Asked on Aug 24, 2015

Grass free dog proof yard

Rachael Basye
by Rachael Basye
We have 3 rambunctious dogs (rotti/pit mix, border collie mix, and pit/spaniel mix... All under 3 years). They love to play in the yard and run and roll around while they tackle each other. I have my garden areas fenced off and I'm training them to go potty in a specific corner of the yard which I covered with cedar bark dust (had a friend drop off a truck load of it... great totally keeps the smell down and makes it easier to scoop).
We have a stone pathway and used to have somewhat of a lawn. Apparently our lawn was more moss than grass. The dogs tore up the moss in no time as the roots are very shallow. I am really allergic to grass and cannot mow it or I will be needed an emergency breathing treatment. I want something the pups can run around on and play but I also want it to look nice. I live in the Portland area so it needs to be able to tolerate rain and cold weather.
Any suggestions on a ground covering/lawn/surface?
Looking toward the house with our ugly brown yard. The left side used to have a ground cover but it got trampled.
The view looking toward the street. One of the garden areas is to the left.
The culprits of the messy yard: Bubba (aka Bubbles), Rocky, and Ellie. They like to play keep away with various sticks they find.
  24 answers
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Aug 24, 2015
    There are ground covers available that fall under the category of stepables.Check your hardiness zone first.
  • on Aug 24, 2015
    Hello Rachael: We have plenty of great dog-friendly landscaping ideas for grassless lawns. Both of these posts includes lots of photos: and here:
  • Sue Sanders Sue Sanders on Aug 25, 2015
    No matter what you plant, the dogs will keep it worn down. My dogs used to keep a well worn path along the fence. I once planted a large rose bush that was given to me and in a few days I looked out and didnt see the bush. I walked out to the spot and saw the dogs had chewed the bush completely down to the soil..just little stubs showing. They didn't want anything in their space. You might have to landscape with large rocks with plantings in between the rocks.
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Aug 25, 2015
    Sue thats why I said stepables.
  • Elizabeth Nance Elizabeth Nance on Aug 25, 2015
    LOL! I can relate (had eight BIG dogs in my backyard at one time). Down to two now (big ones).I put an electric fence around my bushes and trees (they got dug up otherwise) and have kept my deep rooted items alive. Finally able to take it down once the shrubs got large enough. I am toying with killing the yard and just planting some winter cover that's good for the soil in the fall. Decide what to do in the Spring. With our water shortage (I am in Utah) I will not plant grass to mow, for sure! Put a 'kiddie pool' out in your backyard and while your babies are babies, don't do anything but change the water in it weekly (I pour it on my bushes and fruit trees) In the interim, you can think of the alternatives :O) Water is the new GOLD!
  • Elizabeth Nance Elizabeth Nance on Aug 25, 2015
    I didn't add how AWESOME the photo of your babies are. I LOVE it!
  • Robbi Robbi on Aug 25, 2015
    You might consider looking into a decorative stone/gravel. We have an area in our back yard for our dogs ( 2 German Shepherds & a Golden Retiever mix ) that is pea gravel. Easy to scoop. If you go to a landscape supply where they sell mulch & stone- you can look at all the options available & they may be able to suggest something to fit your budget. Good luck on your project.
  • Penny Penny on Aug 25, 2015
    Thymes make a dense mat that is good to cover the ground and does not need mowing. I would try one spot to see if: 1) you are allergic; 2) the dogs dig it up or eat it--before covering the whole lawn. However, it does need regular watering, so if you live in a drought ridden area, it might not work. IT does have shallow roots .
  • Cyndie S Cyndie S on Aug 27, 2015
    Astroturf? I see it on craigslist pretty cheap sometimes or maybe Zoysia grass, which I think is not really a grass. Not sure tho.
  • Penny Penny on Aug 28, 2015
    To kill any grass and weeds, two parts vinegar and one part salt (with kitchen cleaner with scent to neutralize the vinegar smell) is great. When dumped on the grass (even better the roots) it will do a great job and it's biodegradable, not harmful to the dogs. If you can hoe down an inch or two and get the roots, that's even better.
  • Penny Penny on Aug 28, 2015
    The problem with completely killing all the plant life is that the area will turn into a mud puddle during rainy season and the dogs will bring it inside. During the dry season, it will be a dust bath that is harsh to an asthmatic person. Hmm, still investigating.
    • Rachael Basye Rachael Basye on Aug 29, 2015
      Yeah the mud was an issue last winter/spring. We ended up throwing a bunch of straw down in the yard. Not pretty but it stopped the mud issue. Light color laminate flooring... what were they thinking?
  • Penny Penny on Aug 28, 2015
    A "heavy rooted" plant is the euonymous coloratus.
  • Elaine Postley Elaine Postley on Aug 29, 2015
    Like Robbi, I have "natural" pea gravel on drive near house. Mine gets weedy. Thank you, Penny for advice on safely killing same. By the by, Love your rock walk ! In northern Long Island rocks are a natural feature. I would have to grown something between the flat rocks. I wonder, Penny, if you have any suggestions? Doggies: My 3 lovelies eat all the grass. Vet says ok, but it's not beautious. Oh well.
    • See 1 previous
    • She She on Nov 30, 2016

      FAKE TURF ?

  • Penny Penny on Aug 29, 2015
    This sounds interesting: <img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-5471" title="Rupture Wort" src="" alt="" width="195" height="259" /> Rupture Wort – Green Carpet This plant is super tough and like a carpet can handle heavy foot traffic areas. The foliage is nice and green and turns bronze-red in the winter. And while it delivers tiny white blossoms, they are so small it won’t attract bees. And the added bonus it is just about as rugged as grass. Count it to need less water cause it’s drought tolerant too and loves partial shade to sun
  • Kathy Kathy on Aug 31, 2015
    The play yard at the shelter where I volunteer has bricks instead of grass. The dogs don't seem to mind it. This makes it easy to clean up the poo and can be hosed off whenever it is needed.
  • Dfm Dfm on Jan 27, 2016
    saw dust and wood chips...gleaned from the local lumber yard.....used to be free for the taking....don't know about is possible to train your dogs to use a dogie potty area.
  • Lee Govan Lee Govan on Jun 02, 2016
    I agree with Kathy, or paving stones.This not only is easy maintenance for three dogs, it will also keep their nails filed down.
  • 62q10370829 62q10370829 on Nov 12, 2016
    Fence in area for dogs & the rest for you or put rock down and plant plants that are really hardy. Check with a nursery for what would work with 3 big dogs. Put your flowers in big pots.
  • Johnchip Johnchip on Nov 26, 2016

    You will never grow or establish plants other than sod, which you say is out. Astro turf products will work for you if not some kind of stone or mulch. I would certainly lay a weed barrier beneath.

  • Creeping thyme? Smells great and the dogs will smell pretty too. There are a lot of great suggestions here. Where I live in CA water is at a premium. Many people have put down really good artificial grass and it looks to be holding up well. Can be expensive though. LOVE your dogs! How about mint? Can be very invasive, but can take a beating.

  • Jan Jan on Dec 24, 2016

    My hairdresser's partner hoards dogs needing rescue. He threatened to leave when she got up to 60, & she was gone working all the time, leaving him & their groomer to care for them. But he put down fake grass, because it was easy to clean up the poop, & they could disinfect it every week to kill the urine smells. Of course, I hate to think about the ground underneath after a few years of disinfectant being put on it! And have no idea about the cost. But he used the same "grass" in front of his shop for an outdoor smoking area, & it looked great! They are down to 28 dogs now. Progress.

  • Lori Lori on Feb 28, 2017

    I would do part cedar keeps fleas and ticks away.....and part pavers