Repairing pet damage to the lawn

Dogs are adored for their loyalty, affection, and other endearing qualities. At the same time, most dog owners know the frustration of coming home to find that Fido has torn up the carpeting, snacked on clothing, or otherwise wreaked havoc around the house.

The yard can also become an unintentional victim of a dog's destruction. Your pet may dig holes in the yard, ruin large swathes of grass, or create ugly brown spots on the lawn.

Some repairs to these issues can be fairly simple, while others may require a larger upgrade to your landscaping. Any fixes should also be made in tandem with efforts to improve your dog's behavior.

Lawn spots

Lawn spots are one of the most common problems dog owners encounter. These manifest as small brown spots in the grass, and sometimes as lush green spots.

These spots will appear if you take your dog into the yard to do his or her business. Dog urine includes high levels of nitrogen and salts, which can damage the grass. Ali Harivandi, writing for the University of California Cooperative Extension, says these materials help dry out the grass and create an effect similar to a burn caused by an excessive application of fertilizer.

Green spots can occur when nitrogen in the urine helps encourage grass growth. The magazine Family Handyman says the area around burned spots may have faster, greener growth if rain helps dilute and spread the urine.

Female dogs may be more likely to produce burned spots on the lawn, since they'll squat to relieve themselves and deposit a large amount of urine in one area. The Oregon-based lawn care company Pennington says male dogs typically mark their territory by urinating briefly in several areas; this behavior is more likely to cause minor damage, which can heal on its own. However, lawn spots can be produced by any kind of dog, especially if they have a favorite place to do their business.

Thankfully, lawn spots can be repaired without too much trouble. You should start by thoroughly watering the spot to flush away any lingering salts. Family Handyman recommends that you let the hose run for at least three minutes.

Grass damaged by dog urine needs to be replanted. Harivandi says dead grass can be dug out with a small spade, which can also be used to loosen up the underlying soil. Family Handyman recommends adding about half an inch of new soil to help absorb any remaining urine. You can then put down grass seed and keep the area moist until new grass has reached a healthy height of about three inches.

Sod is another alternative. Harivandi says you can purchase a piece of sod from a local nursery and cut pieces to size to fill the dead spots. As with the reseeding method, you'll want to remove dead grass and keep the spot thoroughly moistened until the roots take hold.

While the spot is being repaired, make sure to keep your dog away from the area. Pennington recommends waiting until you've mowed the grass on the reseeded area about three or four times before you let your dog visit again.

Preventive measures will also save you the time and expense of fixing the lawn. Family Handyman says thoroughly watering any spots that are frequently visited by your dog will help flush out any salts before they can do damage. Harivandi says you might also train your dog to urinate in areas other than the lawn, or consider fencing off the lawn if neighborhood dogs are causing the problem.


Dogs might also revel in actively destroying your lawn. Some dogs, like terriers, were bred to dig in order to hunt other creatures. The Humane Society of the United States says dogs may also dig as an outlet for energy, to relieve boredom, or to create a cooler place during hot weather.

Try to determine why your dog is digging before addressing the issue. If you think the dog is bored, keep a few toys in the yard to help entertain them. If you suspect that they're trying to stay cool, create a sheltered spot where the dog can be comfortable.

When repairing holes in the lawn, salvage as much of the original soil and sod as possible. Shelley Frost, writing for SFGate, says you can then mix together soil and compost to fill the hole. Pennington recommends using your foot to lightly compress the soil to make sure the hole is filled; don't compact it too hard, since this will inhibit grass growth.

Place any sod you have salvaged, or new pieces of sod, on top of the soil. Alternatively, you can spread new grass seed on the soil. Frost says you should then water the repaired area and ensure that it is kept moist until the sod is reestablished or new grass has reached a healthy height.

If your dog is an enthusiastic digger, try setting aside a designated area where they can paw at the ground to their heart's content. The Humane Society of the United States says you can cover a portion of your lawn with sand or soil, or simply get a sandbox for them to use. Burying toys and praising the dog when they use the digging area can also help encourage them.

Wear and tear

Playing with your dog in the yard, particularly if they are a larger breed, can cause dead spots in your yard. This is particularly common if your dog likes to run in certain areas.

If your lawn has been beaten down under your dog's paws, you may need to try a larger overhaul. Harivandi says this process, usually completed in the spring or autumn, will include the removal of dead grass, soil aeration, and putting down new seed or sod.

Of course, this can be an expensive process and you won't want to complete it only to see your dog destroy the lawn again. Debbie and Mark Wolfe, writing for HGTV, recommend using grass that is self-healing or more resistant to heavy foot traffic.

If your dog likes to run along a fence, consider adding perennial plants to help divert them. You can also add more hardscaping such as brick walkways or stone pavers.


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