Walking across a lawn recently, I noticed these small burned looking or brown areas in the turf, surrounded by a darker green halo. Many may think this is some type of turf disease. Or some may think that fertilizer or something was spilled into that spot.
It is actually a burn caused by excess urine from a dog on the turf doing its business, often in the same spot time after time. Female dogs especially are notorious for this, urinating in the same marked spot every time. Males can do the same, but tend to hike their leg on a fence, tree, or if you’re not looking even your pants leg!
Dog urine does contain a fair amount of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, along with salts. Now this can be fertilizer for turf if it’s spread out over a large area and watered into the soil. But when it’s concentrated in one small area by a dog urinating, it’s too much nitrogen and salt for the grass to handle, and it burns. It’s just as if one spilled excess fertilizer into the turf and it burns. Many times there will be a darker green halo border around it. This is because the nitrogen was dispersed out and not as concentrated, acting as a fertilizer in this case. Now you may think, wouldn’t that be nice if your whole lawn was that green! Well, there’s a better way to fertilize your lawn, nor do I think you could train your dog to go out and disperse her stuff more evenly throughout the lawn!
To minimize damage from your furry friend, try to train them to go in one area only in your lawn in a less visible place. Maybe install pea gravel or mulch, and train them to go there only. You could take them for more walks, just don’t let them go then in your neighbor’s lawn or you’ll be asking for trouble. You can water in the areas well with water after they go to dilute the urine and leach the salts out of the soil. Most dietary solutions don’t work very well, nor do products that repel the dog from desirable turf.
Dogs are great, but they can make it more difficult to grow great grass. To repair damage on bermudagrass or zoysiagrass lawns, just water well, and eventually the spots will fill in with healthy grass from the sides. These are both tough grasses, and will recover with time. Fescue turf will have to be re-seeded in the fall, or a small piece of sod be placed into the burned area.