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My Pet World: Respect neighbors' yards by keeping dogs away from them

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Bonnie,

I agree with you that pet owners should respect their neighbors' yards and said so in my response to Howard. People can train their dogs by not allowing them to stop and sniff at their neighbors' yards and walking their dogs instead to public locations, like a park or common space, where this won't be an issue.

I also agreed that people who love their plants and lawns should be able to expect their dog-owning neighbors to avoid their yards, or, at the very least, expect them to listen when they ask them to walk their dogs elsewhere. Sadly, people are usually defensive on both sides of this issue and there is often discord between neighbors, no matter how nicely and politely something is requested or discussed.

As to whether dog urine can kill a plant or lawn, I got a few letters about this, so let me explain more fully. When I said I have never seen a plant or lawn die from dog pee, I was speaking from my own personal experience with five dogs who peed all over my heavily landscaped yard as well as from my work at the Humane Society where hundreds of dogs were walked daily, and which didn't result in any brown spots in the open spaces where we walked them.

So, can dog urine kill a plant or make a brown spot? It can, but a number of factors must be in play for dog urine to actually kill the plant or create a brown spot in the yard. For example, when you fertilize your yard, you are putting nitrogen into the soil. If you don't water properly after fertilizing the lawn or if you over-fertilize the yard, your lawn will burn and turn brown. Dog urine contains nitrates and salt that can change the Ph level of the soil, which can also burn roots if too much of it is delivered in one spot.

So, if a dog pees in the same spot over and over again and that spot does not get adequate water, then yes, there is the potential for that plant or spot of grass to turn brown and die. This explains why I can have so many dogs and still have a green lawn. There is an adequate amount of water filtering through my landscape, which is flushing out the nitrates and salt in the soil.


Fortunately, and perhaps by design, both male and female dogs tend to urinate in multiple locations, reducing the chances of killing a single plant or spot on the lawn. Dominant female dogs, as you point out, are the most likely to pee on the same spot over and over again, but this mostly occurs in their own yards. If a dog doesn't pee in the same location every day, it's not as likely to have the impact on the lawn or plant that some people presume. My landscape was one of the nicest in the neighborhood, and yet I had several pets urinating all over it.

Regardless, neighbors have every right to ask dog owners (in a kind way) to walk their dogs someplace else. People with pets should be respectful of their neighbors and not let their dogs pee or poop in their neighbors' yards. Trust me, dog owners, it can be done, and it's the best way to keep the peace with your neighbor.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)



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