Artificial Grass for Dogs

Artificial Grass for Dogs

Outdoor Use

By Ken Karmie

There are significant benefits to utilizing artificial grass as an outdoor surfacing solution in pet care facilities. Happier pets and pet owners lead to increased satisfaction, retention, acquisition, and profitability. Proper selection and installation of a grass specifically designed for dogs are vital to success. This article is written to equip you with the knowledge needed to identify and evaluate key features and criteria.

Value of utilizing artificial grass outdoors for a commercial pet facility:

  • Green grass looks great and is a natural fit for dog play and elimination areas.
  • Challenges of natural grass are eliminated (e.g. mowing, reseeding, re-sodding, fertilizing, etc.).
  • Dogs stay significantly cleaner, as there is no contact with dirt and mud, potentially eliminating the need for bathing.
  • Indoor areas stay cleaner, as dogs are not tracking dirt, grass, and debris into the facility.
  • Dogs’ joints enjoy the benefits of a soft, natural-feeling surface (especially nice for older or rehabilitating dogs).
  • Maintenance and related expenses are typically reduced.
  • Specific maintenance programs keep grass cleaner and safer for dogs.
  • Insects are often reduced, as there is nothing in the area of interest for bugs.
  • Happier pets and satisfied owners lead to increased satisfaction, retention, acquisition, and profitability.

Product Considerations
Artificial grass is utilized for a wide range of applications including sports fields, landscaping, rooftops, playgrounds, golf greens, and more. Functionality and unique performance features are the important factors to ensure success when utilized for pets.

Understanding how to evaluate these differences is critical to success. In addition to utilizing the evaluation criteria I provide in this article, I encourage you to request references and look for a strong history of product and installation successes. Ask the sales representative to explain the features that are unique and different from landscape or sports field grass and how the product is uniquely designed to succeed in pet facilities.

Landscape and sports field products are typically made with blades of grass that are tufted (looped or stitched) into a backing, which is then coated with an impermeable plastic-like layer. Unfortunately, water flowing through the backing to the base is limited to the drainage holes that have been drilled through the backing. The “drainability” of an artificial grass is probably the most important success feature. As a general guide, I advise utilizing a product that drains in excess of 200 inches per hour.

Additionally, it is not uncommon for many of these products to utilize a crumb rubber or sandy infill layered on top of the grass to help the blades stand erect. These components, while great for “pet-free” areas, are typically problematic when pets are involved and drainage is restricted.

Artificial Grass Features to Avoid:

  • Blades that can be pulled on one end and completely removed by a curious dog – Don’t be afraid to request a sample and test it yourself.
  • Backing or use of infill that inhibits flow of liquids – When this happens, waste tends to remain on the surface, causing odor and unsanitary conditions.
  • Products that have “longer” blades to make them appear more realistic – Longer blades may look nice but will likely make it more difficult to locate and remove waste. Keep this in mind when evaluating realism versus functionality.

Features to seek in an artificial grass specifically designed for use with dogs:

  • Backing that provides very aggressive drainage – Here is a simple test you can perform when viewing a sample: Hold the product up to the light and observe. The light you see glimmering through is where the product will drain. If you are still not convinced, I encourage you to take a sample of the product and dump water on it. The result are very revealing. Knitted products (i.e. where the blades are actually interwoven with fibers to create the backing) are more expensive to make but have drainage that is off the charts. A knitted backing is also the strongest blade/backing connection and allows liquids to pass through anywhere.
  • Shorter blades accompanied by a “thatch layer” (smaller curly blades), which are utilized so that infill (sand or rubber) is not required – This design allows solid waste to sit on top of the grass, where it is easy to locate and remove. This avoids the use of waste-harboring infill.
  • A grass surface that is easy to clean and keep clean – Some grasses offer added peace of mind by including antimicrobial agents that help fight against microbes between cleanings.

Successful installations are done in a way that considers and stands up to the challenges innate to entertaining many dogs. Understanding and minimizing the risk factors dogs present are fundamental to success and the reason I highly recommend a professional installation.

There are three common components of an installation: the sub-base (material, slope, drainage), the prepared base (perimeter board, gravel, and/or grid the grass will cover), and the grass installation (cutting to fit, seaming, and securing). Beware of a “one size fits all” approach. For example, the installation plan to go over concrete or asphalt needs to be quite different than one that is replacing grass/dirt or even gravel.

While on the subject of drainage, please be aware that drainage issues do not just go away because artificial grass has been installed. These issues can be corrected with the installation of the base or modification of the sub-base but first must be identified and understood so a solution can be incorporated.

Finally, make sure there is a framework or board perimeter that is built into the base for attaching the grass. The method of attaching the grass also needs to be suitable to secure the edges (e.g. stainless steel staples, carpet strips, nails, etc.).

Maintenance procedures will vary depending on the use of the area – potty or play?

Maintenance procedures will vary based on the use of the area (potty or play), the size of the area, the number of dogs, and the weather conditions. It is very likely your maintenance will be much less with outdoor artificial grass than with natural grass (or even gravel), but maintenance is still required. Your artificial grass provider should provide generalized guidelines as well as specific instruction as it pertains to your facility.

Keeping solid waste picked up and debris off the grass is always a “best practice.” Monitoring and removal of hair is needed on a periodic basis. Rinsing and treatment with disinfectants or enzymes should be considered in the context of your specific application.

Environmental Considerations
Natural grass is difficult to maintain in a high-volume pet environment and requires significant maintenance, which often includes the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers. When natural grass is dead or sparse, not only do the dogs get dirty but the area is also susceptible to erosion. In grassy or gravel areas, pet waste is difficult to locate and remove and is often spread around during the mowing or raking process.

No harmful pesticides or fertilizers will ever be needed with artificial grass. The grass and installation process allow for the natural flow of the water cycle and protect the area from erosion. As previously mentioned, pet waste is easy to locate and remove.

Providing a cleaner, safer outdoor environment for your pet guests will provide peace of mind for you and your customers. It has the potential to separate you from the competition and lets your clients know you are providing the best. Cleaner dogs and less maintenance lead to increased customer acquisition and retention as well as staff and customer satisfaction.

Green grass in a pet facility is possible with artificial grass, but it is up to you to ensure the product you select is specifically designed and professionally installed for dogs in a commercial facility. I encourage you to take the time to understand the basics and apply this knowledge to ensure the product, company, and installation you choose meet criteria you can be comfortable with. You can make sure by asking a few revealing questions of your potential “pet turf” provider.

  • How is your pet grass product designed differently than landscape or sports products? (Request a sample so that you can view and compare it to the “dog grass” sample.)
  • How are your pet installations different than landscape or sports installations?
  • If the grass contains an antimicrobial feature, what is it and how does it work?
  • What features of your product are designed to address the pet traffic and waste?
  • Do you have testing to show your water drainage rate? (Under 100 inches/hr is not good, 100 to 200 inches/hr is moderate, 200 to 300 inches/hr is good, over 300 inches/hr is outstanding.)
  • How do you recommend keeping the grass clean and sanitary? (Listen for methods to remove hair, semi-solid waste, and potential build-up of urine.)
  • What installations have you done in the pet facility market? (Contact and even visit several reference facilities that have had grass for over four years. Ask about installation, product, on-going service, maintenance, and overall value)

Please join me in the next edition as we discuss the benefits and considerations of utilizing artificial grass indoors.

Ken Karmie is the K9Grass Brand Manager and part owner of ForeverLawn Incorporated the makers of K9Grass, artificial grass designed specifically for dogs. In addition to his experience with K9Grass, he also has extensive knowledge and experience with artificial grass for sport fields, playgrounds, landscape, rooftops, golf greens and other specific markets. Ken received a Bachelor of Science Degree from Mount Union College and spent 20 years working in the technology field before joining brothers Dale, Brian and Jim at ForeverLawn Inc. Ken designs artificial grass and related products, installation systems, maintenance programs and has worked in the synthetic grass field for over 9 years. Ken currently has two patents pending related to Indoor K9Grass design and Flushing System. Ken has also been invited to speak at various conferences and seminars regarding aspects of artificial grass use with dogs.

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