Grass + dog = dirt
March 28, 2010 11:38 AM   Subscribe

Our very active dog has turned what used to be a fairly nice backyard lawn into clumps of grass and lots of dirt.

Our very active 8-year-old middle-size dog has turned what used to be a nice lawn in our medium-sized backyard into clumps of grass (about 75% of the area) and lots of dirt. Since he runs so much, he's quickly turned the dirt into very fine dust, which he loves to run and roll around in. We need to do something about the dirt and dust (and mud) he brings into the house.

A couple of suggestions we've considered:
  1. A chain-link-fence-enclosed dog run (I'm not sure this would give him enough exercise as he likes to repeatedly run the full length of the yard, plus he'd still be running in dirt/dust)
  2. Install decomposed granite instead of grass (but rain turns it mud-like, and also my wife would like some green grass back there)
We'd appreciate any advice (except getting rid of the dog), keeping in mind we don't necessarily want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on this.
posted by davcoo to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Most dog owners I know (and several dog parks) have solved this dilemma by laying down a good layer of wood chips.

It may take a few truck-loads so it's hard to say what the cost would be, but it's worth phoning around to find out. The wood chips keep the dust down, look somewhat less unsightly than a torn-up yard, and definitely reduce the mud.
posted by ErikaB at 11:43 AM on March 28, 2010

Previously. And previously.

I don't recommend DG. It's sort of expensive and yeah, muddy. It might track into your house worse than what you already deal with. DG is *awful* on hardwood floors.

I'm currently dealing with this myself, and I haven't found a solution. Good luck!
posted by elsietheeel at 11:46 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I should have mentioned: The existing lawn was Bermuda, and another suggestion was to lay down Buffalo Grass which I have no experience with.
posted by davcoo at 11:49 AM on March 28, 2010

find out what your DOT plants on road shoulders and try that. ours gets ridden on by the mailman and dudes on four-wheelers, and still looks like a carpet.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:02 PM on March 28, 2010

Bermuda often recommended for heavy use yards (despite its downsides), and if that's not doing the trick, you'll want something more specialized. Talk to a knowledgeable grass person like your Extension office/whoever tends the sports fields at your local school and find out what grass is recommended in your area for football fields. Research the recommended turf before committing to it, since there are specific reasons why grass that can withstand football traffic isn't normally used in yards.
posted by Ys at 12:16 PM on March 28, 2010

Best answer: You could try a different landscaping approach, for instance a lot of trees, some islands of tall/subtly barriered grass (such that the dog won't want to run through it), paths covered in mulch or wood chips, shrubbery areas, maybe even a water feature - in short, transform the back yard in a way that will be delightful to you and also less of an open field in which the dog would run everywhere.

However, if the dog is a digger, that could be a problem while plants are getting established. If you make this more of a long-term project, you could fence off a section of the yard at a time while young plants become established and freshly dug areas settle down.

If the dog is highly trainable, you might even establish lawn-like sitting areas and just teach the dog not to go wild in those areas, or put a cute little fence around those areas (note: I don't even have a dog, and I know that dog temperaments vary widely, so I have no idea whether this is realistic).

I'd keep some kind of track around the perimeter, so that the dog could still exercise as you mention. Having that defined track and any other paths should reduce your cost for specialized ground covering.
posted by amtho at 3:32 PM on March 28, 2010

Despite recommending bark chips earlier, I decided I had to come back and confess that I'm trying to solve this problem (neighbor's dogs and my chickens; a shared yard) with a mix of grass seed called Tuff Turf. I bought a bag of it at Lowes last week.

It promises to totally solve this problem and look great doing it. Hard to say how well it will work, or if my lackluster "toss handfuls at random" seeding method will be effective. But I thought I should mention it!
posted by ErikaB at 8:22 PM on March 28, 2010

I'm not sure the chain link fence solution would be all that useful at solving the particular problem you're describing. We have three dogs who run around in a fenced area (to keep them from escaping) and, while that has saved the rest of the backyard, the area within the fence looks exactly as you describe your yard as looking. I don't know a great solution either but I hope someone posts one here because I'm very interested as well! Dogs and lawns are, I've found, just not very compatible.
posted by blucevalo at 8:41 AM on March 29, 2010

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