Generally speaking, grass is a great groundcover for dogs. It’s soft to the touch, it doesn’t present any serious toxicity issues, and–as long as you mow it on a reasonably frequent schedule–it’s unlikely to harbor many ticks or other pests.
Nonetheless, some grasses are undoubtedly better for homes with dogs than others. Some types, for example, are less likely to be harmed by your dog’s urine, while others will hold up to heavy traffic better than others.
We certainly don’t expect anyone to go rip up their existing lawn so it can be replaced with some other type of grass, but if you are currently making significant landscaping changes, you may want to think about the type of seed or sod you put down.
We’ll talk about the dog-grass relationship below, explain the differences between the various grass options, and give you a few tips for keeping your yard looking great.
How Dogs Destroy Lawns
Dogs can damage your grass in a few key ways, and it’s important to identify the way your dog is harming your lawn so you can take steps to protect it. Or, if you end up needing to replace your lawn, you’ll know what type of grass to choose.
Some of the most common ways that dogs destroy lawns include:
Dogs will usually urinate several times a day, particularly if they have free access to the yard. Dog urine is made up of a handful of major ingredients, including something called urea – one of the byproducts created during the metabolism of protein.
Urea contains a ton of nitrogen. Nitrogen is an important resource for grass and other plants, as it helps them produce new tissues and grow (nitrogen is the primary component of most fertilizers).
But, excessive amounts of nitrogen will “burn” plants, and, in the case of your lawn, this will cause patches of grass to turn brown and die.
Some owners opt to train their dog to only pee and poop in one specific spot to limit some of the damage done. While this is certainly a great strategy, it may take some effort to teach your dog the new potty game plan, and some sections of your lawn will still get ruined.
Filling an area with dog-friendly mulch or a corner with artificial grass and teaching your pet to potty there is one great strategy to alleviate that issue!
There are also some strategies you can use to fix dog urine spots on your lawn, but they involve significant effort and may require regrowing grass.
Poop also contains some nitrogen, but the biggest problem relates to the moisture and bacteria it contains. This can disturb the soil microflora and encourage the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi.
Your dog’s waste can also represent a pretty significant biohazard if you don’t clean it up regularly, so get out there with a pooper scooper and patrol your yard.
A lot of dogs like to dig – they’ll dig at their beds, they’ll dig at their water bowls, and many dogs seem to pick a particular part of your lawn where they focus most of their attention.
If you’re lucky, your dog will pick some out-of-the-way location to dig, but unfortunately, they often seem to prefer areas that are at least adjacent to your lawn.
Digging holes not only damages the grass blades and rips up the roots, but it does a fair bit of damage to the underlying soil too. Exposing the soil to the air like this can dry it out, and your dog’s repetitive pawing may compact the soil, making it difficult for the grass to recolonize the area.
A running dog’s paws can crush grass blades and dislodge swatches of turf. Running usually only causes problems when dogs repeatedly run across the same stretch of land.
That’s why you might find bare patches near fences and in the places connecting your dog’s favorite spots (such as the back door and his dog house).
You can limit this damage by trying to encourage your dog to use the entire yard. If you keep your dog attached to a runner or a tie-down, try to move the tether periodically to spread out the damage.
What Characteristics Make for a Dog-Proof Lawn
We’ll talk about a few of the best grasses for homes with dogs in a minute, but first, we want to explain the characteristics that give these grasses an edge.
Some of the primary things you want to look for include:
- Rapid Growth Rate. All lawns will suffer some damage when your dog runs, jumps, and plays on it – there’s just not a lot you can do about this. One of the best ways to keep your yard looking great is to select a grass that grows quickly, as this will help it recover from the damage rapidly.
- Deep Root Development. Grasses that have deep root systems will tend to weather damage better and recover more quickly. Additionally, deeply rooted grasses will sometimes discourage digging behaviors.
- Well-Matched to Your Climate. If you don’t pick a good grass species for your property, your lawn will likely be stressed before your dog sets food on it. Give your lawn the best chance for survival by picking one that is perfectly suited to your climate and the amount of sun exposure your yard receives.
Hardy Grasses That Can Cope with Your Dog
Lawncare experts recommend a variety of different types of grass for homes with dogs, but the following four are among the most commonly mentioned.
1. Kentucky Bluegrass
Kentucky Bluegrass is one of the hardiest grasses available, and it thrives in most growing locations. Its rapid growth rate, hardy nature, and ability to recover quickly after being trampled make it a great choice for many owners. Kentucky Bluegrass is also quite attractive, which provides additional value.
2. Perennial Ryegrass
Perennial ryegrasses usually produce a fairly robust root system and grow very quickly. They’re often best suited to cool climates, where they make one of the best choices for homes that count a dog among the residents.
There are a variety of different fescues available, so you’ll have to pick a good variety for your climate. However, as a group, fescues tend to be hardy grasses. They exhibit excellent moisture-absorbing properties and generally handle the indignities your dog will dole out. Many fescues are capable of growing in shaded areas.
Bermuda is a popular choice among those living in warm climates, and it rarely needs supplemental irrigation. It’s also the perfect choice for high-traffic areas since it’ll usually tolerate your dog’s paws pretty well. However, like all other grasses, it’ll appreciate a break from time to time to heal and recolonize bare areas.
Do note that Bermuda grass tends to become dormant and turn brown during the winter when temperatures drop below about 55 degrees. It will come back to life (so to speak — it doesn’t actually die), once warm weather returns.
One of the more luxurious grasses for your pup’s paws (as well as your feet), Zoysia is another popular choice for homes with dogs. Zoysia is reasonably drought tolerant and hardy once established, but it often requires four or more years to get a solid foothold.
Tips and Tricks for Keeping Your Dog Safe and Your Grass Beautiful
No matter what type of grass you select, there are a few things you can do to help keep your lawn looking its best. Some of the most effective ways to do so include:
Dilute Your Dog’s Pee
One way to reduce the damage caused by your dog’s nitrogen-rich urine is to hose down the area right after your dog pees. This will help dilute the amount of nitrogen and reduce the damage caused.
You can also protect your lawn even more by simply taking your dog for a walk first thing in the morning and after you return home from work.
Your dog’s urine will typically be most concentrated, so a nice walk will give them a chance to flush out all of that nitrogen somewhere other than your yard.
Pick Up Your Dog’s Poop
First of all, you should regularly patrol and clean your yard, as a build-up of pet waste can cause a number of very serious health problems for your dog and your family (as well as potentially attract coyotes).
But aside from this, cleaning your yard and disposing of dog poop regularly will help keep your grass healthier.
Like urine, dog poop is also full of nitrogen. This can create the same types of problems that frequent urination does.
Try to Encourage Your Dog to Enjoy the Full Yard
If you spread out your dog’s impact on the lawn (including the physical wear-and-tear caused by his activity and the chemical assault poop and pee represent), it’ll give the grass a better chance to recover. It isn’t always easy to accomplish this, but you should do your best to try.
Don’t Let Dogs Play on Wet Grass
Any type of high-impact activity will cause more damage to a wet lawn than a dry one, so try to keep your dog from zooming around the backyard following rain or watering.
Besides, letting your dog play on a wet lawn essentially guarantees a huge mess in your home once you let him come back inside, and you’ll likely to have to break out the paw washer.
Don’t Allow Your Dog Outside After Spraying Your Yard with Chemicals
A little incidental contact with an organic fertilizer is probably not likely to cause huge health issues, but if your dog rolls around in some or eats any, it may lead to pretty big problems.
Pesticides and herbicides probably represent an even more acute danger, so you should definitely follow all label instructions and keep your dog off the lawn for the recommended period of time.
Also be sure to read up on pet-safe weed killers, as some treatments are much more dog-friendly than others.
Take Advantage of Problematic Growing Spots
Most lawns will have an area or two that – for whatever reason – struggle to nurture a thick carpet of grass. Instead of lamenting these problematic patches, try to put them to good use by trying to encourage your dog to use these places.
You may want to put his dog house or tie-down stake in these areas, or you could simply try to confine play to these barren areas.
What kind of grass do you use in your yard? Did you think about your pooch when making the decision? Have you experienced any particularly difficult challenges?
Let us know all about your experiences in the comments below!
If you’re on the quest for a dog-proof yard, also make sure to read our articles on dog-friendly shrubs and dog-safe flowers.
June 13, 2021
I was looking more for what kind of grass would be best for allergies. If my dog was allergic to the grass is there one out there that’s easy on his paws
June 14, 2021
Unfortunately, there isn’t a particular type of grass that is “hypoallergenic.” You’d just have to try a few different grasses and see which ones don’t trigger his allergies.
I know that’s probably not exactly easy to accomplish, but you could try to implement some experimental trials to figure it out.
For example, find a friend or neighbor that has, say, Bermuda grass. Let him play on it for a while, then go back home. See if that triggered his allergies. Lather, rinse, and repeat until you find a type of grass that doesn’t irritate his paws.
Also, it may be worth asking your vet if there are allergy tests available that investigate different grass varieties rather than simply “grass.”
Best of luck — that certainly is a tough one!
September 14, 2021
If you live in humid area like the beach . alot of dogs get reactions from the morning dew on grass and will chew there paws all day. My vet said prednisone 2.5 milligrams every 2-3 days helped my boston stop chewing on her paws
February 3, 2021
We are getting a puppy, small breed. What is the best grass for the pee/poop areas in Central Florida?
January 14, 2021
What do you see as alternatives to grass – compatible with dog play and running – when the grass is torn up from playing and running? Thank you.
January 14, 2021
There aren’t a ton of alternatives, but the best options would likely be cypress mulch, pine bark, or a similar, dog-safe wood product.
Another intriguing idea is clover, though I’ve never tried that myself.
Best of luck!
August 16, 2020
Here , west cost of zoysia sod Atlanta and in any subdivision, zoysia is the Best.
January 14, 2021
Excellent info, thank you! Two questions: bermuda v. zoya? Also, what about Dog Tuff in Maryland? (dogtuffgrass.com)
January 14, 2021
I’d probably opt for Zoysia over Bermuda in a perfect world, Lesley.
I’m not specifically familiar with Dog Tuff’s product, but it certainly seems intriguing. I like that it’s a sterile hybrid, and if their characterization of its growth habits are accurate, it seems promising.
Let us know how it works for you if you try it!
June 25, 2020
What about the invasive properties of various grasses? Especially Bermuda grass.
June 25, 2020
That’s obviously part of the grass-selection algebra, but we just chose to focus on the dog/owner/durability aspects of the issue here.
Honestly, if you want to be eco-friendly about the whole thing, you should probably select something besides grass entirely.
April 29, 2020
I have a small backyard & 4 big dogs. We hike a lot but they still destroy what grass I have. Would centipede grass be better?
April 30, 2020
Centipede is a pretty durable and resilient grass, so it may be worth a shot.
Just make sure it is compatible with your climate.
Best of luck!
December 16, 2019
Awesome grass for dogs to runs my lawn. Zoysia and Bermuda Ideal for shady and high traffic areas, this grass is highly resistant to insects, weeds and diseases, and tolerant of dry conditions. This grass doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, and likes both dry and humid conditions.
July 8, 2019
Help! My local dog park is considering installing decomposed granite as ground cover in lieu of grass. I know this is not a good healthy surface for dog parks. What’s an appropriate grass for so cali
July 5, 2019
What about fake grass? We have an area here in central Fl that is nothing but sand. We have another separate area that is grassy but I’m thinking of putting in artificial turf over the sandy area where they walk after exiting the covered patio. Any suggestions with that? Thanks
June 8, 2019
Great information concerning grass good for dogs. I live in Florida and have two fur-kids of my own Peanut and Buddy who are 17 and 21 pounds. I do have a professional pet care business and will soon be having no more than 3 to 4 additional fur-children in my home to provide care for. Right now, the home my parents and I purchased has a beautiful fenced backyard BUT it is ALL different colored ROCKS such as lava rocks and such. We did not even consider this when we purchased the home. Our boys are getting used to them but I know the rocks are not comfortable for them and may even cause damage to the pads of their paws. I’m not positive on this. However, many dogs will not walk on rocks which is not a good thing when it comes to my small dog boarding business as many people will not board their fur-children in a home with a rocky back yard. May I ask, which grass out of zoysia, Kentucky Bluegrass, Fescue, or Bermudagrass would You use if you lived in Florida where it often hits 95 plus degrees and short winters of around 40 degrees for short periods of time. Also when it rains, our backyard has a tendency to hold water and I know we will have to add a few drains to go into the retention pond behind our home. Of course my boys also eat grass to settle upset stomach. When I say our backyard holds water, I MEAN IF IT RAINS REAL HARD AND FOR MORE THAN A FEW HOURS our neighbors yards are saturated with water, but this is because the 55 plus community we live in dose NOT keep road drain properly cleaned out as residents continually blow leaves into the street drains, and when our home was built 20 plus years ago, the landscape company did not do a very good job at putting drains in the yards of the residents who live here: My dad is a retired building contractor and him and I plan to rip into the yard and give it a complete makeover with drains and sandbags or something, because when we get rain for days, like hurricane season, the retention pond is about 1500 feet from our fence line and water actually comes up underneath the 2.5 foot little wooden fence we have in our back yard. We did however purchase a home in an area of our community that is the ONLY SECTION in our new community that allows fencing and I prayed for a furnished home to purchase in a 55 plus community that has tons of things to do and a home with some kind of fence for our two boys and a doggy park in the community or close by. God answered my prayer as if He wrote it himself and the man we bought the home from left everything including all furniture, 55 inch tv with free tv channels no need for a contracted tv provider, forks and sheets, etc. Backyard is fenced but WITH ROCKS, and a beautiful doggy park is 2 miles from our home. God is AWESOME. Based on everything I explained, which grass would you purchase if you was me and how much would seeds or sprigs cost for approximately 7350 square feet. That’s the size of backyard but i plan to put in a doggi pool, and a few other things but with this footage, I can get an idea. Thank you so much. May God bless you and may we ALL bless God, simply by blessing others that He puts into our daily lives.
Donald (Donnie) Girard Jr.
FACEBOOK @ DONNIE GIRARD
God’s Power Team
July 23, 2019
Zoysia and Bermuda are warm season grass. Kentucky and fescue are cool season grass, which my go dormant and turn brown during a drought in the summer if not cared for properly. I live in Memphis, so I use tall fescue. I have to use summer drought fertilizer and mow no lower than 4 inches in the summer. Cool season grass will stay green during the cold months if the weather is not to hot. I hope this can a little help.
July 23, 2019
I meant, the cool season grass will stay green during cold months if the weather is not to harsh.
May 12, 2019
Excellent information to help me plan for my new puppy. Valuable lawn and care information. Thank you!
May 12, 2019
Excellent information to help me plan for my new puppy. Valuable lawn and care information. Thank you!
April 9, 2019
I recently moved to Santa Fe, NM, and just have a patio area with a small area of grass. Buffalo grass is coming up as an option here, which apparently in long term doesn’t require so much water as other varieties you’ve listed. Wonder if you know how it compares with others you’ve listed.
April 10, 2019
Buffalo grass does have a reputation for being relatively hardy, so it’s probably a good option. It is relatively drought tolerant, and it doesn’t require the “babying” that some other grasses do. And for bonus points, it’s native to parts of New Mexico, which is always something to look for when picking out plants or trees for your home.
Give it a try and let us know how it goes!
Thanks for reading. 🙂
April 7, 2019
Hello! Thank you for the info. We have four large, happy and playful, Pit Bulls. Our yard takes a beating. We try to rotate their play area to give areas of the yard “a break.” However we still end up with mud spots. We live in Michigan and struggle with every season. I don’t believe it’s their potty that ruins the grass, it seems to be that they’re so big and they run and play hard! Any helpful tips or suggestions are much appreciated!
April 6, 2019
I was looking at your advice on grass for my back garden (yard) I live in Northern Ireland and have a 9 year old Jack Russell. As I’m thinking of changing the lawn. Your information has been wonderful Thank You.
April 3, 2019
This article is an outstanding reminder about dog habits and the important grass maintenance to keep the two healthier and happier. Your five grass choices are spot-on but its limited scope begs the question, how about a 6th grass focused on heartiness in primary regions of our country, such as here in the Mid-West (Central Indiana)?
Thanks for your brief yet cogent information.
April 4, 2019
Hey, Sam. Thanks for the kind words, and we’re glad you enjoyed the article.
We may add some other varieties when we update this article at some point, but — unless I’m mistaken — Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass are both suitable for Indiana.
I’m pretty sure they’re both rated for hardiness zone 5b, which includes the northern part of the state.
At any rate, thanks for reading!
March 10, 2019
I have a Doberman that ruins my lawn every year which I have repair. She runs slides & rips up the lawn. I need to know what a strong tuff grass is. I have Sun & shade area. Love on Long Island NY. Please help
February 23, 2019
Hi! I have four dogs, who are tough runners. I have a total mud swamp in my back yard in the fall, winter and spring. In the summer I manage to grow some shade-tolerant grass, but the other seasons are problematic. I am in suburban Maryland near Washington DC. Any ideas you can offer are appreciated. Thank you!
June 5, 2019
I had a large German Shepherd who was approximately 100 lbs. growing up in the Northern Virginia area. The only thing that worked was Zoysia. I still live in the DC Metro area and currently have three dogs. My lawn is tall fescue/Kentucky bluegrass blend, but I do have to aerate and overseed each fall and many time also have to buy some sod to “fix” spots in the yard. My pack goes for two long walks a day, but they enjoy chasing each other in the year and peeing in on the turf rather than the mulched areas. If you don’t mind browning in the cool weather, Zoysia is the way to go. It is time intensive to install (via plugs) and takes anywhere from 3-5 years to fully spread, but it really hold up to intense dog traffic and play!
February 3, 2019
Good info very helpful
January 21, 2019
I sure need ur help. I have 2 Dobermans that my lawn hasctakem a beating.I do pick up poop twice a day. But I have bare places big places I have 2 repair. I need 2 know best way go about it and best hardy grass that is out there. I’m tired doing this over and over and over. PLEASE HELP ME. Thank u. Carol Park columbus OHIO. Home ohio the osu buckeyes. Yea go bucks!!