3 Ways to Prevent Brown Lawn Spots From Dog Urine

Photo: Charlie Smith

We have two dogs — a male Black Lab/Golden Retriever mix and a female Shepard/Husky mix. They are wonderful dogs, but unfortunately, the female marks all over our yard. (See also: 10 DIY Dog Toys You Can Make for Pennies)

It was never a big issue, as we didn’t care too much about how our backyard looked. But this year, after a huge portion of the yard turned to mud, we decided to plant some sod. In about a 200 square foot area we turned over the soil, evened it out, and laid down new, gorgeous sod from our local nursery. It was a lot of work (though surprisingly cheap — all of the sod cost about $30), and the grass was so perfect you just wanted to lay down in it and take a nap.

Unfortunately, our Shepard/Husky decided this new sod would also be her new potty place. Suddenly, there were yellow and brown spots covering the new green grass. I did some internet searching and found forums filled with hundreds of tips (and a lot of debates) about how to remove dog urine from the yard or how to prevent the dog’s urine from turning the grass brown. Here are the three best ways we’ve found to prevent the dog urine from killing the grass.

1. Most Effective Short-Term Solution — Water

The most effective short-term solution to prevent the dog urine from killing the yard is to immediately water the spot where the dog peed. I usually run the hose for about 10 seconds over the spot. The water dilutes the urine and keeps the grass from turning brown. I call this a short-term solution because, at least in our house, it’s not very realistic to assume that we will watch where the dog goes to the bathroom and then go outside and water every time she does. Plus, it’s a waste of water. However, if you have new grass or just have a dog visiting, this may be the best solution.

2. Best and Cheapest Long-Term Solution — Spot Training

Assuming you’re not going to water every time your dog urinates on the yard, the best method is to train your dog to only go to the bathroom in one part of the yard. This takes time and commitment. It requires you to take your dog outside to a particular spot, wait for it to go, and then give it a treat and praise. If you have a new puppy, I would highly recommend you train it to only use one area of the yard. A small portion of your yard will still die, but you still keep the rest of the yard looking relatively nice.

3. The Lazy Man Method — Tomato Juice

If you’re too lazy to treat the spot with water or train your dog to always go in the same area, I recommend tomato juice. My vet gave me this tip. You just feed your dog a bit of tomato juice with each meal by mixing it in with its food. (Depending on the size of your dog, you may want to experiment. We use about a quarter cup with our eighty-pound dog.)

Our vet said there are two schools of thought about why the tomato juice works. The first is that the tomato juice neutralizes the pH. I don’t understand the science behind it, so if you disagree with the pH theory, the other theory is the dilution theory. Some say that tomato juice works to prevent brown spots from urine is because of the salt in the tomato juice. The salt makes the dog thirsty, so she drinks more water and naturally dilutes her own urine.

I would recommend spot training your dog as the best long-term solution. But if you can’t train your dog, the tomato juice is a great alternative.

Do you have a dog that has killed the grass by urinating on it? If so, do you know of other ways to prevent spots?

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3 Ways to Prevent Brown Lawn Spots From Dog Urine

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Guest's picture

I would disagree with the pH theory. Tomato juice is acidic. Urine is acidic. How can drinking acid possibly make urine less acidic? The salt theory makes more sense to me.

Andrea Karim's picture

Yeah, I had always been told that urine was basic, but it is acidic. I was told that putting vinegar in my dogs' water bowl (just a tablespoon) would make a difference. It did - they stopped drinking water altogether and probably would have died of dehydration if I hadn't relented within a couple of hours.

Guest's picture

I realize this is pretty old but I just wanted to point out that urine and tomato juice are both, in fact, acid but this isn't the reason it works. It's the ammonia in urine that actually kills the grass. Ammonia is a base, the tomato juice helps neutralize the ammonia. Therefore the person with the pH theory was correct. The added hydration from the salt doesn't hurt the fact though.

Fun fact of the day.

Guest's picture

Darn. I wish it were something I could do since it's my neighbor's dog that keeps making our lawn brown.

Guest's picture

Hi there,

I had the same problem with my lawn getting covered in yellow and brown marks from my dog.
I did some research and tried a few different things, the best thing out there (that I can find) is something called dog rocks.
I was unsure about it working and it took a month or so to see the results, but I'm so happy with the results.
Would recommend them to anyone!

Guest's picture

I also use Dog Rocks. They are really easy to use, and my lawn now looks great. I would also highly recommend them.

Guest's picture

Be careful of Tomato Juice. Dogs are allergic. I would go to your pest store. they have a healthy "treat" to prevent yellow spots.

Guest's picture

Be careful of those "healthy" treats you mentioned. I assume you are talking about something called Grass Saver (or similar). They are little chewable tablets. We started giving our boxer these because he was destroying our yard with urine spots. After 2 weeks he started having seizures.

The main active ingredient in those is Methionine. Some of the side effects are: liver disease, seizures, possible death, etc. While most side effects are rare, I highly suggest NOT using these "healthy treats".