It's just pee!

This is in reference to Cecil’s article headlined on the front page of the site today:

I think Cecil is being a little alarmist. There’s a fifty acre offleash dog park here in Bellevue WA where thousands of dogs run free over the course of the summer. If Cecil was right about what a great weed killer dog pee is, the place would be a barren wasteland. But no, it is one of the most lush, flora filled places I’ve ever seen. The plants (including the grass and trees) are thriving.

Besides, if pee was such an effective plant killer, wouldn’t we all be out in our yards, peeing on the dandelions? Heck, I would.

Sure, dog pee can be bad on your yard, if your dog is locked into a small area and spends all day repeatedly peeing in the same areas. But a couple occasional squirts from Fido as the neighbors walk him by is harmless.


I have a yard about 25 feet by 30 feet planted with all sorts of shrubs, herbs and vegetables, in which I have had at least two dogs (some quite large) for the past twenty years. Males were unfixed, and so did [do] a stupefying amount of marking.

Only one plant - parsley- has ever responded negatively to being peed on (except to exclaim Eeewww!!). Everything else just got wet. The grass was unfazed. I can see a neighbor’s being offended by having his plants urinated on, but I’m mystified by Cecil’s description of horticultural havoc.

The effects on the ground are exactly as he described. The acidity (and whatever else after so much time and pee) killed all my roses but one within five years. However, other plants absolutely loved the experience, including tomatoes and celery, both of which grow with astonishing vigor.

Cecil has good enough credibility with me that I’m sure the situation he describes can in fact occur, simply because he says so. But my experience suggests that his cautions are a couple of orders of magnitude too shrill. Meanwhile, to stand there and let my dog pee on somebody’s shrubs right in front of him strikes me as just plain rude, and I would not let my dog do it.

Bob Burket
Santa Monica, California

Perhaps Cecil is thinking of cat pee, which will definitely kill grass. My backyard always has five or six pee burns, but is walled in and accessible only to my cats and the occasional stray.

I think that Cecil is refering to the “urine burn” that occurs if a plant is repeatedly peed upon. Your dog peeing on someone’s bush may not kill it. But when the next 10 dogs walk past & remark the bush it makes a difference. I noticed the shrubs at my condo along the walkway towards the park had burn pretty badly until the maintenence guy changed the sprinklers so they rinsed the area a couple of times a day. Then they thrived. I think the key is dilution.

Our front lawn is lush and green in its entirety…except for a single 1’ radius circle about 2’ from the sidewalk, which is completely dead. We’re rarely home, and our front lawn is probably more accessable than any in the neighborhood, with no plants or walls blocking it off. The circle started to develop about 6 months ago, when several new neighbors with dogs moved in.

I think there’s little question as to what’s causing this…

I think you need to let us know what types of dogs you have. Our pet dog is a border collie / cocker spaniel mix, no more than 40 pounds, and his urine on our back lawn hasn’t hurt anything. On the other hand, we’ve raised guide dogs, both labs and goldens , both male and female, and they did produce brown spots - which have recovered.

Guide dogs, by the way, are trained to go on cement or pavement.

Doesn’t it rain an awful lot in Washington State? Could be that the urine is getting diluted quickly.

Also, in general, female dog urine is supposed to be more evil than male dog urine (I’m not sure, but I suppose it has to do with the fact that you get one hell of a concentrated stream of pee straight down on one spot.)

A male dog, whether or not he is neutered, will mark territory with a small squirt and then move onto the next spot. It’s true that if the spot is popular with a lot of male dogs, there may be damage. But female dogs do usually cause more concentrated damage as they tend to do all their peeing at one time on one spot (rather than saving it up for a number of territory markings).

Slightly OT here, but a group of friends and I made a concentrated to kill a bush in one of our friend’s yards. For three years, every time that we drank together over there (probably 4-5 times a month), anytime any of us had to pee, we peed on that bush. I’m no botanist, but it was some kind of evergreen shrubbery, about 5 feet high and an approximate diameter of 6-7 feet. We actually took out some branches on the side closest to the patio so that we had good access to the main trunk.

It started showing signs of wilt and damage within a year and a bit, but it took three years for us to finally totally kill it.

Now you’re probably asking why we did it.

I dunno. Seemed like a good idea at the time, and hey, you gotta have goals, right?

I had to laugh reading Cecil’s response to the pee dilemma.

I have a 6# male Yorkshire Terrier. He can’t produce enough urine to kill a blade of grass let alone a whole shrub.

Not particularly during the summer. And I have never been to the place during the summer when there’s less than five hundred dogs there. It’s the biggest and best offleash park in the Seattle metropolitan area, people drive from an hour away to get there. (Yes, I realize there must be other parks within an hour’s drive. The logic of dog owners is not always easily understood.) When I had a dog, I took him there three times a week. The place has to be absolutely saturated with every kind of dog pee in the world. You can see pictures of the place here:

I don’t dispute that dog pee can be detrimental to your lawn, given the proper conditions. But I don’t believe it’s the deadly poison Cecil’s describing, either.

That reminds me of a sad story. Many years ago when I was a kid, my parents had water-proofed our deck with some kind of sealant. Now a fair amount of the sealant ran off or dripped onto the grass below, which our Brittany Spaniel, unbeknownst to us, managed to eat over a period several weeks. The stuff eventually killed our dog (and the vet misdiagnosing him didn’t help either). But for a couple years after that, every place that he had peed or crapped on in the yard was marked by withered brown grass – nothing would grow there. Just imagine what that stuff must have done to the insides of our poor dog…

On a different subject, the parking area next to our small apartment building has some of the only trees and ground foliage in our part of the town. Although the town has very strict pooper scooper laws, people seem to think that if the dog craps on something green, it is exempt. So every Tom, Dick, and Fido in a one-km radius sees fit to crap their dog on our, I don’t know, 20 square feet of garden. The density of shit there is just incredible (though I can’t say I have noticed any withering).

Yup! Aliens. The big ones do the big circles in wheat fields and ithe itty bitty ones made the itty bitty circle in your yard. :smiley:

That’s a good start around here.

You are a brave, brave man, Bob.

About twenty years ago, we had a male dog, and he managed to kill many of the branches on a (probably) juniper in our back yard. The entire bush didn’t die, but it was brown and ugly as high as he could reach.

We got a female German shepherd mix only a couple of months ago, and it wasn’t long before we had numerous brown spots, surrounded by lush green rings. I suspect the first morning pee is the worst, but that’s just a WAG.

Maybe some dogs are more deadly for whatever reason, but I don’t see what’s so difficult to understand about someone not wanting someone elses dog peeing on their private property, eevn if it wasn’t killing it.

And yes, I do take our dog for walks around our neighborhood. I try to get her to go first, I take bags to pick up any poop, and try to keep her on the lawn extensions, which are in the public right-of-way.

I’ve had German Shephards as well, and I’ve experienced the brown spots surrounded by lush green rings on my back yard. I thought that was due to dog shit blocking sunlight for several weeks and fertilizing the surounding grass as nutrients were released.

How did you determine that it killed the dog?

If I recall (I was about 10 at the time), we took him to another vet and he found astronomical levels of some chemical in his blood, a chemical well known to be found in various paints, stains, and sealants. We figured the rest out when we observed our dog trying to eat the grass under the deck. But the vet said it was too late to do anything, and the dog eventually had to be put down due to massive kidney and liver damage.

Cec, we thought we could trust you do give us the SD. OK, put the crack pipe down, anti-canite. First, you incorrectly state that all mammals excrete their nitrogenous waste in the form of urea. Incorrectamundo, sir. Dalmatians, yes, the one breed of canine, stands alone amongst all other mammals in the fact that they possess a genetic mutation that manifests in their production of uric acid not urea, and has a negative consequence of making them more prone to uric acid kidney stones and other urinary problems. Secondly, as many people before me have correctly stated, a dog’s urine, even if super concentrated will only harm a plant if the plant is already dehydrated, a weak specimen, or a particularly sensitive species. Countless dog parks, city sidewalk shrubs, back yards, etc. are ample proof that dog whiz while sometimes a tad stanky, is not the toxic brew you depict it to be. Jerk.

Moreover, urine is basic, not acidic. A female dog can’t pee on a shrub, they squat, Einstein. A male dog sprinkles the shrub at their nose level, rarely on the soil or on the ground where the roots will take up the excessive amount of nitrogen. Moreover, in a condo association or similar place where they “take great care to keep the place looking nice” they almost universally use a sprinkler system in additiona to any natural precipitaiton they enjoy. Any excess urine that might be deposited by even a horde of marauding dogs will be diluted in a timely manner, not to mention the soil will remain perpetually moist just a mere inch or two below the surface, rendering the concentrated pee harmless.