wear and tear.
Centipede is a low-maintenance turf grass with a coarse texture and a bright green color. You don’t need to use a ton of fertilizer or mow it often, and it can handle a bit of shade. It can tolerate a lot of heat, and it can take quite a bit of direct sun.
This grass is especially good if you have a dog and live in the Southwest. It’s not as suitable in areas that get cold, and it’s sensitive to alkaline soil. Still, if you live in the south, the grass can handle a lot from you and your dog.
Another durable grass to consider when you have a dog is Zoysia. It can take a lot of heat but can also withstand a lot of foot traffic. The grass can look very good and is dense to help with durability. It’s a low maintenance grass with minimal insect and disease problems.
Zoysia does great during the warm season, but it can also tolerate cold weather. You can use it in the south and in transition zones, and it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. While it does better in the sun, it can also take some shade.
Fescue is yet another excellent grass for dogs. It can absorb a lot of moisture, making it a great grass for your dog to use for their business. Fescue is also very resistant and sturdy, so it can handle almost anything from your dog.
The grass comes in different types, including fine and tall fescue. Fescue often contains endophytes, which is a fungus that helps make the grass more durable. You don’t have to spend a lot of time maintaining your lawn when you use fescue.
Fescue can thin out, so you may have to overseed it annually to maintain its density. But other than that, it is a low maintenance grass choice.
How Do Dogs Destroy Grass?
Regardless of whether you have an ideal grass species for your lawn, a dog can still cause damage. There are several ways that dogs damage lawns, but here are the most common ones.
We are all familiar with the yellow or brown, dead circles on a lawn caused by a dog peeing on it. While many think it is some sort of acid in the urine that kills the grass and causes the spots, it is actually something called nitrogen, a waste product produced when the body breaks down protein.
Because a dog’s diet is usually relatively high in protein, the amount of nitrogen produced is high as well. So when a dog urinates on grass, the excessive amount of nitrogen burns the leaf tissue and kills the grass.
Ironically, nitrogen helps grass and plants grow; it is a component of fertilizer. But when there is too much, it overwhelms the vegetation and kills it. This is why the area immediately adjacent to a urine spot will often be greener than the rest of the lawn — the less concentrated amount of nitrogen actually fertilizes the grass and promotes growth.
Female dogs are more likely to cause urine spots. This is not because their urine is “more acidic” as often mistakenly believed, but rather because they squat and direct the urine in a concentrated area. Males are more likely to lift their leg and urinate on trees and bushes, though many squat as well.
There is also a common misconception that certain breeds are more prone to causing urine spots. This is not true. That said, larger breeds produce more urine, so they are likelier to cause larger dead grass spots.
In addition to smelling bad, dog feces can present an environmental and health hazard. Dog poop contains bacteria and parasites which, if left to infiltrate the grass, can live in the soil for long periods and continue to reproduce. As your dog spends time on the lawn, they can easily be ingested and pose a threat to the animal.
Running and Playing
A grass lawn is an ideal play area for dogs, and constant hard turns and quick stops can lift the turf up. Dogs also often will run along a fence or other repeated patterns, causing areas to get beaten down and worn out.
Many dogs love to dig, and your lawn presents plenty of opportunities. In addition to destroying the grass on top, digging can damage the soil as well, compacting it so that grass has difficulty growing on it. Dogs also tend to like to dig in the same spots, so reseeding efforts are often in vain.
Protect Your Lawn from Your Dog
How to Prevent Urine Spots on Grass
Unfortunately, the best way to prevent urine spots on grass is to keep your dog from urinating on it. It’s probably not what you want to hear, but solutions are not as difficult as they might seem.
Train Your Dog to Use a Specific Place for Peeing and Pooping
You might try creating a specific area for your dog to do their business. It might be a less visible corner of the lawn or one that you purposely landscape for them. Wood mulch or pea gravel are popular materials for these areas. If you use wood mulch, make sure it does not contain cocoa bean hulls as they can be toxic to dogs. Once a space is created, you then must teach your dog to eliminate in that area.
The best way to train a dog to do their business in one area is to start by immediately taking them outside on a leash to that area. Wait for them to eliminate and then praise them effusively. Then, let them off leash to play for a while. Keep doing this until the dog automatically heads to their “spot” to go. This can happen quickly or take longer depending on the dog and how long they have been choosing where to go on their own.
Even if your dog doesn’t learn to go to their spot by themselves, you can mostly eliminate urine spots by walking them to urinate first and then allowing them on the lawn. Once they have initially emptied their bladder, even if they urinate again in the next hour or so, the amount should be small and less damaging to the lawn.
Take Your Dog on Walks
Taking your dog on more walks means less urinating on your lawn and, therefore, fewer urine spots. And your dog (and hopefully you) will enjoy it as well. But be considerate of others’ property and don’t just let your dog create urine spots on somebody else’s lawn! Find suitable places for your dog to eliminate and always clean up poop.
Encourage Your Dog to Drink Water
More water means more diluted urine and less concentration of nitrogen. So it helps to get your dog to drink more water. On a daily basis (vs. getting a sick dog to drink), the only practical ways to do this are making fresh water always available to the dog, adding water to your dog’s kibble, or feeding wet dog food (which has higher water content than other dog foods). However, this will only minimize, not eliminate, urine spots if they are already occurring.
Water Your Lawn More
Depending on the scope of your problem, regular irrigation of your lawn can help dilute the accumulation of salts from urine after it is on the grass. Apart from hosing down a spot right after the dog pees, this method will likely only minimize the urine spots.
Do Dietary Supplements to Reduce Urine Acid Work?
There are no dietary supplements that have been proved to reduce the severity of dog spotting on lawns. Some products that include dl methionine aka methioform can cause urinary system issues in dogs and can also create calcium deposits and affect the bone growth of young dogs (read more about the study here).
Despite the marketing claims of these products, none have been scientifically proven to work. If you are considering using any supplement for this purpose, check with your veterinarian first.
This one is easy: Soon after your dog poops, pick it up and properly dispose of it. It’s that simple.
Teaching your dog to go in a specific place is another surefire method of avoiding damage/infestation to your lawn, as is taking your dog on walks instead of leaving them in the yard to do their business.
Minimizing Damage from Playing and Running
The more time an active dog spends on a lawn, the more damage that will be done to it. One way to minimize this damage is to try to distribute the wear and tear equally across the lawn rather than in concentrated places.
If a dog likes to run back and forth along a fence, put plants or other physical barriers in the way. Don’t leave objects on the lawn in the same place for long periods. Lawn furniture and gardening equipment should be moved so that the dog doesn’t establish traffic patterns around them.
Another tactic is to cordon off an area of the lawn from the dog using gates, fencing, etc. Instead of distributing the wear and tear evenly, you keep one part of your lawn pristine and designate the other part as your dog’s play area. This helps if you want to ensure that at least part of your lawn is lush and presentable for entertaining or other activities.
Try not to let your dog play on wet grass. Grass and soil that is wet will tear up more easily.
It also helps to mow your grass high. By raising the mower blade to 2-3 inches, the grass can more easily handle the stress caused by your dog’s activity. As a bonus, the higher grass will also help hide smaller pee spots.
Digging Holes in Lawn
Most digging by dogs is done along fences, in garden and plant areas, or in already exposed soil. Digging through grass is harder than bare soil, so the joy of digging is easier accomplished in those areas. A dog may dig along a fence to try to escape. If a dog digs in a grassy area, it is likely a specific scent that is prompting the behavior.
The best prevention for lawn digging is supervision. If you keep an eye on your dog and don’t leave them alone for long periods, they are less likely to find trouble. As with children, boredom often leads to undesirable behaviors.
If you see that your dog has started digging a hole in the lawn, cover it with a physical object like a hose reel or lawn chair. The earlier you do this, the more likely you will be able to nip the behavior in the bud. Once it has been opened up to soil, the dog views it as just as easy a digging opportunity as the bare soil around the bushes, etc.
How to Repair Your Dog Damaged Lawn
How to Fix Urine Spots
Yet another myth is that dog urine spots can be fixed by applying various substances such as gypsum or baking soda to “neutralize” the acid in the urine. This will not work, and may actually make the problem worse because sodium bicarbonate is salt, which can further damage the grass.
Because it is difficult to determine if the grass in a brown urine spot is completely dead, the best options to repair it are as follows:
- Increase the amount and frequency of watering to help dilute the salts that have accumulated. If the turf is still living, this can help it recover, usually growing in from the perimeter where healthy grass exists.
- If increased watering doesn’t help because the turf is dead, the spot can be re-sodded or re-seeded after the soil has been turned and fertilized. If re-seeding, be sure to use one of the recommended grass species for dog lawns.
Protect Your Dog from Your Lawn
Your dog can spend hours a day on your lawn, and their entire body is in contact with it as they play on it, roll on it, and sometimes even eat it. It’s important that your lawn maintenance doesn’t pose a risk to your dog’s health. That mostly means using lawn maintenance products such as pet safe weed killers and fertilizers that do not include harmful chemicals.
Alternative to Natural Grass
There is always the option of installing artificial grass. These products have improved quite a bit in recent years, both in appearance and quality.
The upside to artificial grass is it doesn’t require regular maintenance like mowing, fertilizing, watering, and edging. And you’ll never have urine spots or worn-out turf. If properly installed with a correct base and drainage system, artificial grass can last for decades.
When getting a dog, it can be easy not to think twice about the grass you have, but having the best grass for dogs can make a huge difference in your lawn maintenance. And even if you don’t have the ideal grass species, maintaining your lawn properly and managing your dog’s interaction with it can go a long way towards an attractive yard that is pleasing to the eye.