Nitrogen is the
predominate nutrient applied when you fertilize your lawn. If
fertilizer is spilled on the lawn, or a spreader malfunctions and
over-applies the fertilizer in some areas, the grass usually dies in
those spots. The salts in fertilizer draw moisture out of the grass
and “burn” it to death. The dead spots where a dog urinates are the
same thing: an overapplication of nitrogen.
"Watch out where those Huskies go..."
Female dogs do
not have more acidic urine than male dogs, nor does their urine have
a higher nitrogen content; they damage lawns more because of the
sheer volume of urine they expel at one time in one place. Male
puppies who have not yet learned to lift their legs to urinate
create similar damage. Adult male dogs tend to go in small amounts
in different areas to mark their territory. Shrubs and other plants
that male dogs mark repeatedly are damaged by the nitrogen content
of the urine just as the lawn is damaged.
Although gypsum is often touted to "neutralize" dog urine,
it cannot neutralize excess nitrogen. Some
dog owners report success with gypsum, but it may simply be that it
improves soil drainage, which prevents the urine from collecting
near the crowns and roots of the grass plants.
the Dog Problem
There are several
options for dealing with the problem. A dog can be trained to go in
an area of your yard set aside for that purpose - if you can train
yourself to accept that the grass in that section is not going to be
perfect. You might even consider removing the turf from that area
and replacing it with bark mulch or pea gravel.
You can also try to watch your dog when you let her
out, then grab the hose and flush the spots where she goes with lots
of water to dilute the urine. The diluted urine will not burn the
grass, but those areas may be greener than the rest of your lawn.
This may be a little more work for you, but it protects your lawn
without changing the dog’s lifestyle.
Dog Walking Strategies
You could also arrange to walk her regularly so that she
can relieve herself elsewhere. If you choose this option, please
respect your neighbors’ desire for nice lawns and do not allow her
to go in someone else’s yard.
Finally, there a
number of suggestions to add things like tomato juice, baking soda
or other dietary supplements to your dog’s diet. There is no
evidence that such dietary changes reduce urine damage to turfgrass,
but they could impact your dog’s health. Always discuss dietary
supplements with your veterinarian before starting your dog on any
kind of regimen.