Real Grass vs artificial grass for dogs and pets…which should you get, and which is better in both the short term and long term?
We put this guide together listing the potential pros and cons to each to help you make a better decision for your situation.
The main areas we discuss are cost, cleaning and maintenance.
Note that the numbers, figures etc. are estimates only, and are generally based on a standard sized residential lawn – they can be affected by many external variables and factors.
Let’s jump into it…
Real Grass vs Artificial/Synthetic Grass For Dogs & Pets: Which To Get?
What Types Of Artificial and Synthetic Grass Are Available?
Before we get into the comparison, it’s important to know what types of artificial grass are available.
In this guide we refer to the rubber/mesh backed roll types of artificial grass that may or may not be professionally installed.
There’s a wide variance of designs, qualities, installation procedures and guarantees on this product.
You should know though that there are also artificial grass rugs, artificial grass tiles, and artificial grass outdoor potties – all designed for dogs and pets.
Real Grass vs Artificial Grass For Dogs – Cost
In terms of cost, there are both installation, and ongoing costs to consider.
Real grass is much cheaper to install. Assuming your soil conditions and pH are OK (do a soil pH test, and rebalance the soil with fertiliser or lime if required).
It involves buying the grass seeds you want, spreading them, watering and following the germination instructions. So, your only costs are really seeds which are cheap, and lawn food.
In most cases, seeding and some lawn food is only going to cost you less than $100.
Artificial and synthetic grass is going to be much more expensive to install depending on the size of the area you want to cover, and whether you buy and install yourself, or you get a local artificial pet lawn company to both supply and install.
It’s worth getting a professional to install if you are paying for higher quality turf because they will secure the perimeter of the lawn (fix it with boards and staples) so your dog can’t find any weak spots to dig up or pull up the grass, as well as making sure the turf is fastened correctly to the ground.
They will also sometimes supply and compact the aggregate which the turf drains into.
All this will easily cost a few thousand dollars. You can save money if you’ve got the time by installing yourself with the consultation of the turf manufacturer installers.
Speak to your local supplier and installer for a quote, or find a supply only artificial turf on Amazon, work out how much it will cost to cover the area you want to cover, and install yourself.
There are some supply only pet synthetic grasses that work out to be a lot cheap per square meter than others, but be wary of quality and reviews/experiences from other customers.
Ongoing costs for real lawn are going to to be re-seeding when lawn dies or burns, fertiliser and soil additives, and of cost water bills for watering. There’s also the time commitment of mowing and trimming your grass.
Ongoing costs for artificial turf are going to be the time spent blow cleaning or vacuuming the surface, and the cost of an enzyme or pet stain remover and deodoriser (enzyme cleaners work well) for getting rid of marks or stains. So, it’s pretty cheap.
It’s important to look at the guarantee or warranty on the number of years the grass is going to last. That way if the grass wears down or your dog digs through it, you either get the grass replaced or you know how many years it will be until you have to pay to rip up the old turf and lay new stuff.
Cost Summary – Real grass might cost you less than $100 to install presuming there is no soil modifying required, and a few hundred dollars a year to maintain for water and fertiliser. Re-seeding is cheap.
Artificial grass ranges from in the hundreds, to in the thousands of dollars to install depending on many factors like square meterage, quality of the turf, whether you pay for installation etc.
Artificial grass will need to be replaced at some point, where obviously you’ll need to pay to re-install. Most manufacturers offer somewhere between a 5 to 10 year warranty on wear and tear and sun damage. But, you’ll need to check this when you go to buy.
Real Grass vs Artificial Grass For Dogs – Cleaning, Maintenance and Care
For artificial grass, there are three main things you might do to keep the surface clean and maintain it:
- Pick-up solid waste of the surface once it’s dry
- Remove dirt, hair and other debris using a leaf blower, vacuum, extractor, or power broom
- Clean the surface – rinse, sanitize, and/or treat with bacterial enzymes formulated to remove and deodorise pet stains
Always follow the maintenance or care guidelines the artificial grass manufacturer provides you with.
For real grass, a good maintenance routine might involve fertilising and liming in the right seasons for both lawn food and soil care, watering, aerating, de-weeding, edge trimming and mowing.
Training and preventing your dog from peeing and pooping on the grass is a good way to keep the grass clean and free of burn marks and patches.
For both real grass and fake grass, you can get natural odor eliminators to temporarily mask or remove the smell of dog poop or urine once you picked it up or rinsed it off the surface
Cleaning, Maintenance and Care Summary – You’re probably looking at a few hundred dollars a year to maintain real grass for a standard size lawn. But, some people choose to not be too invested in maintenance and their grass costs them very little.
Artificial grass is only going to cost you money generally for some type of pet stain disinfectant, remover and deodoriser. It’s pretty cheap to clean and maintain.
Real Grass vs Artificial Grass For Dogs – Other Considerations
Other considerations with artificial and real grass are:
- Some (not all) pet turfs can heat up and get hot in the summer – check this before buying. Natural grass is always cool for your pet to lay on and walk on
- Synthetic pet turfs will usually drain pet urine via rubber drainage holes and/or aggregate into the soil. However, real grass has the advantage of natural microbes which naturally break down or feed on dog poop plus direct drainage of urine into the soil. Dog poop on artificial grass is just going to sit there until cleaned up
- Some artificial grasses are quite good with no marks or no stains – they only need poop to be picked up regularly like real grass
- Real grass of course is susceptible to nitrogen and salt burns that are found in your dog’s urine – this will sometimes result in yellow or brown dead grass patches on your lawn
- Different fake grasses have different qualities, designs, and warranties/guarantees. Check exactly the design of the turf and what the length and conditions are on the wear/fade/tear resistance and replacement (get this in writing if possible). Professionally laid and guaranteed artificial grass will cost more but is usually the best for drainage, cleaning, durability and smell. You may also be able to pick up some higher quality supply only artificial grass, but be careful to read other customer feedback first
- High quality fake grass usually doesn’t have issues with smelling as it drains well and a regular cleaning/washing of the surface removes any surface odors
- Fake grass designs usually consist of the fake grass with an anti microbial treatment, mesh holding the turf together, rubber backing with drainage holes, aggregate and soil below the turf for drainage, and a combination of stainless steel staples and backing boards for fixing.
- Real grass may have garden specific issues like water drainage/irrigation, soil imbalances or pest/weed diseases you have to deal with.
- Make sure any artificial or synthetic grass you buy is designed for dogs and pets
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