One of the more frequent questions I receive concerns ways to repair dog damage to a lawn, especially in the weeks after the snow has melted away. If you live in the Snow Belt, you realize that sometimes it is difficult for your dog to find a place to relieve itself. Piles of snow, drifts and the size of the dog can hamper its ability to use different spots, so they often end up using the same spot. When the rest of the lawn begins to green up, the damaged spots show up like a sore thumb.
The damage to the lawn is the result of the salt and ammonia found in the dog’s urine. It is very concentrated and usually deposited in one spot. Female dogs typically urinate in one spot, which is why they usually cause the majority of the damage. Male dogs usually look for an upright structure, such as a pile of snow or a bush that may be available in an attempt to mark their territory. Male dogs may not damage the lawn as much as females do, but they can damage a shrub if they repeatedly urinate on it.
Another indication is a brown spot surrounded by darker green grass. The darker green grass is the result of the ammonia in the urine. Ammonia can be considered a type of fertilizer and will make the grass grow faster and be darker green in color around the outside edge.
So, how do you repair the lawn damage ? Water and time is really the only fix for dog spotting. In most cases, the spots are small and normal spring rains will dilute the excess salts and ammonia deeper into the soil. If the damage is really severe, you can add a handful of gypsum, available at most garden centers, and it will help to neutralize the salt. Unfortunately, gypsum usually only is sold in 50 pound bags, so you may have a lot left over. You can always add it to your gardens and will help improve the soil. Some spots may need some seed added, but in most cases, the surrounding grasses will fill in the dead spots in a short time.
There are no magic pills or special diets that you can give to your dog to prevent the damage from occurring. I have read about training your dog to use one specific area as their “bathroom” or to keep a watering can by the back door and “watering” the spot where the dog has “done her business.” If you have the time and patience to do so, go for it. For me, I let Mother Nature take care of repairing the lawn.