According to the American Pet Products Association in 2020, 63.4 million homes in the United States had at least one dog. If you have a dog and a fenced-in yard, you probably have paths along the inside of the fence where your pet has traveled and compacted a path or maybe even through ornamental beds. If the area is in lawn, the compaction can be enough that a bare path will be created and then weeds that can grow in those conditions will move in. Paths through ornamental beds may not be as obvious, but weeds can come in to that compacted path just like in a lawn area. I used to have a couple of Labrador retrievers who made paths though my ornamental beds where they cut through them to come around the corners of the house.
The best defense against compaction is to plant a turfgrass that can tolerate wear. Bermudagrass has the best wear tolerance and can recover quickly from damage. However, because it is a warm season grass, it will not have the same level of wear tolerance in winter when it is dormant.
So what variety is best? Start by growing the appropriate turfgrass variety for your growing conditions. Bermudagrass will not tolerate shade, so you might choose Zoysia (also warm season) that has good wear tolerance and will tolerate some shade but is slower to recover than Bermudagrass. Or you could choose a cool season grass, like Tall Fescue, that will also tolerate some shade but will not recover as quickly as the warm season grasses. If you have heavy shade in an area, you will never be successful growing grass. In that case you have options — hire an arborist to selectively prune the trees to allow more light or cut down the trees altogether. Another option for sun or shade would be to create an intentional area for your pet to use. In a deep shade area consider wood chip mulch and/or adding ornamental shrubs or ground cover that will tolerate those growing conditions. Check out the NC Extension Plant Toolbox (https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/) where you can develop a list of plants suitable for your growing conditions.
To keep a lawn healthy and able to withstand wear from your pet, you will need to maintain it by mowing at the proper frequency and height, fertilizing at the right time, irrigating when needed, soil testing to determine if lime is needed, and if using pesticides making sure to read and follow all label instructions. With the extra wear caused by a dog, you may need to plan and budget for extra maintenance costs such as: a higher level of fertilization; overseeding; core aeration; renovation of areas with extensive wear; and that you may have to keep your pet off a renovated area for a period of time. Fall is the time for many chores to maintain a healthy cool season lawn such as Tall Fescue. You can access lawn maintenance calendars at the NCSU Turffiles website (https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/catalog/series/227/).
If using pesticides to manage insects, diseases, or weeds, minimize the risk to your pet by
following label directions, selecting lower toxicity pesticides, and minimizing the animal’s exposure to the pesticide during and after the application. Be sure to remove the pet’s toys and feeding and watering pans from the area to be treated. The Re-entry interval (REI) will be listed on the pesticide’s label. Most liquid products indicate it is safe for pets to re-enter once the pesticide has dried completely, and this should be assumed to be the minimum requirement if no time is listed.
For more information on dogs and turfgrass, check out the publication, Dogs and Turfgrass Interactions (https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/dogs-and-turfgrass-interactions).
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