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How To Save A Tree From Dog Urine: 10 Practical Options

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Dog urine, high in ammonia, can make quick work of killing lawns and plants. It can also wreck trees and their protective bark. It isn’t just male dogs cocking their legs that can damage the bark, either. The urine can soak through the ground and damage the sensitive root system under your dog’s feet.

Whether they’re your trees, a neighbor’s trees, or communal trees that your dog has seemingly taken a liking to, there are ways that you can protect them from the potential damage of dog urine. Below are 10 practical options you can try.

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How To Save A Tree From Dog Urine: 10 Practical Options

1. Install A Dog Guard

Voglund Nursery Mesh Tree Bark Protector Guard
Image By: Voglund, Amazon

Perhaps the simplest method of protecting a tree from dog urine is to install a tree guard. These are commercially available, although you can also build your own, and they act as a physical barrier to prevent dogs from being able to get to the base of the tree. If the dog can’t get to the base of the tree, the amount of damage they can do is severely limited, at least.

A mesh or fence guard allows light, air, and water in while keeping dogs out. The guards are easy to install, but if you have a series of trees in your garden that are all covered in dog guards, it can detract from the natural beauty.

2. Use Dog Repellents

citrus cleaner
Image Credit: felipequeiroz, Shutterstock

Dog repellents can come in pellet or liquid form, and they are spread around the base of the tree. The scent of the repellent should deter dogs from peeing in the area. Commercial products are available, although you should check the ingredients to ensure that they are sympathetic to the dog as well as to the plants and earth around.

Alternatively, you can make your own repellent by mixing vinegar and water and spraying it around your trees. However, vinegar can kill grass and plants, so use it sparingly and carefully. Liquids also need replenishing often to retain their efficiency.

3. Add Uncomfortable Mulch

bark wood mulch
Image Credit: daschi810, Pixabay

Mulch is a protective layer that is added to the top of soil or earth, typically to aid in irrigation or for decorative purposes. In this case, mulch can be added in a bid to make the tree base less inviting to dogs. Avoid soft and decorative mulch, in this case, and opt instead for tree bark and other options that are sharper. The offending dog will get a shock when standing on the new material and avoid it in the future. Even if the dog does still pee in the area, the mulch itself will soak up much of the urine and prevent it from destroying roots.

However, pee-soaked mulch needs changing, which makes this a moderately high-maintenance method of canine urine prevention.

4. Use Motion Sensors

Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer Motion-Activated Sprinkler
Image Credit: Orbit, Amazon

Motion sensors can be attached to virtually any type of device. They are most commonly fitted to lights so that they illuminate a poorly lit area when somebody passes by. They act as a deterrent to would-be burglars and make pathways safer for authorized visitors. The same motion sensor lights may deter dogs from peeing on your trees, but the motion sensors can be attached to sprinklers.

Commercially available products use low water pressure to avoid injury to the dogs, but the shock should be enough to prevent a dog from using the tree as a toilet.

5. Deter Dog Owners

Pets Off The Grass Sign
Image Credit: Amazon

If you believe that a neighbor or dog walker is letting their dogs use your tree, you can try and put the owners off rather than dogs, directly. Rather than confronting them, put out signs warning of pesticide placement or the use of dangerous chemicals on the lawn.

Unfortunately, this technique does mean having bright yellow warning signs hanging around your garden, and it won’t be effective if it is your own dog or stray dogs that are peeing on the trees.

6. Water Down Trunks

garden hose
Image Credit: gornostay, Shutterstock

By quickly washing urine off the trunk of the tree, it is possible to protect the bark and the layers underneath. Use a hosepipe and spray the tree down as soon as the dog pees on it.

Watering down the urine can reduce or even eliminate the amount of damage that the urine does to your tree, but this is a very hands-on method that requires diligence and hard work. It might only be a practical solution if it is your dog that is causing all the mess.

7. Dog Rocks

Dog Rocks Lawn Burn Patch Preventative
Image Credit: Dog Rocks, Chewy

Dog rocks are a type of igneous rock, originally from Australia, that are put in your dog’s water. They filter out nitrates and diminish the strength and concentration of ammonia in dog urine, which can reduce the amount of lawn burn and plant burn that your dog’s liquids cause.

Dog rocks are considered safe and have been effective, but you might have varying results with your dogs, and this will only be effective if the water bowl is your dog’s only source of drinking water and if it is your own dogs that are doing the damage. If you feed a raw food diet, dog rocks are known to be less effective in these cases, too.

8. Train Your Dog To Pee Somewhere Else

Image Credit: Ching Louis Liu, Shutterstock

If it is your dog that is causing the damage to your trees and plants, you may be able to train them to pee elsewhere. Rather than admonishing your dog for peeing on the trees you want to protect, you should encourage them to use a different area.

Set up a pee area where it is fine for your dog to go to the toilet. Initially, you may want to keep them on a leash in this area when they’re ready to urinate. When they do, praise and reward them for their efforts.

Over time, you can lose the leash but continue with the rewards. If you do notice them peeing elsewhere, do not acknowledge it. Over time, your dog will associate peeing in the right area with getting rewards.

9. Use Undergrowth As a Cover

Dog in the lawn
Image Credit: MolnarSzabolcsErdel,Pixabay

While some dogs might be willing to dig through plants and bushes to get to their favorite tree, most will simply look for somewhere else to go. If you use plants like lemongrass, that have a citrus smell that acts as a natural deterrent, then the extra undergrowth layers offer double the protection. Curry plants and pepper plants are also effective.

10. Grow Prickly Bushes

black german shepherd on the grass
Image Credit: lisovyleo, Shutterstock

If you are happy to plant additional bushes and foliage around the base of your tree, choose plants wisely and you could prevent urination from being a problem. Choose prickly bushes that will give your dog a shock when they cock or squat to do their business. The prickles won’t cause any lasting damage, and, in most cases, dogs will stay away pretty soon after discovering the thorny deterrent. Hawthorns and wild roses are good options.

Unfortunately, there isn’t always room to add more plants around the base of trees, of course.

Why Is Dog Urine Bad For Trees?

Strictly speaking, dog urine isn’t bad for the bark of trees, but it is bad for the layer of cambium below. This tissue is what helps trees grow and encourages greater girth. Once the cambium becomes damaged, the tree’s protective layer of bark also becomes damaged, and damaged bark is an open invitation to insects and burrowing animals that will cause further damage to the tree structure.

Urine also contains salt, and this salt can form a crust on the soil above a tree’s root system. This crust prevents proper water drainage, and the necessary rainwater will run off and away from the roots.

Are There Any Plants That Are Resistant To Dog Urine?

Although many plants and trees are susceptible to the ammonia and nitrates in dog urine, there are some that are known to be able to withstand this particularly noxious liquid. Holly fern, red twig dogwood, and feather reed grass are some plants that are known to be able to better withstand a shower of dog urine.

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Dog urine is potentially devastating to lawns, plants, and even trees, and once one dog starts to pee on a tree, it invites and encourages other dogs to do the same. As such, it is better to nip the problem in the bud as soon as you notice it starts. The best method for protecting trees from urine will depend on whether it is your own dog doing the deed, or somebody else’s, but it will also depend on the amount of room around the tree base and other factors.

Featured Image Credit: Debbie Kanders, Shutterstock


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