Is Dog Poop Good or Bad for My Grass?

dog sign that looks like a dog pooping with the word "NO!" on it, to imply no dog pooping allowed

Since cow manure works wonders as fertilizer for lawns and gardens, you may be wondering if dog poop is good or bad for grass. There seems to be a common misconception that dog poop fertilizes grass, but it’s NOT a good fertilizer. 

Dog poop kills grass and also spreads bacteria and parasites. Obviously, you can’t stop your poor pooch from pooping, but there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of lawn damage.

Why dog poop is bad for grass

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The consequences of leaving dog poop in your yard could be much worse than a few brown spots in your grass. Dog poop might cause serious illness for your family and the greater community. 

Damages your grass

Dogs need a high-protein diet, and the process of breaking down all that protein creates nitrogen as a byproduct. The dog then passes that nitrogen in its urine and feces. Because it contains a lot of nitrogen, dog feces kill grass. When dog poo sits out long enough to break down into the soil, it releases a lot of nitrogen. That’s why the grass around it dies and turns brown. 

Grass actually needs some nitrogen in the soil to grow lush and healthy, but there can be too much of any good thing. Too much nitrogen concentrated in a small area burns the grass. The same thing happens if you use too much nitrogen-rich fertilizer.

Here’s what dog poop damage looks like and the stages of dog poo damage:

  • Tall, dark green grass: The poop has only just begun to break down.
  • Yellow spots: Excess nitrogen is beginning to burn your grass as the poop continues to break down.
  • Brown spots: The grass is dead. You will have to reseed those spots if you want to see green grass there again. 

The first stage of dog poop damage is tall, dark green patches of grass that, by all appearances, are healthier than the rest of your lawn. That’s because dog poop breaks down slowly, taking up to a year to decompose completely. 

At first, it releases only a little of its nitrogen, which has a fertilizing effect on the grass. But if the poop sits out and decomposes all the way, that same grass will soon turn yellow and then brown from nitrogen burn. Once they turn to brown spots, it will be too late to save the grass without reseeding

Transmits diseases and parasites

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs can transmit the following diseases and parasites through their poop:

  • Campylobacteriosis 
  • Cryptosporidiosis
  • Tapeworm
  • Echinococcosis
  • Giardia
  • Hookworm
  • Roundworm
  • Salmonella
  • Canine parvovirus (parvo)
  • Coliform bacteria

Many of these diseases only spread to people if they ingest the infected fecal matter (we know — yuck). It might seem appalling and impossible that you would eat your dog’s poop, but imagine this scenario:

Dog poop sits out in your yard. Microscopic bacteria and parasites transfer to your soil. You go outside to play with your dog or tend your garden, and you touch the ground at some point. Later, you eat a snack without thinking of washing your hands first. And boom, the bacteria or parasite has found its way inside your body. 

To reduce the risk of spreading disease, remove dog poop from your lawn immediately, then wash your hands right after. Leave the poop out, and it can easily infect other members of your family (especially young children who play in the yard and aren’t very good at washing their hands). 

Creates lawn fungus

In addition to nitrogen burn, dog poop can kill your grass in a more roundabout way: It can cause lawn fungus to grow. Many fungal lawn diseases will kill your lawn if they have a chance to spread. 

Not all fungi are bad for your lawn, but they can delay grass growth and ruin your landscaping. Some mushrooms are even toxic to pets, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Fungi love moisture, and an excess of nitrogen in the soil helps them grow and spread faster. Dog poop provides a moist, nitrogen-rich environment where lawn-damaging fungi can thrive.

Pollutes water sources

Do you like the sound of dog poop in your lakes, rivers, or even drinking water? Neither do your neighbors. But according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that’s exactly where it could end up if you let it sit on your lawn. 

Remember, dog poop takes up to a year to break down into the soil. That means it just sits on top of the ground for a whole year. During that time, rain or water from watering your lawn washes bits of poop into storm drains. From there, it contaminates natural bodies of water, making it a pollutant.

You should always pick up your pup’s poop, even when you’re walking through a forest, field, or other natural settings with no one around. Poop in the middle of the woods can still end up polluting a water source, and the bacteria and parasites could infect wildlife. 

How to prevent lawn damage from dog waste

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Preventing lawn damage from dog poop is incredibly simple, even if it’s a little nasty. All you have to do is pick up your dog’s poop ASAP. Always wash your hands immediately after cleaning up dog poop, even if you didn’t touch the poop directly (which, hopefully, you didn’t). 

Here are some tips for homeowners and pet owners dealing with dog waste on the lawn:

  • Scoop dog poop immediately after your dog goes to the bathroom (even in your own backyard). If not immediately, clean up all dog poop in your yard at least once a week.
  • Never mow the lawn with dog poop in it. Your lawn mower will spread any bacteria or parasites in the poop all over your yard. 
  • Train your dog to potty in a designated spot covered with mulch or gravel instead of on the grass.
  • Water the spots where your dog pees as soon as possible. If you can’t do it immediately, at least within a few hours. 
  • Raise the mowing height of your lawn mower and let your grass grow a little taller than usual to mask any damage and make your grass hardier. 
  • Put “Dog Rocks” in your dog’s water. Dog Rocks are a product designed to reduce the amount of nitrogen in your dog’s waste. They’re made with natural ingredients and are safe for your pup. 
  • Change your dog’s diet to fresh dog food under guidance from a veterinarian to reduce nitrogen in waste.
  • Take your dog for a walk around the block to do their business and pick up the poop so they can’t damage your grass.

Does your lawn already have dead patches from lazy pooper scooper habits or dog urine? Here’s how to repair the damage.

FAQ about dog poop on the lawn

What dissolves dog poop in the yard?

First of all, we have to say that manually picking up (or “scooping”) the poop from your yard is the best method. You get immediate results, and there are no negative side effects.

But if you can’t or don’t want to pick up your dog’s poop for some reason, you can dissolve it with:

  • Vinegar
  • Agricultural lime
  • Enzyme-based dissolving products such as Doggie Dooley

Warning: Each of these methods comes with downsides. Vinegar will only partially dissolve the poop and can harm your lawn. Agricultural lime is dangerous for your dog and can hurt the grass. Doggie Dooley is effective, but it’s an entire system you have to have installed, kind of like a septic system. 

How do I get rid of dog poop on my lawn without scooping?

Don’t like the idea of poop scooping by hand? Try out an automatic scooper or “poop vacuum.” These automatic scoopers operate just like a regular handheld vacuum, but they suck up poop. Then, all you have to do is detach and throw away the disposable collection bag.

NEVER attempt to remove dog poop by spraying it with water. You may dilute the nitrogen and save your lawn this way, but you’ll spread harmful bacteria all over your yard, and the polluted water will likely end up in a storm drain. 

If dog poop is bad for the lawn, why is cow manure good for the lawn?

Think about a dog’s diet versus a cow’s diet. Cows eat plant matter exclusively. Since cows don’t eat meat, cow manure is not nitrogen-rich. In fact, cow manure makes good fertilizer because it is low in nitrogen and high in nutrients.

Keep in mind that cow manure can still contain harmful pathogens, including E. coli, listeria, salmonella, mycobacterium paratuberculosis, cryptosporidium, and giardia.

Hire a pro to keep your lawn green

Do you want a healthy lawn free of brown spots? Why not go a step further and invest in a lawn that will make your neighbors green with envy and increase your curb appeal?

For fertilizing, mowing, edging, and more, call a local lawn care pro. Quality and affordable service is only a call or click away. 

Just…pick up the dog poop first, please.

Main Photo Credit: joan6116 | Pixabay | License

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.