small backyard and dog

Drakens(5a)January 13, 2008

I have a fairly small backyard, maybe 30'x60', and a german shepherd mix dog. He's a very active dog, who doesn't dig but just running around in my yard tends to tear up the grass. I live in the Lansing area and was wondering, is there a type of grass that would grow in my area and be tough enough to stand up to this traffic? Maybe if there isn't, are there any methods of protecting the grass?I'm open to other alternative lawns too, as long as the plants are not poisonous to dogs and it will be green. Right now I think it will be a mud pit come spring.

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This is a problem that a lot of people face and unfortunately there isn't much you can do. Traffic and wear will take it's toll on any grass or plant or groundcover. Even those that are impossible to kill. It is afterall a plant.

There are some things you can do though to try to keep the grass in good enough shape to tide you over until the next opportunity to overseed. If urine burns are a problem, add planting beds as a border around the yard. Cover with pinestraw (pine needle mulch) if you can find some and plant some inexpensive (nothing rare or unusual!) shrubs there. Your dog will want to pee there and probably poop in it too instead of the grass. Long daily walks if you aren't currently doing this. That is a breed that needs a lot of exercise. If you don't want that exercise to take place on the lawn then have it take place on a sidewalk, treadmill etc. Keep up with fertilization at the suggested intervals. Make sure to water it in afterwards so it isn't ingested by the dog. Mow at the recommended cutting height. Grass that is too high will be thinner and also more prone to traffic damage.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2008 at 12:20PM
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Drakens, while it can be comforting to ask a question such as this on a garden chat room, the decision you have to make can make or break how your yard looks and stands up to the dog. There are certain tougher grasses that may suit you. But, in the long run, you have to provide the impetus for such grass to grow in order to gain strength before your dog can ruin your work.

You would have to be able to keep the dog off the ground while it is encouraged to grow. This can take many weeks.
You cant make a cake and start slicing it until it comes out of the oven.

You might speak to your local "extension service" provided by your local "STATE" funded university. That then speaks for "Michigan State University Extension Service".
They may have an address listed where you can reach them and ask pertinent questions.
Their address would be found in your local directory under
"state" government.

Or, you may get in touch with your local 'full service nursery' that sells many types of grasses.
Speak to a 'grass person' there and ask his advice about the different types that would suit your needs.

There are other groundcovers other than grass. One that comes to mind is "clover". Do read about this product.
It is definitely green and stays that way. It defies weeds and needs no fertilizing, it takes the free nitrogen right out of the air. Its seed goes a lot further than normal grass types and it spreads quickly enough.
It can be mowed just like grass. But, it aint grass and if you would prefer grass, clover will push it out and take over. It does have a bad side. Its not a surface to have the kids romp around on without getting stained more than what grass does. Your laundry machine will get more used.

It all comes down to though you trying to get the yard greened up and keeping the dog off it.

When you speak to a grass expert have handy information he will need to better advise you. Such as how much shade or sunlight reaches the area, how much rain falls or can you water the area properly, do you wish to grow seed or would you prefer an immeidate lawn by sodding, can you keep the dog off the area while it grows,
and other necessary information needed so to stand up to your dog's activity.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2008 at 12:52PM
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Billl(z7 nc)

Big dogs tear up small lawns. There isn't much way around that. One trick is to keep a mix of sand and seed around and sprinkle it every time you see a "divot" or bare spot. Not ideal, but some the seed will take in spring and fall, so it will be an improvement. Another trick is to make a path - any path - out of stepping stones or other hard material. Make sure you walk down the path frequently and get the dog to follow. Dogs are creatures of habit, so if you can get him used to 1 path, he'll tend to go that way more often than other ways.

Another thing - on "rough" athletic fields in your area, they often use perennial rye grass. The main benefit is that it takes traffic fairly well and is SUPER easy to grow from seed. In that small of an area, I would just seed the whole thing every spring and fall. Even if it gets ripped up, you would never be more than a month or 2 away from "new" grass.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2008 at 11:02PM
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I'm dealing with the same issue this year. During the wet fall and winter we've been having, my dog has worn some areas down to nearly bare soil.

I installed some 36 inch tall welded wire fence around the worst area and plan to dormant seed it in the spring. I think it was $30 for a 50 foot roll. The posts are also not too expensive. When the new grass is mature enough, I'll remove the fence. (And may relocate it to another damaged area to renovate)

The worst area is an evergreen tree that the dog likes to play underneath. I'll put up some kind of more attractive, permanent barrier (maybe a raised ring of paver stones) to prevent her from climbing under the tree, and that should discourage her from playing in that area of the yard as much.

I'll probably seed with TTTF and KBG. The self repairing nature of the KBG should hopefully help the turf recover better from damage in the future.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 2:23PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Keep the dog inside.

Well, that's my dog. He doesn't like being in the backyard by himself so he stays inside while my backyard stay lookin great. Such a great dog...

    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 8:00PM
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That's because dogs are social animals. They yearn to be with people and other dogs not in a dog house all alone in the yard.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2008 at 10:42AM
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Try a product called Doggie Detour. You can google it.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2008 at 10:51PM
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gryd(Trumbull, CT Z6)

I have a couple of areas where the dog has worn out as well. I plan to rope them off and seed them very early in the Spring. Not sure how I'm going to keep him off them in the future. It's only a small area that he has worn down. If it wasn't right next to the front walk I would learn to live with it.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 5:58AM
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Yes, dogs are social animals. I too feel that if you are going to leave a dog in the backyard full time in a dog house or chained to a tree then you really don't want a dog. However, even a loved dog is and should be let outside for long stretches of time to enjoy the yard. Especially bigger dogs, they need to do what dogs do, run, chase and play. But dogs tend to run, play and chase in patterns that create wear and tear on lawns. Google Doggie Detour.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 4:53PM
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I'm going to try making some ~3 foot diameter circles of wire fence to accomplish something similar to the doggie detours. It should be self-supporting and not need any stakes. This way I can just move them aside when I mow.

They'll also be large enough to fully enclose an area to be patched/repaired.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2008 at 9:44AM
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