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How to Treat Dog Urine Spots on Your Lawn


September 7, 2021

In your eyes, your dog can do no wrong, but it is hard to ignore those discolored and bare spots on your lawn day in and day out. In some cases, dog urine can wreak havoc on your perfectly manicured and luscious green lawn.

Why does this happen? Can you prevent it? Are there ways to fix the damage? We answer your most frequently asked questions about treating dog urine spots on grass, so you and your pup can enjoy your beautiful greenery all year long.

Why Does Dog Urine Damage Grass?

Dried urine spot in yard

Let us start by addressing the root of the problem. Most dogs go outside to use the bathroom, but over time, dog urine can damage the grass, leaving it discolored and bare in areas with a high urine concentration.

But, why does this happen?

The answer is that dog urine contains a high level of nitrogen and salts, which can cause nutrient burn on your grass. Nitrogen is a beneficial macronutrient for plants, but too much of it can lead to stunted growth or dead grass.

Nitrogen builds up as a dog naturally breaks down protein. Since most dogs have a high protein diet, this becomes a problem for the grass. If your canine companion has a preferred area where they like to pee, the frequent and high urine exposure in a concentrated area can lead to fertilizer burn.

It is important to note that both female and male dogs have the same likelihood of damaging lawns with their urine. Contrary to popular belief, female dogs do not have different urine that causes the burn.

Damaged spots usually occur when urine is concentrated in a puddle. Dogs that squat to urinate, including females, puppies, and elderly dogs have a higher risk of burning the grass since the urine is concentrated in a single area.

A majority of male dogs urinate by lifting one leg to mark their territory with spurts of urine that tend to spread across an area, thereby, spreading the damage without creating an unseemly discolored or bare spot, but scattered specks that are harder to notice at first.

In most cases, minor damage from urine does not need any direct intervention if your grass is healthy. It may be able to regrow without any help. However, if your grass is not as healthy as it could be and experiences a high concentration of urine in the same area time after time, you may need to take some corrective actions to treat your lawn.

Choosing the Right Type of Grass for Dogs

Beautiful yard landscape

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Choosing the right type of grass for your yard can make it more resilient against dog urine. If you are thinking of planting or replanting your lawn, consider grass types such as fescue and perennial ryegrass for the most tolerance against urine spots. Avoid bluegrass and bermudagrass, since they are the least tolerant to dog urine.

Top Choice Fescue Blend Grass Seed, 3 lb.

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Several species of taller grass used in meadows may also be relatively tolerant to salts and dog urine. These include:

  • Zoysia
  • Paspalum
  • Distichlis

Looking for a lawn alternative that is tolerant to dog urine? Try white clover or O’Connor’s strawberry clover, which are easy to maintain.

How to Repair Spots From Dog Urine

Fixing dog urine damage on your lawn is easier than ever if you act quickly and use the right lawn repair supplies. However, you must first identify the type of damage present to address it correctly.

How to Repair Green Spots From Dog Urine

In some cases, green spots can appear on your grass, the opposite of lawn damage. Since your dog’s urine has a high concentration of nitrogen, the macronutrient can improve your plant growth if it has a low nitrogen content from fertilizer.

If this is the case, we recommend taking a soil sample to have tested for pH or other issues that could be preventing proper absorption of nutrients. If you need more nitrogen, consider improving low levels in your lawn by administering lawn fertilizer according to the soil testing lab recommendations.

How to Repair Brown Spots From Dog Urine

Man treating urine spot ini yard

Brown spots from dog urine are caused by the high levels of nitrogen and salts scorching the grasses. These dead and decaying areas, over time, stop growing, especially if they were already unhealthy, stressed, and susceptible to nutrient burn.

If you already have brown spots on your hands, we recommend watering the brown area frequently and deeply to flush the urine salts from the soil nearby.

While dead grass spots cannot be revived, there are ways to completely repair that damaged area. Keep in mind, the sooner you tackle brown spots, the better chance your grass has of recovering from the excess nitrogen and salts.

Here are the tools you will need for fixing dog urine spots:

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to treat urine spots on lawns.

  1. Spray the urine spots on the lawn with water to remove excess salt present in the soil.
  2. Get rid of the dead grass from the area. A rake or garden claw can help you break up the surface of the grass to remove the dead grass.
  3. Use a garden fork or other tool to loosen the soil and give it better aeration.
  4. Apply a thin layer of ground or prilled limestone over the bare spots on your lawn. Make sure to water it thoroughly to help improve new grass growth.

Calpril Lime 25 lb.

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  1. Allow the limestone coating to sit for about a week without any foot traffic. Prilled lime like Calpril, won’t burn grass and will sweeten (counteract acidity) the soil for proper grass
  2. Apply a thin layer of topsoil to the bare area.
  3. Sprinkle grass seed over the bare spots to cover up the patch with new growth.
  4. Water your area every day for one to three weeks. Watering practices depend on the grass type you will be growing and the climate.

Complete lawn repair products such as the JB Lawn Intelligent Lawn Repair are easy-to-use and effective treatments for damaged grass. This product features 70% perennial ryegrass and 30% fine fescue, fertilizer, and recycled mulch, providing almost everything you need to improve your damaged yard.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions for application. Generally, you should ensure the seed makes good contact with the soil and remains moist for proper germination. Allow the grass seeds to grow healthy roots and mow your lawn a few times before you expose it to regular foot traffic.

Complete dog urine spot treaters can speed up the rate of decomposition of dead grass and promote growth of new grass to fill it in with their unique combination of urine-tolerant grass seed, fertilizer, and mulch, the perfect combination for a healthy yard.

You can do an easy and professional level soil test with accurate lab results and recommendations by using Wilco’s Pro Soil Test.

Wilco Premium Soil Test Kit

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How to Prevent Dog Urine Spots On Your Lawn

Dog drinking from bowl outside

The best way to fix dead lawn spots is by preventing them in the first place. Luckily, there are many strategies you can use at once to reduce the nitrogen buildup in your grass and keep your pup healthy.

Here are a few tips to help treat dog urine spots on your lawn.

Set Up a Separate Space In Your Yard for a Doggie Bathroom

One of the most effective ways to reduce lawn damage from dog urine is to have a separate area in your yard where your dog can use the bathroom, away from your healthy lawn.

Consider building a mulched or graveled area (artificial turf also works) in your back or side yard and train your dog to use this area as a bathroom through positive reinforcement and praise. Do not use mulch made from cocoa bean hulls since they can be toxic to your dog if ingested.

Dog Kennel Roof Kit, 10' x 10'

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Behlen Dog Kennel Kit, 6'x10'x10'

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Over time, they will get used to this new area, which can be made more hospitable with bright greenery surrounding the perimeter.

Water the Area

Pregnant woman watering grass

If possible, you should water the area as soon as your dog finishes urinating. Grab a hose to give that area a quick rinse. You can water in the morning and evening where your dog normally pees or do it every time in that spot with a watering can.

Keep Your Dog Hydrated

Encourage hydration with all your dogs to essentially dilute their urine, thereby, providing your lawn with lower nitrogen levels at a time.

Here are a few ways to help your canine companion drink more water:

  • Provide plenty of water bowls, indoors and out, including any rooms where your dog usually goes. Make sure to wash the bowls daily. Get a bigger bowl if needed to ensure they always have a full bowl instead of constantly having to refill it. Copper dog bowls reduce bacteria and require less maintenance.
  • Invest in a drinking fountain to improve the taste and odor of the water, which could be turning dogs off from drinking it.
  • Add water to your dog’s food. Keep in mind, while this can increase water consumption, it could cause them to drink less water, so you have to check if the spot problem persists.

Avoid Dietary Supplements

Dietary supplements that promise to alter the nitrogen concentration in your dog’s urine are not only ineffective but can be dangerous to your dog.

These short-term fixes, if you can call them, function by altering the pH of the urine or adding salt to the body. The ones that alter the pH do not address the problem and increase the risk of your dog developing urinary crystals or bladder stones.

Pills that try to help by adding salt to the body can cause your dog to drink more and urinate more, which dilutes the urine. If your dog has kidney or heart disease, this is especially not a good idea. Instead, focus on diluting the grass, not the dog’s urine.

Dog Urine Spots FAQs

Dog laying in grass

There are a lot of myths and questions surrounding why dog pee damages lawns and how to fix dead grass.

Here are the most common questions with our answers.

Can You Change a Dog’s Diet to Prevent Dead Spots?

Unfortunately, there is no easy fix when it comes to changing your dog’s food to help prevent dead spots. However, some dogs do not need a high protein diet. Speak with your vet first before making any sudden changes in their food to reduce stomach problems.

Does Baking Soda Help Treat Urine Spots?

This is a home remedy that unfortunately does not work. It is believed that baking soda neutralizes the nitrogen responsible for the dead grass. However, this is not the case. In fact, baking soda contains salt that can further damage your grass.

Does Gypsum Help Treat Urine Spots?

This is another home remedy that does not work. Gypsum also contains salt which can worsen your grass damage.

Do Some Dog Breeds Cause More Spots Than Others?

Different dog breeds, in and of themselves, do not have differences in urine chemical content. However, larger breeds tend to produce more urine, thereby, increasing the risk of dead spots.

Will Dead Grass Grow Back After Dog Pee?

Dead grass will not come back. However, you can remove this dead turf and the soil below it and put in new sod or reseed with a hardier type of grass. Keep in mind, healthy, green grass around the dead spot can fill in that area through rhizome growth even if you do not reseed. That is why it is important to keep your grass and soil healthy.

Keep Your Lawn Green and Healthy with Wilco Farm Stores

Dog laying in grass with tongue out

Keep your lawn greener and healthier for longer, and repair damaged spots if they show up, so you and your pup can enjoy playing together in a sea of green.

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