How to Eliminate Brown Spots in Your Lawn

If you're a homeowner with pets, you're probably conflicted between a love for your lawn and the love for your pets (at least I would be). When Sally and Fido use your lawn to handle their business, the compounds released from the urine and feces can create burn spots or have a fertilizing effect. Nitrogen is the primary waste product of protein that breaks down in the body and any excess amounts are removed via the kidneys.

Yuri running around on a healthy lawn.

Yuri running around on a healthy lawn.

In liquid form, the nitrogen is applied all at once and begins reacting with your lawn right away. In contrast, feces needs time to break down and is usually removed from the lawn, preventing a nitrogen overload. Although urine is more damaging to your lawn than feces, other variables will also dictate the health of your lawn. 

The size and sex of your pet, their diet, the species of your grass, as well as your lawn's current nitrogen content will determine whether your pets are killing your lawn. The bigger your pet, the more nitrogen they output. A female breed will be more problematic due to their squatting habit, whereas a male develops a habit of marking several spots, which decreases the amount of nitrogen to each area. In addition to selecting the sex of your pet, there are several methods of minimizing nitrogen overload in your lawn.

An example of nitrogen having a fertilizing effect as well as burning the grass.

An example of nitrogen having a fertilizing effect as well as burning the grass.

1. You can regulate the amount of nitrogen present in pet waste products by increasing fluid intake and modifying the amount and quality of the proteins in their food. Most non-working and hunting dogs do not require a high protein diet. Therefore, finding a food with a lower protein content but with better quality protein will decrease the amount of nitrogen that your pet has to remove.

2. Burn spots in your lawn can also be impacted by the type of grass species you have. According to a study conducted by veterinarian Dr. A.W. Allard, Festuca sp. var. Kentucky 31 (fescue) and Lolium perrene (perennial ryegrass) were the most resilient to urine damage. On the other hand, Poa Ppratensis (Kentucky bluegrass) and Cynodon sp. var. Fairway (Bermuda grass) are very sensitive to urine effects.

Typical burn spot with a solid green outline.

Typical burn spot with a solid green outline.

3. A more practical approach to eliminating burn spots is to water the area your pet is using to urinate. If done within eight hours, the water will dilute the nitrogen content to acceptable levels, creating a fertilizer effect. For better effects, try using sugar water or any soft drink. The sugar will replenish essential nutrients and at the same time dilute the nitrogen.

4. Training your dog could be the best solution. Although tedious at first, training will have long lasting effects which will minimize the amount of work needed to maintain a green lawn. Utilizing fences, leashes, and other devices such as motion activated sprinklers and odor repellents will help designate where your dog urinates. 

5. Decrease the amount of nitrogen being applied to your lawn. If your lawn already has high nitrogen content from being fertilized, it will be more susceptible to your pet's waste products. Adjusting the application rate and amount will cure this issue.

Cassius marking his territory.

Cassius marking his territory.

Your yard is a place to be enjoyed by your whole family, including your pets. Monitoring your pet's bathroom activities will keep your lawn healthy, your pet healthy, and provide a clean and safe area to enjoy outdoor activities. To avoid this issue completely, walk your dog! Bring along your significant other, your kids, or friends and enjoy the stroll!
Special thank you to Dan(Cassius), Jake, and Brigid(Yuri) for supplying the pet photos!

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-Shem Ruszczyk