How to Prevent Dog Pee Damage on Your Grass

Four small dogs sniffing around a telephone pole in a lawn

You take your dog outside every day so she doesn’t pee on your couch, your carpet, your bed, you name it. But what are you doing to protect your lawn? Dog urine can kill grass and leave brown spots if you don’t do anything to stop it. 

So, how do you prevent dog pee damage on your grass? Keeping your dog out of the yard isn’t an option, so we’ll go over six methods that can help your lawn survive urine burn. 

How dog urine hurts grass

Before you can prevent dog pee damage, you have to know what you’re trying to prevent. So, why does dog pee kill grass? The reason is that dog urine contains a large amount of nitrogen, and the nitrogen gets into your soil wherever your dog goes to the bathroom. 

When your dog releases a high concentration of nitrogen in one spot, it can cause brown or dark green spots. Here’s more information about each type of dog pee damage:

illustration explaining what dog urine does to grass
  • Brown spots: If your dog’s urine adds too much nitrogen to the soil, it can burn the grass and kill it. The dead patches turn yellow and then brown, with a dark green ring around the edge. That dark green grass is the result of the urine running off from the center and becoming more diluted.
  • Dark green spots: Sometimes, soil doesn’t have enough nitrogen in it. If that’s the case for your lawn, then the nitrogen in dog pee will actually help your grass grow healthier! Those dark green spots show where little Fido “fertilized” the lawn for you.

Want to keep spots of any color out of your lawn? Here’s how. 

6 ways to prevent dog urine spots

1. Water thoroughly 

senior man sitting in a lawn chair with his back to the camera and spraying his yard with a garden hose
Laney Smith | Unsplash

Grab your garden hose or watering can because water is your best friend when trying to prevent dog pee spots. Right after your dog goes to the bathroom, water that spot thoroughly to flush nitrogen and salts from the soil. 

Don’t be stingy with the water. You want to use about twice as much water as there is urine to dilute the nitrogen content sufficiently. 

2. Set up a designated potty spot

Following your dog around with a watering can might get old fast, so here’s an alternative. Instead of letting your dog pee wherever he wants in the yard, train him to go only in one designated spot.

You can use a product called a Pee Post to lead your pup to her new potty spot. The Pee Post emits pheromones that signal to your dog “you should go to the bathroom here.” 

While training your dog to pee in the same spot every day, give lots of treats and praise! Dogs love positive reinforcement

Your dog’s new potty spot can be a back corner of the lawn where brown patches will go unnoticed or an area covered with mulch or gravel instead of grass. If you decide to use mulch, choose a material that isn’t toxic to dogs. Here are some safe suggestions:

  • Rubber
  • Cedar
  • Straw
  • Coconut fibers

The No. 1 mulch material to avoid is cocoa shell, also known as cocoa bean hull. Just like chocolate is toxic for dogs to ingest, so are cocoa shells. And we all know your pup will take a little nibble at some point.

3. Mow the lawn higher

Let your grass grow out a little. Raise the height on the deck of your lawn mower and cut the grass as high as you can without it getting unruly or becoming unhealthy. How high you should mow depends on your grass type. 

These are the tallest recommended grass heights for some of the most popular types of grass:

Grass typeIdeal mowing height to prevent dog urine spots
Centipedegrass2 inches
Common Bermuda2 inches
Hybrid Bermuda1.5 inches
St. Augustine3 inches
Zoysiagrass2 inches
Creeping red fescue3.5 inches
Kentucky bluegrass3.5 inches
Perennial ryegrass2.5 inches
Tall fescue3 inches

Taller grass is good for urine spots for two reasons:

  1. The taller the grass, the deeper the roots. Grass with a robust root system is more likely to survive urine burn. 
  2. Tall grass will cover and block urine spots from sight better than shorter grass will. With tall grass, you might not notice the spots even if they’re there. 

4. Try Dog Rocks in your dog’s water

Your first question is probably: “What the heck are Dog Rocks?” Dog Rocks are non-toxic natural minerals that filter out nitrates, ammonia, and other impurities in your dog’s water.

Reduced nitrates and ammonia in your dog’s water means less nitrogen in his urine, which in turn means less damage to your lawn. 

Dog Rocks are super easy to use! Here are the simple directions from the company’s website:

  • Step 1: Before putting them in your dog’s water, rinse the Dog Rocks thoroughly. 
  • Step 2: Either put the rocks directly into your dog’s water bowl or let them steep in a half-gallon pitcher of water for at least 10 hours, then fill your dog’s bowl with the water from the pitcher. 
  • Step 3: Refill the bowl or pitcher so that the rocks are always sitting in about a half gallon of water. 
  • Step 4: Replace Dog Rocks every two months. 

For best results, don’t let your dog drink water from other sources (like the garden hose, puddles, or the toilet). When you go for a long walk or to the dog park, bring Dog Rocks-treated water with you. 

5. Change your dog’s diet

English cocker spaniel sitting next to a full bowl of dog food
Alkhaine | Pixabay

Your dog’s diet can affect the nitrogen levels in their urine. Here are some tips for altering your dog’s diet in ways that prevent urine burn:

  • Encourage your pup to drink more water. Not only will more water dilute the nitrogen content in his urine, but it’ll also make him happier and healthier! 
  • Switch your dog’s food from processed proteins to fresh proteins, which cause the body to produce fewer byproducts, such as nitrogen, in urine. 
  • You can try giving your dog dietary supplements designed to reduce urine burn, but be cautious. These supplements can sometimes cause health issues, especially for dogs with a history of liver or kidney problems, kidney or bladder stones, or crystals in the urine.

WARNING: Always consult your veterinarian before making changes to your dog’s diet, especially if you’re considering dietary supplements. Every dog is different, and what works for some could be harmful to your pooch. Don’t risk your furbaby’s health for the sake of your lawn.

6. Plant urine-resistant grass

Some types of grass are better than others at surviving the daily barrage of dog pee. If you’ve seen a lot of urine burn in your grass in the past, it might be time to switch it up. Replace your current grass with a more urine-resistant variety. 

Which grass types are best for preventing dog urine damage? Warm-season grasses tend to handle urine better than cool-season grasses. Popular warm-season grasses include Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass. 

If you must use cool-season grass because of where you live, fescues are the most urine-resistant option for you.

How to repair lawn damage from dog pee

Has your dog already marked her spot in your lawn? Don’t send poor Fido to the doghouse yet — the damage is fixable. 

You can repair dog pee spots with:

  • Reseeding
  • Soil-cleansing lawn treatments
  • Regular fertilization

Learn more about which method is right for you in our guide to repairing dog pee spots on your grass.

FAQ about preventing dog pee spots

1. Will grass grow back after dog urine?

Yes, with help. Even though brown grass is dead grass, you can reseed those brown spots and have a lush green lawn again in no time. Even if you don’t reseed, the surrounding healthy grass should eventually grow over the dead patch. 

2. Will baking soda, apple cider vinegar, or tomato juice neutralize dog urine on grass?

No. The only effective way to neutralize dog urine is to water the spot where your dog pees soon after he does it. 

3. Are female dogs more likely to cause urine burn than male dogs?

In many cases, yes, female dogs are more likely to cause urine burn. But it’s not about gender, it’s about how the dog pees. 

Dogs that squat when they pee release a high concentration of urine in one location, which hurts grass more than when dogs lift their leg to pee and only release a little bit at a time. 

Female dogs are the most likely to squat, but puppies, elderly dogs, and some young adult male dogs also squat to go to the bathroom. 

No more ruff patches for your lawn

Your dog has to use the bathroom, and you want a beautiful lawn. You don’t have to compromise one for the other. You can prevent brown, dead patches in your lawn without affecting your pet’s health and happiness. 

Follow our tips for preventing dog pee damage on grass for a lush lawn. And don’t worry if you see a little brown spot from time to time. You can always repair the damage after the fact.

Keeping your lawn healthy with regular maintenance can help prevent dog pee damage. Call one of Lawn Love’s local lawn care pros for regular lawn mowing and other services.  

Main Photo Credit: Tony Alter | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Jordan Ardoin

Jordan Ardoin is a writer and editor with a passion for sustainable, earth-friendly gardening and lawn care practices. When she isn't sharing her knowledge about lawn care and landscaping, you can find her curled up with a good book and a cat in her lap.