I have 2 dogs, who routinely use the bathroom in my front garden. One of my dogs pees in the same place about 90% of the time he goes out. Due to a lack of drainage, and what I imagine is 100% saturation of the soil beneath, the pee will pool on the surface and stay there, some times for days at a time (and even when it's gone/evaporated, the remnants of what's left still emits a strong odour). This results in a really nasty smell that can be smelled from the inside of the house, and if my dog happens to walk through that general area, his paws absolutely stink.

How can I improve or resolve this situation? The soil bedding the grass is quite clay-like, so I suspect this is contributing to, if not causing, the problem, but I've no idea what I can put down to either eliminate the smell or resolve the drainage issue without digging drainage holes all over the garden (or both).

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    Is there a possibility to let the dogs pee on the street instead of your own garden? Just some thoughts... – benn Aug 30 '18 at 12:43
  • Is that cutie pie the dog that is saturating your lawn so badly you can smell dog urine? I once had a pomeranian, Arthur! Major soft spot for these guys/gals. No way could or should you be smelling dog urine. I think you have very bad drainage and are smelling anaerobic decomposition. Have you noticed spots on your lawn? – stormy Aug 31 '18 at 1:44
  • Aerating will only allow this urine to get deeper into the root systems. Need to look closer at reasons for the smell and soggy lawn conditions. – stormy Aug 31 '18 at 1:45
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    I'm sorry I don't see how this question is "off topic". It's about a garden, it's about drainage in a garden. It's a gardening and landscaping issue. If whoever voted for this as off topic wants to enlighten me as to exactly WHY it's off topic, and maybe a suggestion on where this question can be posted instead, FEEL FREE! – dannosaur Aug 31 '18 at 6:53
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    Dannosaur you are talking to the 'weirdo' on this site. I would have a hard time finding a question that was not related in some way to gardening. Landscaping, grins, drags in a huge tide of sciences/subjects/problems...I think your question is totally gardening! Soils, chemistry dumped on lawns, anaerobic versus aerobic, saturated soils and how to unsaturate them are part of gardening yes they are... – stormy Aug 31 '18 at 7:28

One of my dogs (female) loves to pee on mulch. My other dog (male) loves to pee on objects (not surfaces). If she were peeing where I didn't want her to and I wished her to pee somewhere else I would make the other spot more attractive by adding mulch. If I wanted to be sure that the new pee spot did not smell like pee I would use aromatic mulch such as cedar bark. If I wanted him to pee somewhere else I'd position an object he liked to pee on in the target zone. Of course coupling the target zone hits with rewards in the usual dog training manner (off topic here).

Is there a something in particular that your dog loves to pee on? Maybe use some of that in your target zone. And during the transition period consider adding a small fence around the no-go zone. (Based on the photo in your profile it would not need to be a very big fence would it?)

Failing that... agree that the local problem is drainage. Assuming 1) that you want to keep grass in the current pee zone and 2) you can't train the dogs away from there... you can look into improving drainage in the area.

If you just have a small zone to aerate you can use a simple turf aerator like this one:

turf aerator

If you need to do more... there are many answers on this site already on how lawn drainage can be improved. Example: How can I improve drainage in a rainy area lawn with little manual labour?

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  • Hi there AllinOne! Is this pulling plugs of lawn soil bed out of the lawn? Looks like those tines are thick enough to do so but WAY too much work! Those rotary aerators that pull plugs of soil out of the lawn are the ONLY way to aerate. Any other way will make compaction worse. I have feeling this tool is just compacting, pushing the soil tighter together and does not take out plugs of soil. This will not improve drainage nor air for the lawn bed. Makes the soil more compacted, not less. – stormy Aug 31 '18 at 0:37
  • HI @stormy I have similar one and can promise you it does indeed pull plugs of soil. Compaction is limited because you don’t have to walk to operate. Do you see their dogs in the profile. They pee by the thimbleful! Right sized tool for the job imo. – AllInOne Aug 31 '18 at 0:42
  • Grins, I do not see those plugs in this picture. There is no way that anyone should smell urine, dog, cat or human in this environment. Peeing on the lawn is like someone pouring bleach on the lawn. Well, if the lawn is lacking in chemistry that spot will be bright green. If the lawn has been fertilized that spot will burn. Over 'fertilization'. Those spots have to be treated, seeded and babied to come back. – stormy Aug 31 '18 at 0:54
  • Worrying about walking behind an aerator and 'compacting' the soil bed is nuts. Just saying. Lawns are meant to be walked upon, played upon. Renting an aerator from the nearest tool rental store is cheap and it is an easy to do thing once per year. Using this manual contraption will be a insane amount of work! $75 a day at the most to rent a proper plug aerator. Share with neighbors. Leave the plugs where they fall! – stormy Aug 31 '18 at 0:57
  • The 'smell' you might be smelling is probably anaerobic decomposition. Similar to a swamp, H2S, methane? If there is enough urine to smell (such as walking under a bridge where homeless pee and they never cover their pee) that needs to be stopped like now. – stormy Aug 31 '18 at 1:01

The drainage is the problem. Until the soil dries out the smell will likely continue. However there might be at least a temporary solution - how about if you build a couple of raised sand boxes? If the box is fairly deep then no matter how much rain the sand will drain really fast and the dogs will probably prefer the sand because it is drier than the surrounding soil. I know nothing of dogs so dimensions of the box would be for someone more knowledgeable.

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  • Maybe aeration of the soil would help with the drainage as well... less drastic than replacing grass with raised sand box? – AllInOne Aug 30 '18 at 18:55
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    Sure, add it in as an answer and let the community vote on the ideas presented. It might also prompt the OP to add details that would enable even better ideas. – Colin Beckingham Aug 30 '18 at 19:00
  • @ColinBeckingham You and I are on the same page! Most people don't know this stuff well enough to ask a proper question. Not to mention that we could provide a simple questionnaire that could help the OPs to formulate their question so we don't have to keep asking the same questions with ever single question so we are able to give a responsible pertinent answer. Even major gardeners could be directed and facilitated with a little questionnaire. – stormy Aug 31 '18 at 0:31
  • Sand boxes are for cats, grins. And the neighborhood cats will love you if left open. Dogs could use a simple dog house, paddock, kennel and a graveled area for potty when released...gees, not on the lawn! – stormy Aug 31 '18 at 0:33
  • I've thought about the idea of a sand-based area, but it won't be long before the weather turns wet again, and then clumps of sand end up between their toes, and subsequently all throughout my house! Keeping my options open, though. – dannosaur Aug 31 '18 at 6:57

If it pools on the surface, as opposed to immediately absorbing into the soil, the soil doesn't have enough drainage. As you said, the soil is clay-like. You need to improve soil drainage and aeration by mixing organic material (decomposed mulch or garden soil, compost, etc) into your existing soil. You may have to remove a lot of the crappy clay in order to get the right ratio. Once that's done, top everything with a couple inches of mulch. Over time, the mulch will break down into the soil underneath and help drainage even more. Add more mulch every year. It's not an easy solution, but relatively cost effective.

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  • Mixing organic matter into the soil after the fact won't work. Neither manually mixing organic matter into the soil by us Humans works. Drainage is 90% surface elevations. Surface water draining as it falls as rain. Someone who knows what this is all about (grins) knows the direction of every drop of rain on the property. Not a tough thing at all but tough to mitigate after the fact. Aerating soil will not help at all. Clay is not the culprit. It is the elevations, the contours of the land and walls and roads that are responsible for drainage. Send a picture of your home and property? – stormy Aug 31 '18 at 0:42

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