How to Repair a Pet-Damaged Lawn


Here at GSC, we love our pets. And we know most of our fellow Boulderites do, too. However, some of our beloved furry friends can be a bit of a liability when it comes to keeping our lawn and garden in top shape. Here at GSC, we love our pets. And we know most of our fellow Boulderites do, too. However, some of our beloved furry friends can be a bit of a liability when it comes to keeping our lawn and garden in top shape.

Dogs can be notorious for damaging lawns in a few different ways:

  • Digging up grass
  • Creating dead spots in grass by urinating
  • Killing grass by routinely running back and forth in the same spots

Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between Fido and taking first place in your neighborhood lawn beauty contest. With just a few simple tactics, you can prevent pet damage to your lawn and garden.

Here’s your guide to preventing and repairing pet damage to your lawn and garden.

The Problem: Dead Spots from Urine

You’ve probably noticed that your dog likes to go the bathroom in the same spot in your lawn every day. This repeated use can lead to grass “burns”, which leave dead brown patches in your lawn.

Dog urine can damage grass because of the high levels of nitrogen and salt in the urine. Small dogs and cats are less likely to cause damage with their urine simply because they urinate less.

How to prevent it:

The best way to prevent grass burns is to mulch a small area of your lawn, and train your dog to go to the bathroom in that area.

Another option is to spray water over urine spots immediately after your dog goes to the bathroom to dilute the urine and minimize its negative effect on your lawn.

You may also be able to alter the chemical makeup of your dog’s urine by choosing certain dog foods that help make their urine less toxic for your grass. High-quality foods with balanced pH levels listed include Eagle Pack Natural Food, Purina Pro Plan, Iams, and Science Diet.

Making sure your dog is getting enough water along with their food can also help reduce the grass-killing properties of their urine. You can mix your dog’s dry food with water to help keep them hydrated.

You can amend this diet with a GrassSaver supplement, a chewable that is supposed to prevent your dog’s urine from burning grass.

Note: Be sure to consult with your vet before giving your dog urine-altering supplements.

How to treat it:

Treat grass burns with the following steps:

  1. Rake the areas to get rid of as much dead grass as you can
  2. Cover the patches with finely-ground limestone, apply water, and let sit for at least one week
  3. Spread a layer of top soil on the area and sow grass seeds, watering as needed until the grass takes root and grows

The Problem: Holes from Digging Dogs

Some dogs love digging holes in the backyard. Why? Either for fun, to try to get after burrowing pests or other snacks, out of anxiety or boredom, to cool down on hot days, or to escape your property.

Regardless of the reason, these holes can be a real headache for homeowners.

How to prevent it:

Each dog is different, so it may take some experimentation to find out what keeps your pooch from digging holes.

Here are a few approaches to keeping your dog from digging in your yard:

  • Keep your dog well-exercised with play, walks, running, dog parks, and more to wear them out
  • Give your dog toys to play with so they don’t dig out of boredom
  • Create a small sandbox and hide toys in it to satisfy your doggy’s digging desires — train them to stick to the sandbox with treats and plenty of loving as rewards when they play in it

How to treat it:

  1. Fill in with top soil
  2. Apply grass seed
  3. Water seed until grass takes root

The Problem: Lawn Damage from Heavy Traffic

If you have a dog who loves to spend time in the yard, you may notice that heavily-trafficked areas are starting to lose grass growth. Herders like Australian Shepherds, Collies, Corgis, and Sheep Dogs tend are especially prone to this behavior.

Frequent and heavy traffic can lead to dead grass in the zones where your dog regularly runs back and forth.

How to prevent it:

Some ways to prevent damage from regular dog traffic include:

  • Plant hardy dog-resistant strains of grass such as bermuda, centipede, or zoysia
  • Landscape with sturdy shrubs along the fence where your dog likes to run to prevent them from damaging that part of the lawn
  • If your dog paces excitedly whenever they see people, squirrels, rabbits, or other dogs, try landscaping as a visual barrier. Hedges or hydrangeas are good options
  • Hardscape with pavement, stone, and bricks
  • Consider installing artificial grass. Your dog can’t ruin it, plus it never needs mowing
  • Slow your dog down with strategic landscaping that makes it hard for them to run rampant

You can also always replant grass or lay sod to repair damaged areas, but without changing your landscape or your dog’s behavior, you may find yourself doing this year after year.

How to treat it:

If your dog has killed off grass where it regularly runs or paces, you’ll have to re-seed or replace the dead areas with fresh sod.

  1. Apply finely ground limestone to dead patches and water
  2. Let sit for one week
  3. Layer topsoil over limestone
  4. Seed with grass
  5. Water as needed

The Problem: Protecting the Garden and Flower Beds from Pets

When it comes to protecting your garden and flower beds from curious pets, your best bet may be to keep them out with fencing or simple chicken wire.

You can also dissuade your pets from rooting around in these areas by placing short stakes all throughout your garden and flower beds. Thorny vines or branches can also function as a barrier for playful pets.

If your cat likes getting into your garden or flower bed, you can try using scent-oriented prevention methods:

  • Cats dislike herbs with strong smells, such as sage and rosemary.
  • The pungent plant Coleus canina drives away cats.
  • Spreading used coffee grounds throughout your garden and flower beds will keep your cat at bay — plus it’s good for your soil!

Keeping Your Lawn and Pets Safe

A beautiful lawn is a healthy lawn. The better you care for your soil, grass, plants, and trees, the more able they’ll be able to survive whatever your pets throw at them.

But sometimes while caring for our lawn, we can create a dangerous environment for our pets. This can be especially true if we rely on fertilizers and pesticides that contain harmful chemicals.

Just like our pets can damage our lawn, our lawn can hurt our pets. The good news is you can still care for your lawn while looking out for the health of your pets. Discover how to create a pet-safe lawn this summer »