Guide To The Best Grass Types For Dogs
While essential parts of many people’s lives, dogs can take on a role of destruction at our homes, especially if we have yards to tend. Because dogs frequently use grass as a bathroom space and sometimes even eat grass, it’s important to find out which types of grass can withstand dogs and which grasses dogs can withstand.
Grasses such as clover covering, fescue, zoysia, Kentucky bluegrass, and Bermuda are just some of the great options for yards with dogs. These hardy grasses work well in different growing regions but tend to stay green and healthy in the face of dog waste.
Published: January 4, 2023.
In this guide, we’ll be covering different types of grass that you can use in your lawn to improve lawn health. We’ll also discuss grasses that withstand the effects of dogs' claws, as well as the grasses that are less harmful to dogs to ingest. Now, let’s get into the guide!
Grass Types For Dogs Overview
Because there are several concerns regarding dogs and grass, we’re going to cover as many as possible.
The below topics will touch on different factors that make a type of grass ideal for a yard with dogs. And we’ll also discuss the broad range of grasses you might look into, including clover and fescue, since different homeowners have different needs and desires for their lawns. This article will cover the following topics:
- Best grass types to withstand dog urine
- Best grass types to withstand dog feces
- Best grass types to resist dog claws
- Best grass types that dogs can handle if they eat
Best Dog Urine-Resistant Grasses
One of the biggest concerns related to dogs and grass is that a dog’s frequent urination will kill the grass or make it turn brown. According to Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, dog urine contains a high concentration of nitrogen, which can cause these adverse effects to the grass.
Whether your concern is mainly aesthetic or related to the health of your lawn, there are, luckily, some types of grass that may minimize this effect.
Fescue is a type of grass in the family Poaceae. This specific grass is known for its hardiness in the face of dog waste, dog activity, and low-sunlight/low-water conditions.
This means that fescue could be a good choice if your main issue with your grass is due to your dog’s urination. As an added bonus, the type of grass requires less maintenance than others, as long as you live in a well-draining location.
Note that fescue is ideal if you live in the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture growing zones 4-7. There are some tall varieties of fescue grass, which grow in clumps and bounce back less easily. So it’s recommended to try a shorter variety.
Clover - although it has a different appearance than traditional turf grasses - is an excellent choice for dog yards. Clover is technically a weed, but it’s great for the natural environment and will attract pollinators to benefit your whole garden.
Clover is safe for dogs to eat, as well, and it is considered much stronger when compared to other grasses.
It’s less likely to brown when affected by dog urine, and it’s especially drought-resistant, making it a low-maintenance option for dog owners.
What’s nice about zoysia is that it’s a step up from fescue grass in terms of its resilience. Obviously, no grass is fully immune to the effects of nitrogen-rich dog urine. But zoysia has the ability to self-repair when it becomes damaged, rather than continuing on to death.
Zoysia is known for its lush, rich green color and dense growth, which is why it’s often used ornamentally on golf courses. This makes it a good choice if your concern with dog urine is mainly aesthetic.
Furthermore, zoysia grass (growing zones 6-11) is quite resistant to drought, excessive heat, and even cold temperatures. So you also get a lower-maintenance lawn in the process.
St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine grass - known as buffalo turf in Australia - that thrives in sunlight is also ideal for lawns with dogs. Because this type of grass requires more soil nitrogen to grow well, the high nitrogen content in dog urine ends up benefiting the grass more than hurting it.
In fact, it’s recommended that St. Augustine lawns receive 1 pound of nitrogen for every 1,000 square feet, every 2 months during the growing season.
St. Augustine grass is described as carpet-like because of its thickness, and it naturally crowds out weeds. It’s also self-propagating and grows best in USDA zones 8-10 (warm regions).
This type of grass - which naturally pops back up each growing season - might be good for a lawn that sees a lot of dog traffic. It’s a hardy grass variety that can handle dog urine, even if you have more than one pup.
Although it doesn’t fare well in colder climates (ideal for growing zones 3-7), it’s fairly easy to maintain a Ryegrass lawn. Even shadier lawns can benefit from Ryegrass.
Centipede grass is naturally a bit harder to maintain than the others on this list - requiring plenty of water and existing in a small window of growing zones (7-10).
However, it is also well-suited to a yard with dogs and lots of dog urine.
With acidic soil conditions and plenty of sun, Centipede grass will thrive. And as an added bonus, the high amount of watering you’ll be doing may dilute the amount of nitrogen in the soil that comes from your dog’s urine.
Best Dog Feces-Resistant Grasses
Another way that dogs affect grass - for better or worse - is through their solid waste. Aside from urine, dogs defecate multiple times a day. And if you’re the kind of person who leaves the dog poop out and picks it all up at the end of the week, the excrement may take a toll on your grass.
Many people buy into the myth that dog feces will fertilize the soil and promote a healthier lawn, similar to cow manure. This is not true, however, as dog poop decomposes slowly and leaves behind harmful bacteria in your yard.
And this is not to mention the high acidity of dog poop that may negatively affect the pH level of your soil, depending on your growing zone. That’s why it’s good to know which grasses are more tolerant of it.
High Acidity Grasses
Because the high acidity of dog feces can affect the soil pH of grass, you may be able to minimize the effects by selecting grass that requires acidic conditions. However, this will only do so much to keep your grass healthy, as dog feces can still spread fungal growth and other unwanted contaminants in your yard.
Some high-acidity grasses that are also hardier in the face of dog urine include the following:
- Bermuda grass: growing zones 7-10, also known as scutch grass
- Centipede grass: growing zones 7-10, also known as centipedegrass
- Zoysia grass: growing zones 6-11, also known as Korean lawngrass
One of the main issues with dog feces on grass lawns is that it can cause the spread of bacteria and infections. This only increases in hot and humid weather conditions. This is why you might consider a grass that is more resistant to infection if you have dogs frequently defecating on your lawn.
Some options include the following:
- Kentucky bluegrass: won’t require as much chemical protection against infection, a tolerant turfgrass
- Fescue: one of the grass types that is least susceptible to snow mold
Best Dog Claw-Resistant Grasses
When a dog or multiple dogs are frequently trafficking your lawn, it is inevitably going to get trampled or, at the very least, matted with punctures in it.
These effects only increase in severity as the size of your dog increases, as heavier dogs put more pressure on the turf with their paws and claws.
Over time, this natural process is going to create “trails” in the grass - paths where the dog routinely runs. The grass will become less healthy, worn down, and may even erode away to leave behind a patch of dirt in its place.
One of the ways that dog owners can avoid this effect is to encourage their dogs to run around different parts of the yard or give them a stone path. However, this only works to a certain extent, so finding hardy grass that bounces back quickly is important.
Earlier, we mentioned that fescue is a type of grass that tolerates dog urine pretty well. The tall variety of fescue also happens to be very hardy and capable of repairing itself if it gets damaged.
So, in the case of dog trampling and clomping, tall fescue will stand strong, owing to its extensive and deep root system.
It’s also a fairly dense type of grass, meaning it will take a lot more effort from a dog’s claws to tear it apart.
Rhizome grass basically describes a type of grass that is self-repairing due to the rhizomes that spread out from its roots. This means that they grow and spread laterally beneath the soil surface, which only strengthens your lawn.
Examples of rhizome grasses include Johnsongrass, Bermuda grass, and creeping red fescue grass. Creeping red fescue is determinate, which means it won’t keep growing taller indefinitely. On the other hand, the other rhizome grasses are mostly indeterminate, which requires more cutting and maintenance.
Because of the resilience of these types of grasses, they are often recommended for lawns with high dog traffic.
We mentioned perennial ryegrass earlier in terms of its high tolerance of dog waste. But did you know that it’s also great when it comes to tolerating foot traffic? This is why it’s commonly used on golf courses and still maintains its lush beauty.
If you have big dogs that constantly trample your lawn, perennial ryegrass may be a strong and worthy match.
Safest Grasses for Dogs to Eat
The final concern related to dogs and grass is the possibility of dogs eating the grass. It’s natural for outdoor pets like dogs to be curious and chew on grass, sticks, and leaves. But certain vegetation can cause them to fall ill, have irritated stomachs, and face other discomforts.
That’s why we’re highlighting some grass types that dogs can best tolerate if they accidentally eat them. And luckily, many of these grasses are the hardy, dog-resistant grasses we mentioned earlier in this guide.
They include the following:
- Intermediate wheatgrass: an Asian pasture grass that dog tummies can tolerate when free of parasites
- Pheasant’s tail grass: an ornamental tall grass that is hardy in growing zone 8
And, of course, the healthiest grass for a dog to consume is going to be natural, organic growing grass that is free of pesticides and other harmful chemicals. So if you treat your lawn regularly with store-bought products, it’s probably not safe for your dog(s) to eat it.
Grasses that Are Toxic to Dogs
On the other hand, there are some kinds of grass that you should definitely be wary of letting your dog nibble on. Certain grasses (and plants that resemble grass but are actually weeds) can contain seeds that dogs can’t digest.
One prominent example is a plant called foxtail. This grass-mimicking plant has seed heads that will irritate a dog’s mouth when eaten. Furthermore, the seed heads can cause illness in dogs when ingested, such as infection, and even cause fatal issues.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to the best grass types for dogs. Whether you are worried about dog urine or feces killing your grass, concerned about the color of your grass, or simply want to protect your lawn from dog traffic, these options are worth looking into.
Clover, along with varieties of fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and zoysia, are all hardy and urine-resistant. And when it comes to grasses that are safer for dogs to ingest, options like wheatgrass and clover may be your best bet. Make sure to refer to our guide as you assess the grass situation in your dog’s yard!