By simply yielding to their natural instincts, dogs can seriously injure the plants in your yard when they relieve themselves. Although the damage to plants has nothing to do with dog gender, the location of the damage typically does. The key is in different male and female dog-urination postures.
Squatters Versus Lifters
Female dogs and puppies usually squat when they urinate, while most adult male dogs lift their legs. Some adult males, however, continue to squat when relieving themselves, regardless of whether they've been surgically neutered.
Although male dogs may begin lifting their legs when they're as young as 3 months old -- to urinate or exhibit urine-marking behavior -- the ASPCA notes that it may take up to two years for many of them to develop this behavior.
When a dog squats to relieve himself, he releases a puddle of urine on your lawn. When he marks his territory by lifting his leg, he releases small amounts of urine on vertical surfaces, which may be your trees, shrubs or ornamental plants. Damaged plants, including patches of your turfgrass, may turn yellow or brown or even die if the urine treatment is repeated often.
Causes of the Damage
Dog urine, which is primarily uric acid, contains a high concentration of nitrogen and salts. It's these components that burn plants -- not a high pH, which is commonly blamed.
What You Can Do to Protect Plants
- Dry and infertile lawns are more susceptible to urine damage. By flooding a grassy area with water as soon as possible after a male dog urinates, you can disperse the urine salts and mitigate the damage. Apply fertilizer based on soil-test recommendations to keep plants -- grass, shrubs and trees -- in optimal health.
- Train your dog to urinate in a certain area, such as a mulched bed or sandy area away from your plants.
- Exclude neighborhood dogs from reaching your plants by fencing them out.
- A motion-activated sprinkler may help by aiming a jet of water at an interloping dog, deterring him and preventing plant damage.