All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dog Urine Kills Grass

Dear Readers,
A while back, I was looking at the grass in my back yard and decided it was in really bad shape. (I am pretty sure that it was the same lawn that was planted in 1967 when the house was built!) I had been trying desperately to keep crab grass, devil grass, oxalis, and other weeds from invading, but it was a never-ending battle. I finally decided we needed to start over with a new lawn. My husband called various landscapers for quotes and to my shock, we were looking at several thousand dollars to put in sod!

With two kids in college, I don’t have a few extra thousand dollars to throw into a lawn. And frankly, it just seems absurd to spend that kind of money on grass. When I was growing up, no one paid to have an instant lawn. Instead, moms, dads, and kids spent a weekend digging up the old grass, raking everything up, planting seed, and getting the satisfaction of watching a lush, green yard appear; and by golly, that’s what we were going to do too.

So one fine, extra hot weekend, my family rototilled and raked, rototilled and raked some more, and finally rototilled and raked again. No personal trainer could have given us a harder, more exhausting workout. I think my biceps grew an inch by the time we were done! We then carefully spread the seed of a fine, perennial grass and watered thoroughly.

To the dismay of Willa and Kody, our dogs, everyone had to keep off the dirt. Each day we inspected the ground for signs of sprouts—by the seventh day, we were getting a little discouraged when there seemed to be no visible growth. But just like magic, when we awoke on the eighth day, the entire yard was green with delicate little seedlings that erupted everywhere. It was amazing and we all rejoiced!

After six weeks of steady growth, we decided it was time to mow our beautiful back yard for the very first time and after that, we allowed Willa and Kody outside to play. Willa was extra thrilled and bounded
around like a puppy.

But after a few days, I started noticing plate-sized circles of dead grass in our beautiful lawn. Then it hit me; The dog's urine was burning and killing the grass! Argh! I never noticed anything like this in our old lawn, but it was so thick and dense, nothing really affected it.

Lawn burn, as the garden center expert at our local home improvement store told us, is a very common lawn issue for dog owners. And fortunately, there is a remedy! During the 20 years that I have been writing this column, no one has ever asked me about lawn burn, though I suspect that many of my readers may have experienced this very problem. So I will share with you what I have learned.

Contrary to public opinion, lawn burn is caused by the urine of both female AND male dogs and that’s because of the nitrogen content. Though nitrogen is usually good for a lawn, it is too concentrated in urine. Of course, you can always just follow your dog around with a hose and spray down any spot he or she chooses to urinate on, though that may get a little tedious. But if you do have the time, and your dog isn't one of those pooches who has to pee in multiple places in rapid succession, this is the best and most effective way to handle it.

However, you can also provide your dog with a food supplement (talk to your local pet supply shopkeeper or veterinarian to find a safe and healthy product) that neutralizes nitrogen so that it doesn't end up in such concentrated amounts in its urine. Also, make sure your dog has plenty of water available (and drinks plenty of it too). If you have a dirt garden area in your yard, train your dog to use that spot as his/her potty area rather than your grass. And finally, check out your local lawn and garden shop. There are a number of products available that can be used to protect grass from lawn burn caused by pet urine.

I will need to reseed the damaged spots in my yard, but ultimately, I must say that we are all
really proud of our new lawn and Willa looks like a princess when she lays on it.

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