How to stop dogs from peeing on the lawn and killing the grass

To counteract the damage done to grass by dogs peeing on your lawn, look for lawn repair projects specifically designed for that problem. They help neutralize nitrogen and remove salts.

DEAR JOAN: Help! My husband and I own a house on a corner lot. We are very proud of our lawn and front garden, and we spend a lot of time and money keeping it looking nice.

Our problem is that a lot of people walk their dogs in front of the house and around the corner, and they let their dogs pee all over the yard. Most people pick up the poop when they let the dogs go on the lawn, but what do you do about the pee? There’s no way to pick that up.

We love dogs, but we love our lawn, too. I know a lot of people have taken out their lawns and put in rocks and dirt, but we like having a green lawn in front of our home, so don’t tell me to take it out.

The dogs’ urine is creating burns in our grass, and we’ve had to reseed several areas. When I see someone walking their dog, I’ll shout at them, in a nice way, to stay off our grass, but I can’t be out there all the time.

Do you have suggestions for stopping the dogs from peeing on our lawn and for fixing the burned areas? We don’t even know most of the people walking by.

— Lawn Lover, Campbell, Calif.

DEAR LAWN LOVER: First of all, responsible pet owners do not let their dogs do their business on other people’s lawns and yards, so that needs to stop.

And secondly, I would never try to force you to rip out your lawn. Lawns use a lot of water, but they also give back to the environment by absorbing carbon monoxide, filtering pollutants and keeping high temperatures down. They are not for everyone, but like everything in nature, we need balance; a mix of lawns and no lawns.

It’s not likely you’ll be able to stop people from letting their dogs urinate on your grass, even by shouting at them nicely. You can ask the people you know to curb their dogs, but there’s no way to control them or the strangers that pass by.

So, barring building a wall around your lawn, you can look at certain deterrents.

Motion activated sprinklers might work, but it depends on how squeamish the dog and its owner are. The sprinklers are only effective if the dog comes far enough onto your property to trigger them. You don’t want to set them too close to the perimeter of your property or you’ll be soaking innocent passersby — and using a lot of water.

There is an assortment of commercial products that promise to deter dogs. They can get expensive, as you’ll likely have to apply and reapply the product many times. They also aren’t foolproof, but it might be worth a try as they’ll probably cut down on some of the problem.

The issue with urine is that it is very high in nitrogen, which is an excellent fertilizer when used in moderation. Because the nitrogen is so concentrated, instead of nourishing the lawn, it kills it. Dogs also tend to go where other dogs already have gone, which magnifies the problem.

Hose down the spots as soon as you see them to help dilute the nitrogen. You also should avoid fertilizing those areas to avoid an overload of nitrogen.

You also can find lawn repair products on the market — Dogonit Lawn Repair Treatment and See Spot Run Dog Urine Grass Saver, to name two. These help neutralize the nitrogen and remove salts.

Those are your best bets.

DEAR JOAN: I was reading about squirrels and mockingbirds being a problem in people’s yards. I have four cats — I keep them in at night — and the squirrels stay in the trees and the mockingbirds have only come once. My neighbor even said the squirrels are nonexistent since my cats moved in.

I know cats are not easy, but the alternative isn’t either.

-- Dana

DEAR DANA: Yes, there are things to be said for outdoor cats. They can keep the mouse, vole and rat population down, and they might keep some other creatures at bay. Unfortunately, cats also kill birds and lizards. And there are bigger and more determined creatures out there that can harm your cats, which is why I recommend keeping cats safely indoors or in an outdoor enclosure. I’m willing to put up with the squirrels and mockers for the sake of having a healthy house cat.

Joan Morris is the pets and wildlife columnist for the Bay Area News Group in California.