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Over time a pet who is routinely using a patch of grass as his personal potty will damage that stretch of lawn. The behavior of canines plus the chemical components of the urine contribute to the brown, dead patches synonymous with dog waste. But there are ways to mitigate the problem.

Beautiful lawn vs. faithful pet

Putting a stop to lawncare woes

Posted: May 31, 2013 - 9:49am

Over time a pet who is routinely using a patch of grass as his personal potty will damage that stretch of lawn. The behavior of canines plus the chemical components of the urine contribute to the brown, dead patches synonymous with dog waste. But there are ways to mitigate the problem.
Dog urine and feces can often be a frustrating problem, even to pet-lovers. The war between wanting a pristine lawn and a healthy pet can drive pet owners to investigate ways to prevent or reduce marring of the lawn. Do those urban legends like tomato juice or baking soda work? In most cases, no. However, there are ways to reduce the amount of lawn damage with other methods.

Dog waste chemistry
Understanding why urine and feces can affect the lawn requires understanding the makeup of these waste products. The fundamental problem involves the concentration of nitrogen in the solid and liquid waste. Primarily in dogs, the kidneys serve to remove excess nitrogen from the dog's high-protein, meat-based diet. In small concentrations, nitrogen applied to a lawn can actually serve as a fertilizer --helping the lawn to be green and bright. But it's the higher concentrations that do the most damage. These essentially burn out the grass and cause brown, bare patches that can be rather unsightly. 
A few decades ago, Dr. A.W. Allard, a Colorado veterinarian, examined numerous variations in dog urine and the effects on several common lawn grasses. He found fescue to be the most nitrogen-resistant. Yet, even that grass has it's saturation point and can brown.

Who is the biggest offender?
Dog owners sometimes think that female dogs have different urine chemistry because they tend to do the most damage to the lawn. The fact is, both male and female dogs can do damage, it just comes down to the way urine is applied. Male dogs oftentimes "mark" their territories or spray a small amount of urine to different parts of the landscape. These small concentrations may not damage the lawn much. However, a female dog tends to squat and apply the urine in one spot at a high concentration. That liquid seeps into the lawn and can do damage. Male dogs who do not lift their legs and prefer to squat can do the same level of damage as females.
Cats that use the outdoors instead of a litter box may also create brown spots, particularly if they visit the same spot over and over.

Fixing the problem
Apart from diluting the urine, which can cause its own issues, the best way to alleviate brown spots is to walk the dog around the neighborhood to other appropriate spots. Otherwise, a dog-only area can be set up in the yard. Then pet owners must train their dogs to use that specific area. Laying down pea gravel or mulch can be a way to absorb the urine without having it damage the lawn. Camouflage, like bushes or a fence, can set the dog area apart from the rest of the backyard as well.
It can take up to two weeks or more to train an older dog to take to the new potty area. Puppies may adapt a little faster. Collecting urine and feces and placing it in the dog's area can help set up a scent mark that may make it easier for dogs to learn that's where they're supposed to go. For the training period, pet owners should accompany their dogs to the new area on a leash; do not leave the pet unattended in the yard. He or she may revert back to the normal spot being used for relief.
With time and patience, pet-lovers can cohabitate with their pooches and still enjoy a nice lawn. It just takes a little creative thinking and training.

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