My eleven-pound Maltipoo has a knack for being naughty in the backyard the moment I’m not looking. Last year, she managed to dig a hole almost a foot deep in 20 minutes and was sitting in it, covered in dirt and ecstatic, when I went to check on her.
This story probably sounds familiar to dog owners everywhere, who regularly deal with muddy paws and destructive digging in their backyards. Add this to the ever-present North Texas issues of water restrictions, high maintenance in warm months, ugly brown grass in cold months, and grass allergies, and the yard becomes a pain-in-the-rear.
Enter pet grass, a synthetic alternative that eliminates all of those issues, and you have a beautiful solution.
“Conservation Grass is a terrific solution for pets in that it solves the problems of wear and muddy paws,” said Bryce Bartlett, Director of Sales for of Dallas-based Conservation Grass. “Our business has been growing consistently over the past couple of years as more and more homeowners are realizing the benefits that synthetic grass can provide.”
Pet grass used to have a host of problems, like poor drainage, rubber ingredients that absorbed odor, unrealistic all-green color, and too-short lifespan. But many modern applications have addressed those concerns.
“As with all synthetic grass applications, the base preparation is critical to ensure proper drainage and performance, but when selecting a synthetic pet grass, it is absolutely essential to be sure that the backing us permeable and that the blades are polypropylene,” Bartlett said. “This will ensure that there is no absorption in the grass that would cause odors from pet use. The permeability of our patented backing material allows water and urine to pass through, unlike other brands on the market, which use a black plastic or perforated backing that may trap and create odors.”
Kimberly Van Buren, the owner of Dallas-based Synthetic Grass Pros, says their pet grass installations are up 67 percent since last year.
“I think a lot of it has to do with watering, for one, but also I think that pets are more of a family member and having a place to them to go without bringing in muddy feet, is great,” Van Buren said. “Plus the ease and maintenance of the system, just scooping the poop and rinsing the grass.”
Synthetic Grass Pros install 42 different types of synthetic grass, most of which are “pet friendly,” Van Buren said, although she has specific recommendations for clients based on their needs.
“The Texas market is really exploding—we have low rain issues and brown grass issues that have people searching to make their yards look beautiful,” said Abbie Beltran, digital marketing analyst and account rep for Dallas-based EXDesignGroup, which installs ProGreen artificial grass in North Texas homes and is the Texas and central America distributor for Zeofill infill. “ProGreen can last up to 25 years and it’s coated with a UV/polyurethane inhibitor that protects against discoloration.”
The general installation process for pet grass involves removing around two inches of topsoil and laying down a fabric barrier to prevent natural grass and weeds from popping through. Then, a layer of decomposed granite is compacted into place allow for an even slope and good drainage. Some companies put an odor-absorbing product on top of that, before laying the pet grass and securing it around the perimeter with large spikes to prevent pets from digging it up. Finally, the pet grass gets an “infill” places between the blades to control odor and give the turf ballast and the blades support.
Maintenance of pet grass is a breeze—pet owners just scoop the poop as normal and occasionally rinse off the lawn in dry months, Van Buren said. This is a huge benefit and cost savings in our parched climate.
“As water restrictions become the norm in many North Texas communities, we have been able to help educate our clients and the public about the benefits of conservation grass and the differences that separate our product from others in the market,” Bartlett said. “We only install Conservation Grass brand turf, which is a high-quality synthetic grass with a patented permeable backing material and blend of blade colors that provides the most realistic appearance, while still providing a high-performance surface.”
Installation cost of pet grass runs around $7-9 per square foot, depending on the quality of turf chosen, compared to around $2 per square foot for sod grass. So the initial cost is much more. But with low annual maintenance, the savings really add up.
Over 10 years, a 1,000-square-foot natural lawn that cost $2,000 to install will cost about $29,600, assuming an annual maintenance cost of $2,760 ($230 per month for watering, mowing, edging, fertilizer, and weed and pest control).
By comparison, a pet grass installation might cost $9,000 to install (at the high end of $9 per square foot). Many companies offer packages at around $250 per year (this varies a lot) to come out and check edges and clean and disinfect the grass, which would bring the ten-year cost to around $2,500.
So math with me: That’s approximately $31,600 versus $11,500, almost three times the cost for natural sod, plus the annoyances of taking care of it when your dog(s) are digging and dragging in mud and dirt.
Those are pretty convincing numbers.
“We are doing work in a variety of neighborhoods across the DFW area, including Highland Park, University Park, Dallas, and Fort Worth,” Bartlett said. “It is a great product for a variety of applications and home sizes and it handles the high traffic areas and eliminates those muddy paws when letting pets in and out of the house.”