As a lifelong dog owner and landscaper for over 20 years, one of the most common questions I’m asked is whether St. Augustine grass is a good choice for yards with dogs. It’s an important consideration – our furry friends can be rough on lawns with their bathroom habits, digging, running and playing. St. Augustine’s reputation for being soft and resilient makes it seem like an ideal option, but there are also some potential drawbacks for canine owners.
In this article, I’ll share my firsthand experiences and professional expertise to provide a thorough guide on St. Augustine grass and dogs. You’ll learn about the qualities that make this warm season turfgrass well-suited for dogs along with some limitations to be aware of. I’ll also give tips for properly caring for your St. Augustine lawn with dogs to maximize durability and recovery from wear and tear.
Whether you already have both dogs and St. Augustine grass or are deciding which grass to plant, my insights as both a dog owner and landscaper will help you make the most informed choice and keep your lawn lush.
So let’s dive in to the pros, cons and best practices for maintaining St. Augustine turf with canine companions!
Factors That Make St. Augustine Grass Dog-Friendly
As a longtime dog owner and landscaper, I’ve observed firsthand several beneficial characteristics that make St. Augustine grass well-suited for homes with dogs. Compared to other warm season turf varieties, St. Augustine exhibits qualities that make it more durable under canine activity and resilient in recovering from dog damage.
Let’s take a closer look at why St. Augustine is often considered one of the most dog-friendly grass options.
Softer and More Cushioned Texture
A key advantage of St. Augustine grass is its broader, flat blades that create a flexible, cushiony feel underfoot. St. Augustine’s wider leaves flex and give more than stiffer, thinner grass varieties. This softer texture makes it more comfortable for dogs to romp and play.
As a landscaper, I’ve also noticed this cushiony feel enables St. Augustine to bounce back from compression and wear damage from dog paws better than other grasses. The supple blades recover well after being trodden on all day.
Good Durability and Recovery
In addition to its soft, flexible texture, St. Augustine grass exhibits impressive resiliency thanks to its vigorous above-ground growth habit. The runners and stolons spread laterally, allowing St. Augustine to rapidly fill in bare or thin areas caused by dogs.
This quick growth recovery is a major asset for enduring high dog traffic. St. Augustine’s durability and self-repair capabilities keep it looking lush despite heavy canine usage. Proper mowing, watering and fertilization optimize its natural vitality.
Ability to Withstand Dog Urine
As a dog owner myself, I know firsthand the challenges posed by canine urine spots, which can burn and discolor many grass types. Fortunately, St. Augustine grass generally holds up well when regularly doused with dog pee thanks to its salt tolerance.
The key is to water after your dog urinates to dilute the nitrogen concentration. St. Augustine’s overall vigor also enables it to outgrow urine damage fairly quickly compared to weaker grasses.
While no grass can withstand endless amounts of dog urine, St. Augustine’s relative tolerance makes it a great choice for pet owners. Proper irrigation is key.
Now that we’ve covered why St. Augustine thrives as a dog grass, let’s look at some potential limitations.
Potential Drawbacks of Dogs on St. Augustine Grass
While St. Augustine exhibits several dog-friendly traits, it’s important to recognize this grass also has its limitations and vulnerabilities when subjected to heavy canine activity. Through caring for St. Augustine lawns as a landscaper and managing my own dogs over the years, I’ve encountered a few potential drawbacks dog owners should be aware of.
Let’s explore some of the possible downsides of pairing dogs and St. Augustine grass.
Susceptibility to Digging and Scratching
One problematic trait of St. Augustine grass is that its shallow root system makes it prone to digging and uprooting damage. Excessive canine scratching or digging for toys or critters can easily rip up patches of the turf.
Compared to deeper rooted grasses like Bermuda, St. Augustine is more susceptible to being dug out. Filling in these damaged spots takes time as roots re-establish. Preventing dogs from digging is ideal, but re-sodding may be necessary in worn areas.
Damage from Excessive Dog Waste
While St. Augustine is relatively tolerant of nitrogen-rich dog urine, excessive amounts of canine feces pose a problem. Large unscooped piles of dog poop can leave dead brown patches by burning grass blades.
It’s critical to promptly pick up all solid dog waste to stop nitrogen overload. St. Augustine needs immediate cleansing after defecation accidents to avoid permanent damage. The grass can only take so much dog poop.
Canine Foot Traffic Wear Over Time
Despite its cushiony texture, years of concentrated dog paws trotting across the same paths inevitably takes a toll on St. Augustine. Compaction, thinning and eventual bare patches may form along a dog’s regular routes.
To reduce wear, try to evenly distribute traffic by playing in different lawn areas. Re-sodding worn paths and resting sections allows turf to recover. Proper mowing and fertilization also encourages recovery from foot traffic stress.
While St. Augustine is quite dog-friendly, monitoring these potential vulnerabilities allows you to be proactive against dog damage. Now let’s go over some maintenance tips and solutions.
Tips for Maintaining St. Augustine Grass With Dogs
As both a landscaper and dog owner, I’ve discovered some key best practices for preserving the health and appearance of St. Augustine lawns subjected to dogs. By tailoring your maintenance regimen to account for canine usage, you can keep your St. Augustine grass thriving despite thechallenges dogs can pose.
Let’s go over some of my top professional recommendations for maintaining a lush St. Augustine lawn in a dog-friendly home.
Proper Mowing Height for Resilience
Mowing height is one of the most important factors for maintaining durable St. Augustine turf with dogs. Cutting too low weakens the grass and makes it more prone to damage. For optimal resilience, maintain St. Augustine at 3-4 inches tall.
The deeper roots and leaf mass of slightly taller grass makes it better able to recover from dog scampering, digging, urine spots and waste burning. Just be sure not to let it get too high before mowing.
It’s also crucial to use sharp mower blades to avoid shredding or injury to the grass blades. Dull blades create openings for weeds and disease.
Aeration and Dethatching for Recovery
To help worn and compacted St. Augustine grass rebound and fill in bare spots, periodic core aeration and dethatching are a must. Pulling soil plugs reduces compaction and allows better water, air and nutrient intake.
Thatch removal also helps strengthen grass by clearing out accumulated debris sitting on the soil surface. Do this in early fall or spring when temperatures are milder.
Training Dogs to Eliminate in Designated Areas
While St. Augustine is fairly tolerant of urine, repeatedly going in the same areas day after day will damage any grass. Try to train dogs to relieve themselves only in select mulch or rock urine elimination zones.
This avoids over-saturation and allows you to conveniently rinse away the nitrogen. It also keeps urine off the lawn entirely. Patience and positive reinforcement are key to training dogs where to go.
By tailoring your St. Augustine care practices to account for dogs, you can avoid many issues and maintain a lush lawn. Let’s finish up with some frequently asked questions.
FAQs on Dogs and St. Augustine Grass
In my many years as a dog owner and lawn care pro, I’ve been asked every question imaginable about pairing dogs and St. Augustine grass. Below I’ve answered some of the most common inquiries I receive.
Does St. Augustine Hold Up to Dog Urine?
This is one of the most frequent concerns I hear from pet owners. The answer is a qualified yes – St. Augustine is relatively tolerant of dog urine with proper irrigation. Its salt tolerance and quick growth allow it to bounce back from yellow spots if caught early.
But no grass can withstand endless urine in the same areas. The key is diluting the nitrogen concentration through prompt watering after urination. Train dogs to go in designated zones or diverse areas instead of repeatedly in one spot. With proper lawn care and urine rotation, St. Augustine can withstand normal dog elimination habits.
How Do I Treat Dug Up or Damaged Areas?
If you have spots dug up or damaged by excessive dog play, there are a few repair options. For small patches under one foot, re-sod using plugs or strips from a garden center. Gently tamp the edges and water twice daily until established.
For larger areas or deep gouges, cut out the whole damaged section down to soil and re-lay new St. Augustine sod. Fertilize once rooted and consider top-dressing low areas with rich compost or soil. Hopefully training discourages digging, but repairs ensure a lush lawn.
What’s the Best Grass for Dogs that Dig?
If digging persists despite training, a more rooted turf like Bermuda or Zoysia may hold up better. Their deeper growth makes them more resistant to digging damage. St. Augustine’s shallow roots mean dogs can easily rip it up.
Alternatives like artificial turf or mulch can also be installed in designated digging zones to save the main lawn. Defining a specific digging space is ideal to limit landscape damage.
I hope these St. Augustine lawn and dog FAQs have provided some helpful insights and tips! Please reach out with any other questions.
Conclusion: Is St. Augustine a Good Grass for Dogs?
As a longtime professional landscaper and dog owner, I hope this article has helped provide useful perspective on St. Augustine grass and dogs. While St. Augustine’s softer texture and vigorous growth make it one of the most dog-friendly warm season grass options, it still has vulnerabilities like digging damage, urine burnout and traffic wear. Proper preparation, training, and lawn care tailored to account for canine usage enables St. Augustine lawns to better withstand dogs.
The key takeaways are to maintain proper mowing height for resilience, dethatch and aerate periodically for recovery, prompt waste cleanup, and training dogs on urine zones. Also accept some traffic wear or digging damage may need re-sodding over time. Adjusting care practices to support recovery while steering dogs away from vulnerable behaviors will provide the best results. With realistic expectations and attentive maintenance, St. Augustine can stand up well to furry family members in your yard. Please reach out with any other dog and lawn questions!