We put together this guide as a quick read for you to find dog friendly grass alternatives, such as stone, pavement and pea gravel.
Let’s check out the dog friendly grass alternatives …
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
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13 Dog Friendly Grass Alternatives For Your Front Or Back Yard
As a quick reference, some of the commercial products listed in this guide for some of the alternatives are:
- Artificial grass/turf – like Pet Zen Garden (on Amazon)
- Disposable Doggy Patches – like DoggieLawn Disposable Dog Potty Real Grass Patch (on Amazon)
Potential Benefits Of Dog Friendly Grass Alternatives
Although grass when green and healthy is nice to look at, and is soft under foot, it’s susceptible to lawn burn, and though there are low maintenance grasses, you still have to put time into a basic lawn care routine. Some of these other surfaces don’t have these problems.
The 13 grass alternatives we’ve listed below are seen as dog friendly either because they possess one or all of the following characteristics:
They are soft
They are organic feeling
They are good for dogs to pee and poop on
They don’t require cleaning or are easy to clean
They are affordable to install
They are easy to maintain
They are cheap to maintain
They are durable or long lasting, and don’t damage as easily as grass
They don’t get overly hot or cold in the summer sun, or winter cold
What Does A Dog Actually Need From A Yard Regardless Of The Surfaces You Use?
Regardless of whether you use grass or not, be aware of these requirements for dog in any yard:
Somewhere to go pee and poop
Dogs will usually only pee and poop somewhere that feels natural to them.
Usually soft surfaces lie grass, garden beds and dirt or mulch are best
Somewhere to run/walk around, explore, stretch their legs and play/exercise
As long as its just light walking, the surface can be anything as long as it doesn’t harm their paws by being sharp, super hard or really hot for example
Somewhere to lay down out of the weather and outside elements
If it’s raining or really hot, or your dog just wants somewhere to lay down and sleep, you will need somewhere undercover they can go – you can put their dog bed under cover for them too
Safe surfaces and non hazardous material
Stay away from toxic plants (read more about toxic plants for dogs here), toxic mulches, sharp or uneven surfaces your dog could cut themselves on, slip on or hurt their joints on etc.
And What Do You Want From Your Yard and Landscaping?
Consider what you want from a yard as well
You probably want:
Something that meets the above needs of your dog
Lower upfront costs
Lower maintenance costs
Lower maintenance effort and time investment
Something that looks neat and nice, is durable and doesn’t show damage easily
A great idea might be to have one design for the front yard without grass, and one for the backyard with grass to give your dog somewhere to play where the appearance of the grass doesn’t matter so much.
Going with harder wearing surfaces for the most trafficable areas, and having softer natural surfaces off to the side seems to work best for most owners.
Some people even install a specially designed outside dog potty area for their dogs somewhere in their yard, especially when the rest of the yard has no grass.
It might be worth speaking to a landscaping professional about your options and ideas for your yard.
So, with these factors in mind, let’s check out some dog friendly grass alternatives …
Stone is great for driveways and feature paths.
The biggest pros are that stone will last a very long time, it looks great, there’s no maintenance unless you’re getting a finish re-done, it’s durable/hardwearing for cars, people and dogs, and it’s pretty versatile.
You can most commonly either lay flat stone in sand and fill the joints with sand and ground cover.
Or, you can use rounder stones and set them in with a sand cement.
The downside to stone is that it can be expensive and time consuming to buy and lay, and it heats up in the sun.
2. Bricks and Masonry
Bricks and masonry also make good paths and driveways – a lot of people use them for house perimeter pathways.
Bricks are readily available, are pretty straightforward to install, easy to spray clean, require no maintenance, are very durable, and can be installed with soil and sand joints.
One of the things about brick is that they might heave, sink or buckle easier than stone.
If they begin to present a tripping hazard or bricks crack, you may have to pull up sections and re-level/re-lay at some point a few years down the track.
Pavers are a favorite for backyard pools or entertainment areas.
They are easily installed with sand joints, and come in a lot of different sizes and colors/styles.
They are also very hard wearing, durable and last years.
Like bricks, they can easily heave and sink.
They may need re-adjusting every few years.
They will mark easily from dirt and dog poop – so it’s good having dirt areas to the side for your dog to potty if you have pavers in your back yard.
Popular for driveways and porch areas. You can get colored concrete or paint over it – so it doesn’t just have to be a bland grey.
Concrete can be pricey to install, but it is hard wearing and easy to clean, plus very durable apart from cracking.
Make sure with concrete that you have other soft areas in the yard for your dog to walk on and go potty on.
5. Pebbles and Small Rocks
Pebbles and small rocks are most often used as cover for garden beds.
It can be as easy as buying garden pebbles or rocks from the garden store and scattering it over your existing garden soil.
You probably don’t want to cover all the soil with garden pebbles though as your dog needs somewhere to poop where they won’t slip around, and where the poop can naturally decompose.
6. Crushed Stone
Above we were talking about large stone pieces, whereas here we are talking about small crushed stone pieces.
Crushed stone is good for paths with sand cement, or as cover for garden beds.
It’s pretty cheap, requires no maintenance and will rarely need to be replaced.
One of the downsides to lose crushed stone in a garden bed for example is that poop can be hard to clean from it, and poop stands out on white crushed stone!
7. Gravel (& Pea Gravel)
Gravel can be a bit boring and bland, but it’s very cheap and there’s absolutely no maintenance whatsoever required.
It’s best suited to areas other people aren’t going to be seeing much where you want something other than dirt to walk on.
Pea gravel can be great for dog potty areas as it drains and doesn’t smell as much as other materials.
Pea gravel also tends not to absorb and hold urine and poop as much as other surfaces.
Read more about how to make a dog potty area with pea gravel in this guide.
It’s good to have at least SOME dirt and exposed soil in your front or backyard somewhere, even if it’s behind a bush or around the side of your house.
You can even take your dog to this area first thing in the morning or when you get home from work to get them used to relieving themselves on this area.
Pickup poop regularly from this area, and turn it over to aerate it with a garden pitch fork every few months and you have probably the best natural area for your dog to pee and poop.
Worms can get access to this area as well as natural microorganisms that will break down organic matter in the soil.
9. Mulch, Compost and Other Organic Matter
Some mulches and composts like cocoa mulch might present some level of risk to dogs when they are first applied to your garden.
This is especially true if your dog wants to try to eat it. Otherwise, standard shredded tree bark mulches tend to be ok.
Read the package warnings and instructions + ingredients closely when applying mulch and considering keeping your dog away from them until they’ve had a chance to settle.
Obviously, mulches and composts are going to be great for garden sections of your yard, but you may want to be careful about overloading them for both the safety of your dog and so you don’t overload the soil with nutrients if that’s an issue.
10. Clover Lawn
Clover are technically a type of lawn, but they differ to all of the other grasses out there.
In general, they require less water, fertilizer, compost, herbicide, and weeding than standard grasses.
That means you get the soft and natural benefits of a standard lawn, but with much less time and cost maintenance investment on your end. Clover seeds also tend to be super cheap.
There are two types of clover – pure clover, and mixed grass clover.
Mixed grass clover lawns can be a fantastic option to replace your current lawn if it’s taking up too much time and money, and you want something which might be harder wearing and more resistant to dog urine.
Something to be aware of with clover is that it can need re-seeding every few years, and clovers can attract bees.
Read more about clover grass in this guide.
11. Artificial Grass
Artificial grass will work for some people and not for others.
Obviously artificial grass requires basically no maintenance apart from replacing when it gets work down by general foot traffic, or from the weather.
It’s also not going to get lawn burn or damage from urine or digging.
You can buy artificial grass with drainage holes in it so you get some level of drainage with it, and the type that is suited for outside conditions with pets.
It does have it’s drawbacks which are that it can be a little annoying to clean (especially poop), and you aren’t going to get the natural micro-organisms that real grass provides. Also, some dogs don’t like artificial grass a lot – so you might have an adjustment period with your dog.
Depending on the quality and durability of the grass, it can be cheap to moderately priced to install.
You can check out some different types of artificial grass like Pet Zen Garden (on Amazon)
12. Specially Designed Outside Potty Area, Or Disposable Real Grass Patch
Some people choose to install a specially designed pet potty area to the side of their yard which is bordered in with landscaping edging or wood (check out landscaping edging kits like Master Mark’s Plastic Terrace Border on Amazon), and contains sand, or dirt in the middle – both of which hold mess really well.
Sand, dirt or crushed gravel is easily available from garden supply store.
If you can train your dog to go potty in here, it makes for a professional and clean look to your yard.
Alternatively, some people choose to get a disposable real patch of grass which they replace periodically. Something like the DoggieLawn Disposable Dog Potty Real Grass Patch (on Amazon) .
The disposable real patches of grass can be good for dogs that don’t like the feel of artificial grass.
13. Dog Friendly Flowers and Plants
Lastly, for your front and side soil patches, you might like to pretty them up with flowers and plants.
Obviously with flowers and plants, they are fragile and especially big dogs can destroy them by walking through them or by eating them.
A way around this is to organise sections of your yard into raised or bordered in plant boxes. You could even put a small piece of blunted sheet metal, or small wire fence around the planted sections to give your dog a visual cue to stay out.
Be careful of plants and flowers that attract bees, wasps or insects that can cause painful stings for your kids or dogs.
Other Notes On Dog Friendly Grass Alternatives & Landscaping Surfaces For Pets
Grass Pros and Cons
Soft, variety of grasses available, varying maintenance costs for each grass, easy to clean, easy for dogs to go potty, safe for dogs
Varying upfront costs, urine burns and kills lawns, usually a base level of maintenance required
Grass is great, don’t get us wrong!
It’s soft, it looks great when it’s green and healthy, and dogs love walking around and playing on it.
However, it’s also susceptible to holes from digging, urine burn, pests, weeds, irrigation issues, soil issues…the list goes on.
If you consider mowing, fertilising, turning over the soil, trimming edges, watering and yellow patches from urine marks – it can have it’s drawbacks and not be the best choice for some people who don’t want the time commitment and maintenance associated with it.
Hard Flat Surfaces – Stone, Bricks, Pavers, Concrete
Easy to clean, very little maintenance time, very little maintenance costs
Bigger upfront costs, get hot in the summer, not good for dogs going potty
Stone, bricks, pavers and concrete are all great for car driveways leading into properties, pathways leading up to the front and back doors, and perimeter pathways around the house.
Pavers are fantastic for back yard pools and dogs have no ideas running around on them in the summer playing with the kids.
They are waterproof – so any pee or poop is going to sit on the surface and will need to be cleaned. It’s best to have dirt or garden areas off to the side your dog can go potty in if any of these surfaces are your main surfaces.
These sorts of surfaces can have large upfront costs to install, and they also tend to heat up really quickly in the summer, or get cold really quickly in the winter.
If you have a hard surface undercover, make sure you have a soft and comfortable spot for your dog to lay down to rest or sleep.
Hard Uneven, Or Unjoined Surfaces – Pebbles, Crushed Stone, Small Rocks, Gravel
Little maintenance time and costs, little upfront costs
Get hot in summer, not good for dogs going potty, can be hard to clean
For main trafficable areas – these surfaces are probably our favorite.
Pebbles, crushed stone and small rocks come in all different shapes, sizes, patterns and colors.
You can get them freestanding where they move underfoot, or you can lay them on a path or large area and set them in with path type cement mix so they are fixed.
You can even get different finishes on top of fixed rocks and stones to make them look shinier.
For the less trafficable areas like garden beds and areas of to the side, the freestanding pebble, crushed stone, rock and gravel surfaces are better and easier to install usually with soil and a waterproof membrane underneath if you plan on putting plants in or removing the rocks later.
For trafficable paths or driveways, you might consider a nicer, harder set in finish.
When you have separated rocks and stones, they can be harder to clean, especially if your dog has a case of diarrhea.
If you go this approach, make sure you have both flat surfaces and soft surfaces also in the yard so your dog has somewhere to lay down, run around without cutting up their paws, and somewhere to go potty.
Soft Non Trafficable Surfaces – Dirt/Soil, Mulch, Clover
Little maintenance time and costs, little upfront costs, easy to clean, good for dogs to go potty, soft for dogs’ feet
Not suitable for trafficable areas or areas with heavy use
Dirt/soil and mulch areas are the best for gardens and off to the side areas for your dog to go potty.
Mulch in particular might come in the form of shredded tree bark, cocoa mulch or some form of compost or other organic matter.
Clover is a type of grass or lawn, but it has longer roots and better ability to extract nutrients from the air, water and soil than most average lawn grasses. Because of it’s natural independence, clover grass costs you basically nothing in terms of time and money to maintain.
One drawback to clover grass is that it is not as hard wearing as regular lawn surfaces and it needs to be re-seeded more frequently.
It also stays a bit more moist than regular grass so it might stain clothes more if you plan on playing on it.
Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of clover lawn.
Soft Trafficable Surfaces – Artificial Grass
No maintenance time or costs, safe, soft, doesn’t get really hot or really cold
Installation costs vary, can be hard and unhygienic to clean, some dogs don’t like the feel of it, need pay to replace every few years when it wears down.
Artificial grass can be a good short term option, or option for a location where it’s not going to be protected from extreme sun or lots of wear and tear.
Obviously with artificial grass you don’t have any of the maintenance costs or time, but it will wear down over the years and need to be replaced.
Some owners find that cleaning artificial grass from dog poop and wee can also be a bit unhygienic, as unlike natural grass, it’s not going to organically break down with natural bacteria etc.
If you do go with artificial grass, some owners find success in training their dog to use a disposable real grass patch which they replace periodically. Something like the DoggieLawn Disposable Dog Potty Real Grass Patch (on Amazon).
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