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Let's Talk Dogs!

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

Whether a sweet little puppy or a very big doggo, dog owners cherish their pets as part of the family. We sure do! As you make a decision about what to do with the back, side, or front yard, what will be best for your four-legged family member is of course part of the equation. Is artificial grass safe for pets? Can it be easily cleaned and maintained? What should I consider as I plan my fake turf project? Why, we’re so incredibly glad you asked!



Is Fake Turf Safe for Fido?

While there are some options out there that may come with their risks, artificial grass is generally safe for your pets to chase sticks, prance, bark at the neighbor dog, roll around, go to the bathroom, and play fetch once but not actually return the ball on. One thing you can do to be sure your pet is safe is talk to your installer about the specific grasses they use and any safety reports they may have on those products. A skilled team will either have them at the ready or be able to obtain them from a supplier easily.


There is one choice you can make about your installation that will be safer for your pet. As you select your infill, choosing an option that is geared toward pets will, among other benefits, be healthier for your pet.


There are several kinds of infill. Any non-coated silica sand, whether white or green in color, gives off dust that can, if inhaled regularly, be a safety risk. When it comes to humans, this is generally only a concern for installers and children (and anyone who takes up sniffing their fake grass as a pastime, of course). But we know that your dog is probably a sniffer. It’s how they interact with the world. That means there’s a good chance that your pup will spend a fair amount of time with his or her cute little nose buried in your fake turf. For this reason, we highly recommend avoiding silica sand as your infill.


Silica does have a major benefit: it’s the most cost-effective option. If you choose to use another infill, listed on our estimates as “Premium Infill”, you’ll pay more because we pay more. That said, compared to the average installation cost the infill cost is nominal. Plus, you’ll get many more benefits from your infill. We highly recommend premium infills to pet owners. It’s safer and it’ll help with cleanliness, too!


Managing Pet Odors


Sometimes said shyly, sometimes directly, a homeowner with a pet will at some point need to ask about what we’re all thinking about here. Yes, your pet can urinate on the turf. It won’t hurt it. It also won’t turn brown which is exciting! What it may do is collect odors which is less exciting. But there are things that you and your installer can do to prevent pet odors and, when they inevitably do arise, to mitigate them.


At the Installation

When your synthetic turf is being installed, discussing infill is an important part of the process. There are a couple of infills on the market designed for pet areas.

One, called zeolite (often branded as Zeofill, Zeodorizer, etc.), uses its ionic properties to capture the ammonia in pet urine and prevent odors. While this product definitely works, it often requires double the amount of other infills to be equally effective. It also only releases the ammonia molecule when it rains. If it doesn’t rain for some time, eventually all of the ions in zeolite may be bonded to an ammonia molecule and it stops working.


Another option is a coated silica sand with an antimicrobial agent baked into the coating. The coating on these pellets of sand, often comprised of acrylic or vinyl, prevents the dust and thus the risks of regular silica sand. In addition, these coatings are often designed to significantly decrease pet odors and have antimicrobial properties.


This option is quite effective at helping with odors. In addition, because of the coating, the infill doesn’t absorb moisture. This means that it won’t compact as it gets walked on while full of urine or other liquids, because it won’t be full of those liquids in the first place. Definitely a more sanitary environment.


If you have a pet, we highly recommend this infill. As mentioned above, it’s listed as “Premium Infill” on our estimates. In terms of odor and safety alike, it’s the best bet with pets.


Over Time



Regardless of which infill you use, eventually it will likely start to smell. It will take much longer if you use a premium infill but may still occur.


If you notice pet odors and have used regular silica as your infill, it can be tricky to resolve the problem. Using cleaners and washing it seldom solves the issue, it just masks it. The best option is to get the infill out and replace it altogether. As you may imagine, getting infill that is nestled at the bottom of your synthetic lawn out is incredibly tricky. Call it one of the many reasons we don’t recommend silica for pet areas.


If you’ve used an infill designed for pets, the process is a lot simpler. First, use a pet and turf friendly cleaner to eliminate the current pet odors. If you’re worried your cleaner may stain your grass, try it on a very small patch in a back corner first. Sadly, it’s hard for us to say for sure which ones are safe to use in all cases. That said, your installer should be able to recommend a product that works well. We have a favorite cleaning agent we always recommend to homeowners that is safe for pets, children, and artificial grass alike.


Once you apply the cleaner, give it some time to work, check the bottle to know how long, and then rinse the area. After this cleanup is complete, you may want to consider adding more infill to your area. There can be some compaction of the pellets and loss of them through drainage holes over the years. Adding one or two extra bags can go a long way both for your grass and fighting pet odors.


Let’s Review

  1. Choose a pet-friendly infill to help prevent pet odors from building up from the start.

  2. The infills that are best for odors are the same ones that are considered safer for pets and kids.

  3. If you’ve used an infill that won’t absorb moisture, cleaning up becomes a breeze years down the line.

Grass Types and Dogs

When it comes to choosing the right type of fake grass, keeping your furry friend in mind can help narrow down your selection. First and foremost, as you test out your samples, let the dog walk on them. Perhaps your dog isn’t picky, but some are downright finicky. Know your pet and let them try the samples if they may have a preference. This is especially valuable if you’re having trouble deciding or if the dog will use the area the most.


In terms of style of turf, a few considerations for pet owners:


Height

The height of the grass will have an impact on the ease of cleaning up after your dog. When it comes to picking up stool, longer blades can be a bit tricky to keep clean. A shorter grass is easier to clean. Also, a taller grass is more likely to mat down with use. If your dog has that one spot in the yard he always lays in, it’s likely to mat. While you can usually rake the turf back up, there’s more damage done to long blades than short ones over time by repeated matting down.



Drainage

Just about all of the turfs should drain adequately. We could insert a bunch of math to explain just why there's no need to worry about how your turf drains, but we know most folks don't like math as much as we do, so we'll just give you the quick version. In short, the turf will drain at a more than ample rate for most pets. If you have many pets in a small area, you may want to consider a 100% permeable backing which will, technically, drain faster. Be aware though, when liquid drains through the backing it’ll then need to drain through the base rock, which is always the limiting factor. Having quicker drainage on the turf just changes where the liquid sits as it waits to drain through the rock. For most homeowners and their pets, any of the turfs will drain perfectly well for sanitation and odor purposes.



Temperature

If your landscaping area gets a lot of sun during times when you or your pet may be using it, you may want to also consider the temperature of the turf as you choose which one to use. Artificial grasses are made of plastic. When left out in the sun, plastic can get very hot, especially a giant sheet of it. Usually, this is only impactful on an area where you or your pet will be out at the same times of day the sun is. Let’s say you always work until five and the sun hits the lawn around 2:00pm. If Fido doesn’t go out then, the temperature issue will never affect Fido. It’s also possible that you may have an area that’s shady enough that the sun's rays never hit the turf directly, or at minimum only hit parts directly.


If you have a very sunny yard, it’s a good idea to test to make sure that you and your pet don’t think the synthetic turf is too hot to walk, run, play “pull the rope”, or lay on. You can test that, at least to an extent, by setting your samples out at various times of day and seeing how it feels. It’s hard to say exactly what you should expect because there are so many factors on each property but you should be aware that artificial lawn will feel closer in temperature to hardscapes like pavers than it will to natural grass.


We know it's a lot to digest, but remember we think it’s important that you have the full story as you make a decision. The fabulous news is that fake grass manufacturers have come up with innovative ways to cool turf down. By inserting additives and modifying the shape of the blades of yarn so they shade themselves, a variety of cooler options are on the market today. There is often a trade off to be aware of, however. When the cooler fake turfs are not in the sun, they may feel stiffer in texture than traditional artificial turfs. Luckily, once in the sun they soften right up. If you have a very sunny yard and have a furry friend, or are concerned about the temperature of your turf generally, we highly recommend a grass with cooling properties to it.


When you get your samples, set them all out in that one spot you know the dog loves to lay in and see how hot they get. If at all possible, have the dog test them too. You may find that Fido doesn’t mind the heat and prefers a grass you wouldn’t expect. You may also find that Fido is incredibly sensitive either to heat or texture and only likes one or two of the artificial turf samples you have. This information can be incredibly helpful, especially if your dog is the family member who will be using the new fake grass most often. If your pet makes the same face as this guy on a particular turf, that may be the one to go with!


Let’s Review

  1. Shorter artificial grasses are easier to clean up if the area you’re installing will serve as your pet’s bathroom.

  2. Depending on the quality of manufacturer, most synthetic grasses drain adequately for pet areas. All the ones we use do. Still, 100% permeable backings are an option.

  3. If in direct sunlight, your fake turf may get rather hot. There are certain types of artificial grass that are less prone to this. Be sure to test samples with your pet to be sure that texture and temperature are both okay for them before choosing a fake turf. If you're ever unsure, you can always contact us to discuss temperature and cooler turfs more.

Conclusion

Pets are such important parts of our lives. They’re part of the family in many cases. If the area you’re considering landscaping with artificial turf is an area that your pet will use, make sure to keep those little paws in mind as you make your decisions about who to trust with your install, what infill to use, and what artificial grass to install. We’re animal lovers here, so we know that these things really matter.


Through our time, we’ve found that many animals really like artificial lawns. It always makes us so happy when we get pictures from satisfied homeowners of the dog lounging in his favorite spot on the turf, or the cat curled up on fake grass we installed last month.


It may sound like installing artificial grass with pets is a bit complicated, but in reality, these decisions would need to be made either way. If done properly, fake grass is a safe, sanitary, comfortable, and fun solution for the pet owner looking to change up the back or side yard.

If you have questions about choosing a fake grass or infill with your pet in mind, you can always contact us. Perhaps you’d like to know exactly how much creating that dog run or synthetic grass back yard for the new puppy is going to cost. If so, feel free to request a quote and we’ll happily come out and go over everything with you for free! If you decide to work with us, get your install, and love it, just remember how much we’d love to see the dog enjoying your brand new area – they’re always so cute!

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