The Best Backyard Grasses For Dogs Australia: Tested & Evaluated
Even if your pooch is the best-behaved dog in the world, the grass in your yard might show clear signs of damage caused by frequent wear and tear as well as potty breaks.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Some grass varieties are more tolerant of dog traffic than others. In this article, we’ll cover what these varieties are, and what you can do to keep them in tip-top shape.
To discover the best grass for dogs, we teamed up with veterinarians and canine behaviourists to form an independent panel of experts and explore the topic. We learned everything there is to know about how to make your lawn dog friendly and how to prevent it from future doggy damage. Here's what you need to know.
Different Types Of Lawn Grass
Some grass varieties are more sensitive than others. When choosing the right type for your yard, there are a few things our team of independent experts suggest you consider.
First is the level of maintenance. In other words, how often are you willing to water and mow the lawn? Depending on the root size, certain varieties can go longer without water than others.
The other factor is the climate you live in. All grass varieties are native to a certain area. This means they're well adjusted to those climate conditions, so pick the type that lives in the same climate as you. Generally, grasses fall into two categories: cold-season and warm-season (1).
Cold-season grass varieties grow best when the temperature ranges between 10 and 27 degrees. They usually stay green for most of the year, until temperatures come close to the freezing point, then they go dormant. Cold-season grasses are generally tolerant of shade, but still require a couple of hours of sunshine to thrive.
One of the best grass for dogs is fescue. This type of grass doesn’t care much about the soil it grows in. While it thrives best in clay, it will perform well in rocky and sandy soils as well. The climate is not too much of a problem either, as fescue can grow in regions with all four seasons.
There are several varieties of this grass species, with the most common one being tall fescue. The main characteristic of this variety is its root which can go up to one meter into the soil. Through this root system, the grass can access moisture and nutrients deep into the ground. For that reason, you don’t have to go heavy on irrigation and fertilisation.
Fescue is a bunch-type grass, so when it grows, it simply becomes denser. It doesn’t spread out much horizontally, so you can easily keep it out of your garden and raised beds. Because it’s so dense, fescue grass is very absorbent, which makes it great for households with more dogs.
Now, there’s one thing to keep in mind. Because it grows in clumps, this type of grass won’t create a uniformly green surface. If you want a “perfect” lawn, you might need to mix it with other cool-season grasses to achieve that.
This type of grass is commonly used for golf courses, sports fields and even for making park lawns. If it can endure a whole team running and tumbling over it, then it can surely endure your pooch’s playtime as well.
Interestingly enough, even though it’s named ‘Kentucky bluegrass’, this grass variety is native to Europe and northern Asia. Given its origins, it’s clear that Kentucky bluegrass is very tolerant of cold weather.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it can’t grow in warmer climates as well. This grass prefers full sun for fast growth, but it goes dormant during drought periods. Because it has a shallow root system, Kentucky bluegrass should be regularly watered during hot months.
This grass variety spreads horizontally very quickly through underground stems. So even though it’s not exactly tolerant of your dog running around and peeing on it, the grass will recover pretty quickly. With regular detaching and weed control, your dog will enjoy a lush lawn all year round.
This type of grass is often used for turfs, athletic fields, fairways and even high-quality livestock pastures. It’s a popular choice for permanent lawns since it’s green all year round and grows quickly. Within just 20 days from planting, you can expect your backyard to be covered in grass.
Ryegrass prefers cool winters and moderate summers. Its roots are pretty shallow, so this grass variety is not as drought-tolerant as some other cool-season grasses. If the weather gets really hot in your area, you’ll need to water and fertilise it more than other grass varieties.
As for the damage caused by our furry friends, ryegrass is quite forgiving. It tolerates dogs’ paws as well as the indignities they leave behind rather well. However, if your pooch is a digger, there’s one thing to keep in mind. This type of grass grows in a bunch and doesn’t spread horizontally. You’ll have to plant new seeds in brown spots, as the grass won’t heal them on its own.
Warm-season grasses thrive in hot temperatures ranging from 27 to 35 degrees and are often tolerable to drought. They are lavishly green in summer but go dormant and brown in colour during winter.
This type of grass is native to Australia, so rest assured it’s well-suited for the Aussie climate. It has a high tolerance to both heat and cold. And thanks to the deep rooting system, it can withstand drought periods really well.
Zoysia takes a bit more to grow than most other dog-friendly grasses, but once fully grown, it creates a very lush, carpet-like lawn. The dense grass mat protects the soil from damage caused by your dog’s “number one” and “number two.” This type of grass spreads horizontally through stems both underground and aboveground. So even if your pooch loves digging, you can expect the patches to heal up fast.
Zoysia appears vividly green throughout the growing seasons, but it turns a brown hue during the dormancy period in winter.
This grass variety, more commonly known as Couch grass in Australia, is another popular option for turfs and sports fields because of its fast-healing abilities. For the same reason, it makes a suitable choice for dog-friendly lawns.
Since it’s a warm-season grass, it has superior tolerance to heat and drought. It also does well in lower temperatures. It usually stays green all winter, except for the regions affected by frost, where it goes dormant and brown.
But while the temperature is not an issue, shade is. In case your backyard is heavily shielded from the sun, this might not be the best turf for dogs in your case.
Bermuda grass grows and spreads at a rapid pace, so it’s a great choice for households with more dogs. The patches heal quickly, without the need for additional seeding. In fact, this type of grass can easily become a weed that spreads to your flower beds.
This grass variety was first introduced to Australia as pasture grass. But due to its ability to withstand a wide range of conditions, it soon became a popular choice for lawns as well. Kikuyu easily grows in all types of soils and handles well all weather conditions usually experienced in Australia. The only factor that significantly affects the growth of Kikuyu is shade, as it requires at least 5 hours of sun to thrive.
What makes Kikuyu grass a great option for dog-friendly yards is the fact that it grows and repairs at the speed of light. So even if your pooch gets quite destructive when playing outside, it won’t take long before the lawn is back to green again.
What's more, Kikuyu is a great grass for sensitive skin. Since it produces zero seed heads, it’s sterile. This is a variety to consider if your dog has skin allergies.
There’s one thing to keep in mind though. The grass’ ability to spread so vigorously means it can easily invade areas where you don’t want it to grow, such as gardens. You’ll have to mow it regularly to keep the invasion under control.
Grasses That Dogs Can Eat
You might be wondering, is grass good for dogs? And while our team of dog experts aren’t agreeing on the benefits dogs have from eating grass, they all acknowledge that there’s nothing bad about it.
The reasons why dogs eat grass are often disputed. While some animal behaviourists claim dogs do that to deal with an upset stomach, others believe it’s merely a psychological need (2).
While all the grass varieties mentioned above are safe for pets, you might want to consider seeding an additional variety that provides your dogs with nutrients. And in that case, wheatgrass is the best option. It’s best grown in pots and you can put them both indoors and outdoors.
How Dogs Damage The Lawn
No matter how well-behaved our furry friends might be, our expert panel notes that there are several ways they can harm the lawn.
Using It As A Toilet
Your pooch’s “number one” and “number two” are the main reason why grass might not grow in certain areas in your backyard. The dog’s urine contains nitrogen, among other things. And while nitrogen is compound plants need for growing, an excessive amount of it is counterproductive, as it burns and kills the plants. And that’s exactly what happens to grass when your canine companion constantly urinates on it.
The dog’s poop also contains a high amount of pathogens. What’s more, it can also contain bacteria, parasites and other microorganisms that can affect not just the soil and plants, but humans and other animals as well.
Digging is an instinctive behaviour for many dogs, just like barking. They might do it for a variety of reasons, be it to seek prey, bury things or simply for fun. Whichever the reason might be, it’s clear they damage the grass while doing that.
Digging causes damage not just to grass blades, but to roots as well. What’s more, it can also damage the soil underneath, making it more difficult for grass to regrow.
Do you know those “keep off the grass” signs? They aren’t there without reason. When dogs are strolling the backyard back and forth like soldiers, they’re crushing grass blades and trampling paths underneath.
What Can You Do To Prevent Damage To Your Lawn
No matter what type of grass you choose, it will require additional maintenance. Luckily, there are some things you can do to make your job a bit easier.
Set Up A Potty Area
Our team of independent experts share that this strategy will prevent damage from nitrogen, but not from doggy-traffic. You can train your dog to do the duty in a specially designated spot in your backyard. Of course, no dog is the same. Some might take longer than others to learn this new trick.
Related: The Best Dog Grass Toilet Australia.
Dilute The Pee
To prevent nitrogen damage to your lawn, you can flush a bucket of water after your dog goes to the toilet (3). This will dilute the concentration of nitrogen, making the “concoction” much gentler on the grass.
Pick Up The Poo
You don't want to leave the dog's business in the grass to degrade. It takes so long that your yard will always be looking like a poo-minefield.
Keep The Dog Away From The Lawn During Rain
With rain, the hard soil underneath quickly turns into mud. Now, imagine your dog running around a muddy lawn. Every time the paw pushes against the ground, it pushes the grass and moves it around, easily damaging it.
What About Artificial Grass?
Artificial grass might seem like a practical solution due to its low maintenance. However, that’s not a good option for dogs, and it can be quite detrimental to their health.
Since it’s made of synthetic materials, artificial grass can heat up quite a lot during hot summer days. Dogs walking over it during the day will easily burn their paws.
What’s more, artificial grass is very difficult to clean as it doesn’t decompose waste. With pets going potty on it, it can easily turn into a breeding place for bacteria and other pathogenic organisms.
Finally, the grass might contain certain chemicals that aren’t safe for dogs or animals in general.
We hope this guide, handcrafted by our team of independent experts, has helped you find the best dog grass for your lawn. No matter the climate, type of soil and number of dogs you own, there’s the right grass variety for you. Some require more watering, fertilising and mowing than others, but with proper maintenance, any of them will stay lush all year round.
- Salman, D. “Warm Season Grass vs. Cool Season Grass - How To Choose”. High Country Gardens. Retrieved August 28, 2022. https://www.highcountrygardens.com/gardening/warm-season-grass-vs-cool-season-grass
- Parker,H. August 14, 2022. “Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?" Pets WebMD. Retrieved August 28, 2022. https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/why-do-dogs-eat-grass
- PDSA Vets. June 10, 2020. “How can I stop dog pee from killing grass?” People's Dispensary for Sick Animals. Retrieved August 28,2022. https://www.pdsa.org.uk/what-we-do/blog/vet-qa-how-can-i-stop-dog-pee-killing-grass