For most dog owners the relationship shared between human and canine is that of family. We take care of them like children, making sure they are healthy, happy, fed, and sheltered. In return our dogs give us years of loyal, unconditional love and enjoyment. Some of my fondest memories growing up in a rural farming community were of my dog, Jake, and I strolling through the fields, pheasant hunting in the meadows, and wrestling on the lawn. Lawn, the carpet of our landscapes, provides many such bonding experiences with our beloved pets. Whether it’s playing fetch, rolling around on the grass, or providing your dog with a sunny place to take a nap, dogs and lawns spend a lot of time together.
What is the Potential Damage?It is because of this association between dogs and lawns that, over time, homeowners will start to notice the toll their pets inflict on lawn grass. If your dog spends most of its time outdoors, chances are it will be spent on the lawn, especially in cities and towns where free-roaming pets are not allowed. In these situations many people will fence off parts of the yard for dogs to occupy. In these heavy traffic areas, dogs can cause massive amounts of damage to lawn grass. Erosion caused by constant running, rolling, digging, and walking can turn an otherwise lush green lawn into a muddy, dusty mess. Anyone who has ever opened the door to a whimpering dog caked in mud during a rainstorm can relate.
Using the Right Grass SpeciesTo combat the problems associated with heavy dog traffic, it’s first important to choose the right grass seed. A good dog-tolerant grass will be able to recover quickly from wear and tear. Grasses that have this fast recovery quality usually spread from rhizomes and/or stolons. A good dog-tolerant grass will also have a very thick growth habit, helping it cope with dog traffic. Here at Nature's Seed, we recommend our Blue Ribbon Kentucky Bluegrass blend as your first choice for a lawn that will see heavy use by dogs. Our Blue Ribbon Blend is made up of four varieties of Kentucky bluegrass and two varieties of perennial ryegrass. Kentucky bluegrass works well for high traffic due to its rhizomatous plant structure. When a piece of grass is ripped out by dog activity, the missing lawn will eventually fill itself back in. For more shady yards, our Triple-Play Tall Fescue blend would be a better choice. Tall fescue is also a very traffic tolerant grass and is more shade-tolerant than bluegrass. It has roots that grow up to five feet below the surface, helping ensure the root system is left intact even when the top of the plant is disturbed. For dog owners in the south, our Bermudagrass Seed Blend would be the best choice. Stay away from grasses like the fine fescues, buffalograss, or any other grass that can’t handle the heavy traffic a dog would inflict.
Another Tip: Section RotationAnother way to limit the amount of damage caused by dogs is to practice ‘section-rotation’. In this method, dogs are fenced in one particular section of the yard for a limited amount of time. After a while the section is rotated to another area of the yard. This method ensures the grass in every section has plenty of time to recover and fill in. Finally, when establishing a lawn from grass seed it is absolutely critical to keep dogs off the newly planted soil. No freshly seeded lawn can withstand the constant traffic our four-legged friends can dish out.
By taking into account the creatures you will be sharing your lawn with, we can prevent or at least minimize the negative effects dogs have on lawns. This will provide us with neater pets, cleaner homes, and of course, more beautiful lawns for playing fetch on.