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Dog Safe Lawn Care

Author: Sally Bushwaller | Date: July 19, 2012

Chris Mest, from Urban Arborist, gave an interesting talk to my Weimaraner Club about safe lawn care last year. This is an issue for most of us as we don’t want to expose our dogs to unnecessary poisons which they can potentially absorb or ingest by licking their feet.

In a former life, I worked for a company that used Border Collies to chase geese. The dog I worked with developed lymphoma and ultimately died. I later discovered that a lot of goose chasing dogs got this disease from repeated exposure to lawn chemicals.

Chris made a few suggestions for growing a safe lawn for your pooch:

●    Core aerate your lawn each year. Compaction in any form, whether from dogs, people or lawn mowers is bad for your lawn. You can have this done for you or rent your own machine, which takes plugs out of the soil.
●    Overseed your lawn after aerating it with grass seed. The grass will take over the weeds.
●    Core aerate and overseed in the spring.
●    Do not use Weed and Feed on your lawn. Instead, use a mulching mower and leave the clippings from your grass, leaves and sticks on the ground where it will degrade and improve the soil.
●    Get a soil test so you can find out what is missing from your soil. There’s no sense in adding supplements your lawn doesn’t need.
●    Don’t water more than once a week, then water deeply. Only water in the morning, before noon.
●    Don’t cut the grass too short.
●    Do not use cypress mulch as the industry is wiping out cypress groves to make mulch.
●    Chris recommends the following book, The Organic Lawn Care Manual: A Natural, Low-Maintenance System for a Beautiful, Safe Lawn by Paul Tukey
●    Chris’ website is a great source of info as well.

Chris also adds:

As Americans we have the right to complain about the government; what they do and don’t do. But we rely on the government to do certain things that we sometimes take for granted. One of those things is to protect us against products that can do us and our loved ones harm.

Unfortunately, the government does not have the manpower or the mandate to do this. According to the report “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now” by the President’s Cancer Panel established in 1971): “The entire U.S. population is exposed on a daily basis to numerous agricultural chemicals, some of which are also used in residential and commercial landscaping. Many of these chemicals have known or suspected carcinogenic or endocrine disrupting properties. The EPA has required testing of less than 1 percent of the chemicals in commerce.”

As a certified arborist, I have been concerned about the effects that lawn care products have on trees for quite a while. I am familiar with specific cases where the weed control dicamba has caused damage to some oak trees. After doing extensive research into the subject, I have found much evidence about the health problems caused by pesticides.

Dog owners and lovers, of which I am one, have special reasons to stop using lawn pesticides. In 1993, a study by Colorado State University researchers found significantly higher levels of 2, 4-D among dogs who live near treated lawns. A study published in 1995 in the academic journal Environmental Research shows a “statistically significant” increase in the risk of canine malignant lymphoma in dogs when exposed to herbicides, particularly 2,4-D, which is commonly used on lawns and in “weed and feed” products. More of this type of information can be found on the website Beyond Pesticides.

Some things you can do to protect the health of your dogs are:

●    Stop using lawn pesticides at home.
●    Demand that kennels and dog parks be maintained without poisons.
●    Encourage your neighbors, friends and relatives to follow your lead.


AnimalSense trainers clearly love dogs, never using or encouraging the use of force or intimidation.

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