5 Best Grasses for Dogs

various dogs sitting together on a lawn

Many dog owners are all too familiar with the sight of a barren backyard covered in holes and patches of dead grass. What if you could have a nice lawn and still have your dog play in the yard? Some grass types can withstand dog waste and daily wear-and-tear better than others.

Of course, no living plant is invincible, and we can’t promise that switching your grass will mark the end of your brown spots and other dog-related lawn problems

However, these dog-friendly grass varieties will take longer for your dog to damage with urine, feces, running, and digging. And even if some parts of the lawn die, these grasses grow quickly and can essentially heal themselves. 

Cool-season grasses for a dog-friendly lawn

illustration showing growth timeline for cool-season grass

Cool-season grass types can withstand cold better than heat. They’re best for northern parts of the United States, where temperatures are freezing and winters are harsh. Think Virginia and up on the East Coast or Central California and up on the West Coast. 

If you live in the cool-season grass zone, these are the best dog-friendly grasses for you. 

Tall fescue

Tall fescue grass is generally very hardy. It performs well in areas with heavy foot traffic and lots of daily wear-and-tear thanks to its deep roots. It also tolerates drought, high temperatures, and shade.  

Tall fescue has a bunch-type growth habit, and most varieties don’t spread on their own. That means you may have to reseed dead spots if your dog ends up causing damage.

  • Climate preference: Cool-season or Transition Zone
  • Sun preference: Partial shade with 3-6 hours of direct sunlight per day
  • Soil preference: Tolerates most soil types but does best in well-draining clay soil

Kentucky bluegrass

Kentucky bluegrass takes a long time to establish roots and aboveground growth after you plant it, but it grows quickly once established. Unlike tall fescue, this grass spreads by rhizomes, so it can heal damaged spots from dog waste or activity without reseeding.

Once established, Kentucky bluegrass has a robust root system that helps it survive daily wear and tear. This grass type is exceptionally cold-hardy, even for cool-season grass, but it doesn’t tolerate high temperatures or drought. 

An added bonus: Kentucky bluegrass has a soft texture that your dog will love rolling around in. 

  • Climate preference: Cool-season or northern Transition Zone
  • Sun preference: Partial shade with 3-6 hours of direct sunlight per day
  • Soil preference: Needs fertile, well-draining soil

Perennial ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass does best in coastal climates with mild year-round temperatures. It tolerates high traffic and wear and tear exceptionally well, which is perfect for active dogs who love to run and play outside. 

This grass type is somewhat picky about its growing conditions. It doesn’t tolerate heat, shade, or drought well, although it can tolerate cold. 

Perennial rye germinates faster than most other grass types, which means it grows soon after you plant it. For this reason, it’s the best grass type for reseeding dead patches of grass from dog urine or digging. It also mixes well with other grass types, so you can use it to fix dog-related damage in your lawn no matter what type of grass you have. 

Note: Perennial rye doesn’t spread along the ground by rhizomes or stolons, which means it won’t heal its own brown spots. You will have to plant new grass seed in bare patches. 

  • Climate preference: Cool-season or northern Transition Zone
  • Sun preference: Full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day)
  • Soil preference: Does best in well-draining soil but also tolerates wet soil conditions

Warm-season grasses for a dog-friendly lawn

illustration showing growth timeline for warm-season grass

Warm-season grass types grow best in the southern portion of the U.S. They do well in warm weather and can’t survive the severe winters of the north. You’ll probably need warm-season grass if you live below Central California in the West or below North Carolina in the East. 

These are the best grass varieties for dog owners in the warm-season zone. 

Bermudagrass

Bermudagrass can survive wear and tear from rambunctious dogs because it establishes dense roots. It’s also drought-tolerant and survives in salty conditions. The high salt tolerance makes it a great choice for lawns in coastal cities.  

This type of grass does well in both high and low temperatures, but it CAN NOT grow in shade. It’s high-maintenance compared to other grass types and needs frequent mowing, watering, and fertilizing to stay healthy. 

The great thing about Bermuda is that it grows and spreads rapidly. Even if your dog kills a portion of the lawn, Bermuda will quickly recover in that area. Sometimes, it grows so rapidly and vigorously that it spreads where you don’t want it and becomes a weed. 

  • Climate preference: Warm-season or Transition Zone
  • Sun preference: Full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day)
  • Soil preference: Adapts to most soil conditions

Zoysiagrass

Zoysiagrass grows in a dense mat, which can block dogs when they try to dig and shield the soil from dog urine damage. The dense growth also causes excessive thatch buildup, which means you’ll have to dethatch the lawn regularly. 

Zoysia is fairly hardy and can survive conditions of heavy foot traffic, heat, drought, and some shade. It spreads along the ground by rhizomes and stolons, so it can cover dog-related dead patches on its own. 

The downsides of Zoysia? It’s slow to establish roots and aboveground growth after you plant it, so reseeding the lawn or waiting for grass plugs to grow in might take a while. You might opt to lay sod instead for immediate results, but sod is usually more expensive. 

Plus, Zoysia’s texture is somewhat stiff and prickly, which your dog may not appreciate. 

  • Climate preference: Warm-season or Transition Zone
  • Sun preference: Does best in full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day) but tolerates partial shade (3-6 hours of direct sunlight per day)
  • Soil preference: Adapts to most soil conditions

How do dogs damage grass?

Lawn damage from dog pee

From your dog’s perspective, your whole backyard is one big toilet. He’ll pee on the grass, up against the base of plants, against trees, and pretty much anywhere else. 

The problem is that dog pee contains a lot of nitrogen. The nitrogen soaks into the soil, then from the soil gets into your grass. While grass needs some nitrogen to survive, too much of it in a small area “burns” the grass and kills it, leaving brown, dead spots. 

Learn more about this type of damage in Why Dog Pee Kills Grass (And How to Stop It). Has sweet little Biscuit already left a trail of dog urine spots across your lawn? Here’s how to repair them.

Lawn damage from dog poop

You might think it’s OK to slack on picking up dog poop in your own backyard, but there are a few reasons why it’s a bad idea to leave it — and not just because it could ruin your favorite shoes. 

Your dog’s poop contains nitrogen just like her pee, so it can cause nitrogen burn in the lawn if it has time to break down into the soil.

More importantly, though, leaving dog poop out allows harmful bacteria to spread, which could cause health issues for your family, your dog, and wildlife. Plus, poop creates perfect conditions for fungi to grow, which can lead to fungal lawn diseases

Lawn damage from digging

It’s obvious how digging holes in the lawn damages grass in the short term. Even the toughest grass out there can’t survive being completely uprooted.

But regular digging also creates long-term problems for your lawn and soil. When your dog digs up the grass, he exposes the soil underneath. Exposed soil dries out and loses nutrients, which means you may not be able to grow new grass in that spot without first amending the soil. 

Lawn damage from running

Heavy foot traffic — human, canine, or otherwise — squashes grass blades and compacts the soil underneath. Compacted soil means your grass’s roots can’t access the water and nutrients they need. 

The big problem here is that dogs tend to run or walk across the same parts of the lawn every day, whether they’re patrolling the perimeter of the yard or going back and forth between the back door and their doghouse. After a while, those stretches of grass can become extremely worn down and may even die out.

Pro Tip: Solve soil compaction problems by aerating your lawn once a year. 

What makes a type of grass good for dogs?

Rapid growth rate

The first requirement for a dog-friendly grass type is that it grows back quickly. That way, even if your dog kills a patch of grass, it will quickly recover on its own, and you won’t have to look at ugly brown spots for very long. 

Grasses that spread using rhizomes or stolons are best because they’ll grow laterally along the ground to fill in bare spots without you having to plant new seeds. 

Deep root system

Deep, thick roots make grass more durable. The deeper and denser the root system, the harder the grass is to damage. Even if your dog pees or rolls around in the same spot every day, grass with deep roots is more likely to survive. 

Plus, strong roots discourage digging. The grass is hard to pull up, and the roots block your dog’s access to the soil.  

Climate compatibility

If your grass type doesn’t suit your climate, it’s starting off on the wrong foot. Grass in an unsuitable climate is weak and sickly already, and your dog makes matters even worse. 

When we’re talking about grass types, the United States is broken up into three climate zones:

  • Cool-season zone: The northern part of the country
  • Transition Zone: The middle part of the country, where both cool-season and warm-season grasses grow
  • Warm-season zone: The southern part of the country
illustration showing the cool and warm season grasses on the US map, along with the transitional zone

Know your climate zone and choose a grass type that grows well there. You also should pay attention to a grass type’s preferred sun exposure, soil conditions, and maintenance requirements so you can choose the best fit for your yard and lifestyle. 

More dog-friendly landscaping ideas

So, you’ve decided to reseed your lawn with a dog-friendly grass type to prevent damage from urine, digging, and other not-so-friendly doggy behaviors. Why stop there? There’s a lot more you can do to help your landscape survive Dog-zilla and make the backyard more fun for your furry friend at the same time!

Here’s a taste of some paw-some dog-friendly landscaping ideas:

  • Give your dog a kiddy pool to help cool off in the heat of summer.
  • Plant herbs and other plants that repel fleas. 
  • Replace digging up your lawn with digging in a sandbox. 
  • Install a path for your dog to walk on so he doesn’t wear down the grass. 

Your new damage-resistant grass is a great first step to a dog-friendly landscape! Once you’re done making over the yard, you, your dog, and your grass will all be happier. 

Do you want a dog-resistant lawn but don’t want to spend time planting and taking care of it? Lawn Love’s local lawn care professionals can help with reseeding, mowing, fertilizing, and other regular maintenance. 

Main Photo Credit: JackieLou DL | Pixabay

Jordan Ardoin

Jordan Ardoin is a writer and indoor plant enthusiast hailing from Florida. In her spare time, she enjoys chasing her two cats around the house and trying to keep her houseplants alive.