A male pet dog, whether mixed breed or purebred, marks its territory by urinating on tree trunks and plants and it can be disturbing to a pet owner when this natural pet behaviour destroys beloved plants, trees and lawns.
Dog urine can create nasty brown or yellow patches of grass in backyard lawns, ruining hours of work that the pet owner or their hired help put into fertilizing, weeding, and tending to the lawn.
Its probably been an issue right from the beginning if one were to go through the history of dog domestication.
Territory marking in your pet dog
Territory marking is an instinctive behavior among all dog breeds and a dog’s urine conveys a lot of information about itself to others of its kind including gender, age, and social standing.
Though harmless from a dog’s perspective, territory marking can be extremely damaging to plants. Urine sprayed on a tree trunk can go all way down to the roots and with repeated marking, kill the entire plant.
Even metal is known to erode when doused with the ammonia-rich dog pee and so imagine the damage it can do to delicate plants; it can be very frustrating to both you and your family members to watch your favorite flowerbeds and bushes withering away.
Damaging to trees
Even in common areas within communities, pet owners sometimes allow their fur-children to urinate repeatedly on trees under the mistaken notion that they are doing the tree a favor.
Far from being beneficial, the salt in dog urine creates a crust of salt at the base of the tree, making it hard for water to reach the roots. Salt also draws water from the tree roots, increasing water loss and creating the effects of drought.
Below are some ideas to draw your pet dog away from your beautiful flowerbed and favorite plants to areas where it is less likely to do harm:
1. Control access
Use a leash when going out on walks and redirect your pet dog away from lawns and flowerbeds to gutters or graveled areas. Just accompanying your dog on outings and redirecting it can help to protect prized plants and greenery.
2. Use food to your advantage
Putting your dog’s food in areas where you don’t want territorial marking can also work in your favor. Dogs are normally reluctant to urinate where they eat and so shifting the food bowl around for a couple of weeks can serve as a deterrent.
3. Use a deterrent spray
A dog’s nose is 100,000 to 1 million times more sensitive than a human’s and literally very few scents escape its attention. Your pet dog uses its acute sense of smell to identify where it peed on the last trip outside and if he can still smell the urine, he is more likely to re-mark the area regularly.
You can make the favourite peeing areas of your pet dog less attractive by using a deterrent that emits a distasteful odour or urine neutralizing spay.
Simply spray tree trunks, flowerbeds or your prized outdoor plant with a deterrent spray and the next time your dog is outdoors, it will trot off in search of something else to mark.
4. Offer a designated area
Perhaps there is an area in your backyard where its okay for your dog to do his business regularly. Direct your dog to this preferred location and reward his good behavior with a treat when he is done.
With consistent reinforcement, your dog will identify this space as the preferred area and use it.
5. Professional training
If your own efforts prove fruitless, you can consider enlisting the services of a professional trainer. It is important to remember that urine marking is not a potty training issue and you can follow the advice of the trainer to achieve the desired result.
6. Raw food diet
A raw food diet can help to balance the pH level in dog urine and thus reduce its damaging effect on plants.
You can also consider pH balancing supplements which when dissolved into water, will help to remove agents that increase the ammonia content in urine. Just ensure that whatever you use is pet safe.
7. Use water to dilute dog pee
Another inexpensive solution is to douse freshly marked areas with water to dilute the urine and minimize damage.
8. Negative reinforcement
You can also use negative reinforcement to deter territorial marking in unwelcome areas.
A suitable object, such as a bean-bag can be thrown from a hiding place to strike the dog while the crime is actually being committed. The dog will not link the punishment with you and assumes that it is being punished by the environment.
Water pistols, training discs, or a tin containing marbles or pebbles thrown onto the ground behind a dog can also be used to interrupt unwanted behavior.
9. Use tough plants
If you are among those who believe that dogs, cats, and other furry families should do what comes to them naturally and enjoy levels of freedom limited to the human society, then you can look into having certain species of plants that withstand dog urine.
Certain species of lawn grass such as Fescues and perennial ryegrass handle dog urine much better and there is a new lawn grass called Dog Turf available in the United States that is very resistant to dog urine.
Also, when picking plants look specifically for varieties that can withstand high levels of soil salinity.
10. Increase your dog’s water intake
You can consider feeding your pet dog wet food instead of dry to increase water intake. The extra water will help to dilute your dog’s urine and limit damage to your plants or lawn.
In any case, ensure that your dog has access to a continuous supply of clean water and stays well hydrated.
11. Switch to dog-friendly landscaping
If possible, try to have dog-friendly landscaping in your backyard so that your dog can pee wherever it chooses to.
You can use bark or stone mulch as long as it is safe for your pet; avoid stones with sharp edges as it may deter your pet from returning to the spot.
What is your favorite tactic to protect your plants and lawn from dog urine? We would love to hear from you.