Dog Poop on the Lawn: Fertilizer or Grass Killer?

Dog poop is natural, right?

Therefore, it must break down and fertilize the grass, right?


Leaving dog poop on the lawn is never a good idea.

I’m going to tell you why and give you some ideas for what to do instead.

So if you’re looking for ways to grow a healthy lawn while continuing a loving relationship with your canine friend, you’re in the right place!


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Quick Read

  • Dog poop is very bad for your lawn and the surrounding environment, especially waterways.
  • It contains very high levels of nitrogen and a huge number of disease-causing bacteria and parasites.
  • Dog poop on lawn should always be removed and disposed of appropriately.
  • Under no circumstances should you leave dog poop on the lawn and then mow over it.
  • There are a few different things you can do to help your lawn survive your dog’s elimination habits.

golden retriever lying on grass

Is Dog Poop Bad for Your Lawn?

It’s surprisingly common to wonder: Is dog poop bad for grass?

The short answer is yes. Always.

There is no dancing around it. There are no justifications for leaving dog poo on your lawn (or anywhere for that matter). It is always bad and it should always be picked up.

But why is it bad?

Another short answer – dog poop kills grass.

It’s easy to think that since other animal manure is so good for the garden, doggie poop must be too.

And while that would be handy, unfortunately, it’s not the case.

The main consideration is what each animal eats and how that relates to the amount of nitrogen in its waste.

Herbivores that eat exclusively plants produce feces that are relatively low in nitrogen, or at least well balanced with other nutrients, and can be decomposed quickly.

Dogs, on the other hand, are often fed very high protein diets of predominantly meat. This results in waste that is very high in nitrogen and takes a long time to break down (up to a year!).

And, while nitrogen is an important nutrient for plant growth, too much actually causes nitrogen burn, and excessive nitrogen burn kills grass.

This means that dog poop left on the lawn will result in dead spots.

pests and disease cause yellow spots to green lawn

So if you’re still wondering, does dog poop fertilize grass? The answer is, not in a way that is healthy or helpful.

But the other important consideration is all of the diseases and parasites that can be present in dog poop. The EPA has even labeled dog poop as a toxic waste because of this!

For example, did you know that dog poop can contain:

  • Salmonella
  • Campylobacter
  • Giardia
  • Tape worms
  • Cryptosporidium
  • Round worms
  • Hook worms
  • The list goes on!

And, did you know that simply touching the soil and then eating a snack can be enough for you or your children to contract any one of these diseases? Gross, right?

But these diseases can spread even further, such as into local waterways, making nearby lakes and rivers unsafe to swim in. It can even contaminate local drinking water supplies.

This means that even if mowing over your dog’s poop (also gross!) helps to prevent nitrogen burn, what it’s also doing is spreading all those potential diseases around your yard.

Luckily, it is easy to prevent this from happening. Keep reading to find out your options.

How to Grow a Healthy Lawn without Getting Rid of Your Dog

The easiest way to manage the risks of dog poop on your lawn is to be disciplined about picking it up straight away.

The most environmentally friendly way of disposing of dog poop is then to transfer it to a kind of doggie doo septic tank that you can easily build in your yard. This video can show you how.

But back to your lawn.

If you know that picking up dog poop as soon as your pooch has done its business is not something you’re going to manage, then make life easier for yourself and designate a specific toilet area in your yard.

We often train our pets to toilet on the grass, but if they toilet instead on a designated gravel or stone area, then it’s not such a problem if the poop isn’t picked up straight away (at least as far as your lawn is concerned – it should still be picked up as soon as possible to prevent pollution of the surrounding environment).

My lawn already has yellow patches – is it too late?

If you have yellow patches that have started to appear from dog waste that has sat for too long, your next course of action is to water those patches well to dilute the nitrogen that is concentrated there.

If the grass has already started to turn yellow, it may not survive and you may have to reseed those patches.

But (provided you live in a region with plenty of water and no restrictions in place) even if you’ve left a poop on the lawn for a few days and the grass is not yet yellow, giving that spot a dousing with the watering can will help it to recover and prevent yellowing.

If you do have to reseed any dead patches, be sure to sprinkle some agricultural lime to neutralize the nitrogen left behind before adding some fresh top soil and the grass seeds.

Just make sure you sew fresh seeds at the right time of year to give them the best start. My lawn care calendar recommends overseeding in September or early spring.

If you’re wondering whether there may be some other causes to the yellow patches on your lawn, check out my article on common lawn problems to rule them out.

dog on green grass beside a man holding electric grass cutter

What About Dog Pee?

Good question!

Dog pee, though not quite as harmful for the surrounding environment as poop, can actually wreak more havoc on your lawn.

While dog poop can be picked up quickly, pee is absorbed into the ground instantly and can’t be contained.

The best way to minimize the impact of dog urine on your lawn is actually the same as for poop. Create a designated gravel area and train your dog to pee there instead of on the lawn. If that isn’t possible, the watering can needs to follow your dog when they go outside to relieve themselves.

In saying that, there is one alternative course of action that is pee-specific, and that is using ‘dog rocks’ in your dog’s water bowl.

Dog rocks are designed to be totally safe for your pet while reducing the concentration of nitrogen in their pee.

On the same note, it’s also helpful to make sure your dog has plenty of access to fresh water and isn’t dehydrated as this would also result in more concentrated pee.

Adorable dog lying in grass

A Couple of Other Options

We’ve talked about diluting your pet’s waste residue with water, designating a grass-free area for their toileting, and building a doggie-doo septic tank. But there are a couple more options worth considering if you’re a dedicated doggie-mum (or dad).

First, consider the grass type that you have growing in your lawn.

Different grass seed varieties are well suited to different climates and water availability, but did you know that some grasses tolerate dog waste better than others?

Perennial ryegrass, Bermuda grass, Zoysia grass, tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass tolerate the high concentrations of nitrogen that come with dog waste better than other species.

Grass that is a little longer will also have an easier time coping with concentrated nitrogen, so do your lawn a favor and set that mower a little higher.

Last but not least, do you need a lawn?

You may balk at this suggestion, and that’s understandable, since we’ve grown up in a pretty lawn-obsessed society. However, times are changing and more and more people are considering grass-free yards. Take a read of this article if you’re interested in checking out the alternatives.

If you’re new to caring for a lawn, make sure you have the necessary tools on hand and have a read this article.

Dog on grass


I hope you’ve found this article useful and are now a converted dog poop picker upper!

After all, it comes with the territory, right? No one has a baby thinking they can get away without changing diapers!

There is no benefit to your grass or the surrounding environment if you leave your dog’s poop on the lawn. It takes a looooong time to break down, and causes pollution in the meantime.

Picking up the poop immediately and building a doggie septic tank to dispose of it is the best option for your lawn and the surrounding environment.

Thank you for reading and feel free to share this article with your fellow dog lovers!

Andy Gibson

My name's Gibson. Andy Gibson. I like to think of myself as the Bond of the backyard, that is if yard work ever became sexy. I write about everything about indoor and outdoor gardening and the dread-it-but-still-need-to-do-it chores around the yard, like cleaning out the gutter guards.

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