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8 Tips for Landscaping With Dogs

Dog Urine and Lawn Care: What to Do About "Dog Spots"

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crushed stone mulch for dog traffic

Crushed stone mulch is maintenance-free, holds up to dog traffic and provides a clean look.

David Beaulieu

Is your landscaping going to the dogs? Is your lawn riddled with "dog spots?" There's no reason that you can't have both canine companionship and an attractive yard. But landscaping with dogs does present challenges that may require some compromises. The goal in this balancing act is to achieve an attractive, dog-friendly yard.

Effective landscaping with dogs begins with the recognition that a business-as-usual approach won't work. If your dogs are to be allowed to run about in your yard, you'll probably have to make adjustments to your landscaping. Landscaping with dogs primarily entails making concessions to your canine friends, as you'll see from the strategies below. I do, however, offer one glimmer of hope that you can, instead, adjust the dogs to the landscaping. Either way, if you fail to make some sort of adjustment, then dogs will make a mess of your yard. Worse still, they'll be continually dragging dirt into your house.

Landscaping With Dogs: Adjustments to Your Landscaping

Strategy #1: Avoid Dog Spots With Hardscape

Dogs and lawn grass don't mix well. For small areas, consider switching from a grassy expanse to hardscape. The advantages of hardscape go beyond solutions to landscaping with dogs, since hardscape offers a low-maintenance alternative to grass that obviates lawn care. Stone and masonry are especially useful for landscaping with dogs, because they minimize the mess dogs make through urination (dog spots), digging and plain old wear and tear.

Here are some ideas for incorporating hardscape into your yard:

Strategy #2: Smarter Lawn Care -- Know Your Grass Types

But what if you reject the idea of incorporating hardscape, sticking stubbornly to your wish for a "green carpet" of grass? At the very least, consider switching to a different type of grass. Some grasses hold up better to foot traffic (and paw traffic!) than others. Among the warm-season grasses, Bermuda grass is among the toughest. If you need a cool-season grass for landscaping with dogs, try Kentucky bluegrass.

Strategy #3: Green Alternatives to Grass

But installing a tougher type of grass will solve only one lawn-care problem encountered in landscaping with dogs: namely, wear and tear on grass. It will do nothing to solve the problem of "dog spots." Dog spots are the unsightly yellow spots on grass caused by the nitrogen and salts in dog urine.

But there is a type of "green carpet" that solves the problem of dog spots: clover. Clover lawns have many advantages over grass lawns. If you're landscaping with dogs, you'll especially appreciate the fact that clover doesn't stain the way grass does after being subjected to canine urine.

Strategy #4: Emergency Lawn Care -- Diluting Dog Urine

If you can't bring yourself to renounce grass, you can still prevent dog spots by vigilance. When you see a dog urinating on the grass, rush to the garden hose. Turn it on and bring it over to the area where your dog has just urinated. Douse the area with water, thereby flushing it and diluting the harmful elements in the dog urine.

This strategy won't be very appealing if you "have a life." I know I wouldn't want my day to revolve around the urinary habits of my dog! But hey, different strokes for different folks.

But don't despair! On Page 2 we'll look at some more strategies for landscaping with dogs, including an adjustment to the dogs instead of to the landscaping....

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