Dog Gone Lawn by Chris Enroth

How do dogs harm lawns? Chris Enroth, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, explains.

First is the traffic. Very often backyard dogs will wear down paths in the grass from circling or pacing. Not only is this hard on the lawn itself but it also leads to compacted soils, making reestablishing turf in these locations even more challenging.

And then you have the number one issue when it comes to lawns and dogs. Dog urine is very high in nitrogen. While nitrogen is your lawns favorite nutrient, what your dog delivers is much too high and 'burns' the turf.

And of course, when a dog defecates on the lawn it suffocates the grass beneath it, leaving yet another dead spot of turf which favors weed development.

So what is a dog owner to do? Here are suggestions from Chris based upon sound turf practices and experience with his own dogs and lawn.

  1. Train your dog where to do their business in a designated spot in your backyard, then reward with a treat when they go.
  2. Create a non-turf area where your dog's urine will not damage any plantings.
  3. Clean up their mess. Use baggies to remove dog wastes or a rake to break up piles of excrement.
  4. Dilute spots where your dog urinates with water.
  5. Rotate your pet around your yard to allow for recovery and keep portions of your lawn healthy and available for kids to play.
  6. Supply your pet with plenty of water. Dehydrated pups urine has a higher concentration of nitrogen, therefore, let your dog drink water as they need it.
  7. Take care of your lawn correctly. Check out our LawnTalk website for tips at
  8. Take your dog for a daily walk. Be a good neighbor and make sure to pick appropriate spots for your dog to eliminate.
  9. Spay or neuter your pets. This is a general good practice for a lot of reasons. As far as lawn damage goes, a dog that has not been spayed or neutered may attract additional dogs to your yard.

Most of these are simply suggestions as there is no magic bullet when it comes to our four-legged friends and damaged lawns- save not having a dog.

Read Chris's entire article on his Green Speak blog at Chris is also teaching a webinar on sustainable lawncare practices. It is presented for live home viewing on June 27 at 1:30 p.m. and again on June 29 at 6:30 p.m. Following the session, a taped version is available on YouTube. Registration and YouTube information are found at