Dog urine: It just comes with the territory

I am always amazed as to how the mind works in relation to the seasons.

During the latter part of winter, while I do enjoy perusing the seed catalogs and ordering way too much for my space, I’m in no mood to garden. I look out the front window and see many plants that need thinning and transplanting; a plum tree that has decided that a sharp turn to the left was in order; vegetable beds full of sloppy straw, worm castings and cardboard; and even the occasional land mine left by our now deceased (and missed) dog, Maggie.

Oh, Maggie. After 15 years, she finally decided that enough was enough. Of course, we all feel that we lost a member of our family, and I miss the sound of her hoarse bark and the way she nuzzled her head in your lap, regardless of if you were sitting and standing. However, the yard will definitely appreciate her absence. The lawn will have fewer burn spots, the asparagus won’t get trampled and the well-worn perimeter pathways will slowly disappear.

Every year I get calls about dog urine ruining one’s lawn. And it is true: It can be a common problem that (of course) can be cured by every home remedy known to man. I have been asked if salt, garlic or even tomato juice added to your pet’s diet would “dilute” the urine. Then there are also the commercial remedies that may contain “a unique formula of a synergistic combination of B-complex vitamins and amino acids.” Whoa. I know that Extension has the answers to lots of questions, but these calls go directly to your veterinarian, not to me.

Mythbuster: There is a belief that only female or certain breeds of dogs spot the lawn (not true), or that the spots occur because their urine is too acidic (not true) or too alkaline (also not true). Dog spots are more likely to occur with female breeds because they are “squatters” not “markers.” However, I have seen plenty of male dogs squat – and while they may be embarrassed to do so within the canine community, they are known to do it. Larger breeds produce larger amounts of urine.

The spotting has nothing to do with the pH but occurs because a high concentration of nitrogen and accompanying salts has been deposited in a really small area. The elevated nitrogen levels may cause a dark green spot, or even a browning of the area, often surrounded by a darker green halo of grass. This high concentration of nitrogen and salts may burn the grass (center) while the lower concentrations on the periphery may stimulate the grass (dark halo on edge).

In order to minimize the effect of the urine on your lawn, the dog owner really has only three options:

Teach the dog to do its business on an area of the yard that is not covered with turf.

Provide adequate water for your dog as it will dilute the concentration of nitrogen and salt in the urine.

Increase the irrigation amount to help dilute any accumulated salts in the soil.

Lastly, give your pet a big hug. I promise, you’ll miss the hair, the slobber and the accidents. It’s all part of an amazing package, called the family pet. or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.