Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How to Save a Tree from Dog Urine: 10 Effective Methods

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

dog peeing on tree at the park

If you’ve ever gone for a walk and seen trees with the lower bark peeled off or disfigured, this might be damage done by dogs who are urinating. It may seem harmless, but dog urine can damage a tree’s bark, the underlying cambium tissue, and even the roots from a buildup of salt, ammonia, and nitrogen.

If this is a concerning problem for you, read on for ways to keep your trees healthy and protect them from dogs when nature calls.

Divider 8

The 10 Methods for Saving a Tree from Dog Urine

1. Tree Guard

A simple, popular option that resembles the design of a Christmas tree skirt. The tree guard wraps around the trunk and flares towards the bottom to prevent a dog from getting close enough to cock a leg.

It has a mesh or fence-like design that allows sun and water in while keeping the dog out. This is a very effective solution that is easy to put in place and doesn’t need constant maintenance. You can buy one here, or if you’re handy, you can build a protective fence.

2. Dog Rocks

As bizarre as it may sound, some people swear by putting special, all-natural dog rocks in their dog’s water. The idea is that the paramagnetic igneous rocks purify the water and, therefore, the dog’s urine, removing some of the harmful nitrogen that causes so much tree damage.

This is a more controversial method due to mixed opinions on its effectiveness. As pointed out here, the nitrogen in a dog’s urine may very well come from a high-protein diet, not from the water, rendering the dog rocks useless. However, since reviews are mixed, it is worth considering.

3. Dog Repellent

Bonide Go Away Rabbit, Dog, Cat Repellent

Using a dog repellent is another simple remedy. One of the most popular kinds comes in pellet form that you sprinkle around the tree. With natural ingredients like cinnamon and thyme oil, the repellent won’t harm the tree, grass, or animals. Dogs hate the smell of vinegar, so you can also try dipping cotton balls in vinegar and putting them around the tree. The only drawback is that vinegar can be harmful to grass, and the cotton balls could blow away.

If you have a larger area you’re trying to protect, you can try spraying a simple mixture of one part vinegar and one part water around the perimeter of the property. Again, use caution so it doesn’t kill your grass and plants.

4. Motion-Sensor Water Sprayer

COSTWAY Scarecrow Motion Activated Animal Repellent

Dogs hate getting sprayed with water. You could stand guard with a hose (not very fun!), or you could try setting up a water sprayer that will automatically spray the dog if they get too close.

Since the sprayer has relatively low water pressure, there is no danger of injury to the dog. But the shock of unexpected water will make them stop and rethink their destination. Let a water sprayer keep watch, so you don’t have to.

5. Chemical Treatment Signs


Signs? For dogs? No, the dogs won’t read the signs, but hopefully, their owners will. While on their daily walk, a well-placed sign can discourage people from letting their pets go on your trees.

While many people can justify letting their dogs “water” the trees by thinking it won’t do any harm, they will think twice about something that could potentially harm their pets. A little harmless deception can be useful in protecting a beautiful part of nature.

6. Potty Training

Schnauzer puppy peed on the potty training pad
Image By: Maximilian100, Shutterstock

If you have a younger dog, you can train it to pee in a safer place than your tree. Take them out on a leash, and if they heady for the tree, gently direct them away to a suitable place. After they are done, give them a treat as a reward. If you repeat this every day for a few weeks, your dog will learn that there is a “good” place to relieve themself. The treats will make them want to go to the proper place instead of the tree.

Laying a good foundation of habits can go a long way towards keeping your trees healthy and strong.

7. Tree Bath

Using hose to water the grass
Image By: creative2usa, Pixabay

It may seem a little silly to bathe a tree, but it’s an effective way to prevent a dangerous buildup of ammonia and nitrogen. Even though a tree’s bark seems tough and even impenetrable, urine can seep through and cause massive damage.

By hosing down the tree, you can rinse off the urine and dilute the nitrogen concentration that is so harmful. The water will also dilute the salt in the urine that builds up on the soil and prevents rain from going down to the roots.

Although easy and basic, this method depends on your ability to monitor the area. Unless you can keep a constant watch on your tree, baths are an unreliable solution.

8. Mulch

dalmatian on mulch
Image By: Joseph Thomas Photography, Shutterstock

Putting mulch around the base of your tree can be an effective option, but make sure it’s the right kind. Instead of getting the pretty, aromatic wood chips, get mulch that is made with prickly pieces of bushes and trees. A dog will be less likely to get up close to the tree if it’s painful to walk there.

Regular mulch can potentially help since the dog’s urine will theoretically soak into the mulch instead of the soil and roots. However, you would have to replace it regularly to make sure that the urine doesn’t eventually find its way through to the tree.

9. Prickly Bushes

Prickly bushes surrounding a tree
Image Credit: fietzfotos, Pixabay

Based on the same concept of the mulch, if you plant a barrier of sharp, prickly bushes around your tree, a dog is much less likely to get up next to the tree. They just want to urinate, not run the gauntlet.

Here are a few prickly bushes that should work well:
  • Hawthorne
  • Wild rose
  • Southern blackberry
  • Oregon grape holly

If you have a green thumb, you can add to the landscape of your yard and keep your trees healthy at the same time.

10. Plants That Repel Dogs

Image By: Bishnu Sarangi, Pixabay

If you don’t want to deal with prickly bushes, there are plants that dogs hate to smell. Once they get a whiff, they will head in the other direction. Try planting some around your trees, and you will have a lovely way to send your dog somewhere else to take care of their needs.

Below are several different plants you can use:
  • Lemongrass
  • Citronella
  • Marigolds
  • Curry plant
  • Hot pepper plants

Take advantage of your dog’s keen sense of smell and use it in your tree’s best interest.

Divider 5


Even though it’s instinctive for dogs to urinate on trees, the trees can suffer permanent damage because of it. Fortunately, there are many ways to protect your trees and encourage dogs to go elsewhere.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and once a habit is established, it can be difficult to change. Depending on your situation and budget, you will have to see what works for you. Oftentimes, a combination of methods works best.

Whether it’s training, a physical barrier, or a repugnant scent, it is possible to save your tree from a dog’s pee. All you need is some ingenuity, and you will be able to enjoy your trees for years to come.

Featured Image Credit: pcdazero, Pixabay

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database