Are you frustrated with those burned out, yellow and brown spots in your yard where your dog does his business? Want to know what causes it and how you can prevent it? Read on for some ideas that just might help.
What Causes the Brown Patches?
Dog urine contains a variety of nitrogen compounds. Nitrogen waste products come from the breakdown of protein in the body. Excess nitrogen is removed from the animal's body via the kidneys, as a waste product, and when a dog urinates, the nitrogen is applied to the lawn in a large, concentrated dose. This is all part of the normal bodily process, but not great for your grass. The right amounts of nitrogen can be beneficial to your lawn (the main ingredient in lawn fertilizers is nitrogen), but too much undiluted nitrogen can burn the grass.
One of the many myths surrounding this topic is that female dog urine is more acidic than male's and therefore more damaging. In actuality, the reason it seems that a female's urine is more damaging is because female dogs squat to urinate, producing large volume puddles, as opposed to the leg lifting "marking" of male dogs. Leg lifting in males usually begins around a year of age. Fragile plants, bushes or flowers that become marking posts for male dogs may also die in time with the repeated nitrogen overload.
The larger the dog, the more urination, and the greater the damage.
Always check with your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog's diet. There are a lot of theories involving dietary modifications and home remedies to reduce the concentration of nitrogen in the urine, many of which are possibly unhealthy or dangerous for your pet. Altering the pH of your dog's diet, adding acidifying agents such as Vitamin C or fruit juices, alkalinizing agents such as baking soda or potassium citrate, have not been proven to have any affect on the nitrogen level in a dog's urine, and can cause other issues such as bladder stones or kidney problems.
One successful approach seems to be increasing the amount of liquids in the diet, which dilutes the urine and nitrogen concentration. You can moisten dry food with water, or feed a canned food. And always be sure she has plenty of water to drink.
Also consider the type of dog food you are feeding. Nitrogen waste products in the body are a result of protein breakdown. The higher protein diets are going to result in more nitrogen in the urine. Most commercial dog foods purchased at supermarkets contain high levels of protein. The average family dog doesn't have the activity levels to require such high amounts of protein. The quality of the protein is important too, as some proteins are more highly digestible. Premium and super premium dog foods contain higher quality, more digestible levels of proteins, and result in less waste product, another reason to feed your dog the highest quality food.
Minimize the Damage
One effective method to minimize lawn damage is to soak the area with water within 8 hours after urination. Use a garden hose or simply carry out a watering can or jug with you. The water will dilute the nitrogen and prevent the damage.
You could designate an area of your yard for your pet to eliminate and train her to use that area only. It could just be an out of sight area or corner of the yard, or create a special area consisting of gravel or mulch with a "marking post" such as a boulder, bird bath, or garden ornament. You can purchase a "pee post" with special pheromones that will attract the dog to where the post is placed, or collect some of the dog's urine and feces and place in the spot until they catch on. You'll need to spend time training your dog initially to use their new spot, but it can be well worth the effort in the end.
You can spinkle lime fertilizer onto the grass where your dog urinates. Lime neutralizes the soil's pH and prevents grass damage. Another option is to use gypsum pellets which expand in water to break up the soil.
There are commercial products you can purchase at most pet stores or online to help deal with the problem, but you might want to try some of these suggestions first.
Small areas of brown grass will often regenerate themselves in time. Other areas may need re-seeding or sodding. The most resistent grasses seem to be perennial ryegrasses and fescues. The most sensitive tend to be Kentucky Bluegrass and Bermuda.
By understanding the causes of lawn burn, and utilizing some of these suggestions, you can own a dog and maintain a beautiful lawn at the same time.
Sources: aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu; ehow.com; Office for Science and Society; dogs.about.com; peteducation.com; allaboutlawns.com
Healthy oral hygiene is important for our pet for multiple reasons. Clean teeth are not only cosmetically pleasing; they also promote good smelling breath and better long-term health.
If poor oral health causes an infection in our pet’s teeth or gums, it can spread to their kidneys. This is especially true in cats. Older cats often suffer from kidney failure, which can be caused by an oral infection spreading to kidneys. Valvular heart disease can also be caused by poor dental hygiene. Bacteria from a pet’s mouth can travel to its heart valves, causing them to change shape and become leaky.
Original article by Marybeth Bittel, Tails Magazine
When I was a young music student growing up in Chicago’s western suburbs, my family adopted an Airedale puppy we named Beethoven. I picked Beethoven out at the shelter because all the other puppies rushed forward to greet me, while he hid shyly in the corner. Most trainers agree that’s not necessarily the ideal benchmark for selecting a furry friend, but we got lucky. Beethoven matured into an outgoing, even-tempered, fun, and affectionate family member who sternly guarded our front yard one minute, and romped through our sprinkler the next.
But then came the Fourth of July. Fireworks went off at random intervals around the clock. We discovered that when it came to loud noises and ear-popping explosions, Beethoven was absolutely terrified.
At first we wondered how this could have happened. After all, we’d never left our beloved boy outside while pyrotechnics peppered the sky. He hadn’t been exposed to extreme noises as a puppy. In all likelihood, Beethoven’s fireworks aversion, like so many pet fears and phobias, was just one of those things that took hold when his sensitive hearing encountered a sudden trigger he could neither see nor anticipate.
So we did what numerous pet parents do when their cherished companion is struggling: we cuddled him, coddled him, and cooed comforting words of reassurance. We also sat, feeling helpless, watching him cower and hide as the problem held steady each year. In fact, through all the years of Beethoven’s life, he never overcame this disabling sense of distress, no matter how soothing or supportive we attempted to make his surrounding environment.
When my husband and I began working with abused rescue dogs, we noticed that most arrived with an array of deep-rooted anxieties acquired over time. One Bichon was terrified of rotary fans. A Shih Tzu mix became a jittery mess during thunderstorms. A sweet and docile Foxhound routinely hid from houseplants. These fears ran the gamut, but they had one thing in common: They were exceedingly real to the dog, and they had a great impacts on the entire family.
We began working with local animal behaviorists, and that’s when we learned an invaluable truth: The way we, as caregivers, react to our pet’s anxieties can actually perpetuate the patterns.
Why would this be? As Abe Mashal, owner of Marine Corps Dog Training in St. Charles, explains, “Dogs form extremely solid bonds with their humans. That means most canines are highly attuned to any type of interaction with their human ‘pack’ members.” So when something a dog is doing earns our attention—whether that attention takes the form of praise, pampering, or peevish irritation— the behavior is often unintentionally reinforced.
“Reinforcement,” a common term in the world of animal behavioral training, is really just another word for strengthening. In reality, a reinforcer can be anything that strengthens a behavior.
So for those of you thinking, “I never reinforce my dog’s non-stop barking! I scold her on the spot,” see if these examples sound familiar:
“Every interaction with your dog has the potential to teach and reinforce, merely because you’re paying attention,” explains Sara Swan, owner of Narnia Pet Behavior & Training in Plainfield. How can you tell if this is happening? Simply observe over time. Dogs continue to engage in behaviors that provide some sort of payoff. If you’re dealing with a fear or anxiety response that’s ongoing—such as Beethoven’s abhorrence of fireworks—some kind of inducement is likely contributing to the pattern. In Beethoven’s case, his reactions earned him almost round-the-clock nurturing.
Fortunately, we as dog parents can leverage these same dynamics when it comes to re-programming undesirable behaviors. Let’s say your 80-pound “lap dog” excitedly jumps on you whenever you come home from work. When you withhold the coveted attention—immediately going back out the door, or turning your back on him—many pups gradually begin to seek out a different behavior.
The same thing can work with a fear response. If your pet is terrified of your Swiffer mop, for example, try propping it against the family room couch and just leaving it there. Then, simply act like it’s no big deal and go about your daily routine, even if your pup exhibits an unsettled reaction. Very gradually, over time, as your furry friend begins to approach the mop with quiet but tentative curiosity, reward that calm behavior with brief praise or a small treat. Keep it up, and eventually your dog can learn that “mop = calm = good.”
Helping your dog manage his stress is one of the keys to having a happy and healthy pet. If your animal companion has specific challenges beyond what you’re comfortable handling, always reach out to a certified animal behaviorist who can help you develop targeted interventional techniques that will work on your pet’s unique needs. It will not only help with unwanted behaviors, but strengthen your bond, as well.
Safe, Drug Free Ways To Soothe Your Pet’s Stress
The Thundershirt. The ThunderShirt leverages the age-old principle of swaddling an infant to promote calming reassurance. Simply fasten this snug, stretchy shirt around your pet’s ribcage. During anxious episodes of panting or hyperventilation, it provides ongoing sensory feedback that suppresses this common panic response. ( Thundershirt.com )
Music or ASMR. As a musician, I can attest firsthand that deep, resonant tones often work wonders on a nervous pup. You can also try leveraging something called ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), which is promoted by many hypnotists and human sleep therapists. ASMR is a subjective, perceptual phenomenon characterized by a distinct calming or scalp- tingling sensation in response to quiet, seemingly mundane sound triggers. Certain pets appear especially receptive, and may even be lulled to sleep. To gauge effectiveness, try playing low, calming music or ASMR audio with your dog in the room. Use a meditation CD, or visit YouTube to access ASMR recordings by reputable “ASMRtists” such as The Waterwhispers.
Calming Sprays. Help create a relaxing environment for your pet by using a calming spray on their bedding or by plugging in a calming spray diffuser. Many cats and dogs experience reduced anxiety and stress after being exposed to these non- sedating sprays, which use soothing scents such as lemongrass, cinnamon, and lavender to encourage relaxation.