What to Look for in Artificial Grass for Dogs
The downside of artificial grass is that they are mostly made from interwoven synthetic plastics and rubber, which are made from fossil fuels and prevents them from being reasonable to recycle. Near the end of the grass’s life, you could find ways to repurpose it or give it to others who will. Otherwise, the landfill will be its final destination, so be sure you’re committed to the idea before undertaking a large area.
There are also environmental benefits to artificial turf over the perfect natural lawn. Artificial turf does not require watering, fertilizer, or pesticides to control weeds or insects.
Some services and retailers claim that their turf is eco-friendly and sustainable. But you have to look closer to know for sure. Polyethylene, a common plastic used in turf yarn, can be considered sustainably made when the ethanol used to synthesize it comes from the fermentation of sugar extracted from corn or beets. Polyethylene made in this way is considered a “bioplastic” and degrades much faster—within a few months to a few years—compared to several hundred to several thousand years or more for other plastics. But the manufacturing process still consumes energy.
Since interwoven products are no longer recyclable or biodegradable, when mixed with other materials, the product might be better described as more eco-friendly than other products.
Materials & Durability
Because most artificial grasses are made of a combination of plastic and rubber, you want them to be durable and last, so you’re not creating a lot of waste for the landfill.
The yarn, or grass part of your turf, is made of either a single plastic or a combination of the plastics polyethylene, polypropylene, and nylon. Nylon is the most expensive and durable yarn material, but it’s not soft and is not commonly used for pet greens. Select products whose grass filaments are UV- and fade-resistant, that customers confirm are durable, and that come with a quality warranty. Those that use multiple colors of yarn tend to look more like a true lawn. The most realistic-looking grasses include a thatch yarn in a different color, weight, or texture meant to mimic the inconsistencies of natural grass. It often makes sense to spend a little more on a quality product rather than buying a less expensive product you’ll have to replace often.
Pile thickness, or grass height, is somewhat of a matter of preference, although a thicker pile will likely hold up better for larger dogs.
The density of the yarn (also called stitch count) is the number of blades per square inch. A denser stitch count usually signifies a higher-quality, more durable turf that looks more like a real lawn.
You might also see the term “face weight,” which refers to how many ounces of material per square yard a type of turf has. Heavier face weights generally indicate better quality and more durability, but face weight does not include the weight of the backing material.
Most turf has a two-part backing. The primary backing is often made of woven polypropylene fabric, also called a grid, that allows the artificial grass yarn fibers to be tufted into the material in rows. The best backing will resist stretching.
The secondary backing is often a rubber coating applied to the reverse side of the primary backing in order to permanently lock the tufted fibers permanently in place. Together, the primary and secondary backing make up the back weight. Higher quality back weights are above about 26 ounces. Opt for higher back weights for high-traffic areas.
Unless you’re buying a small patch of grass in a catchment tray, grasses installed for pet use should have a fully permeable backing with drainage holes that allow pet urine to pass through. Without them, urine will sit in the turf, trapping odors and leaving moisture near the surface for your dog to track into your home.
If you’ll be installing the grass yourself, be sure to research the manufacturers’ installation instructions before you buy. Some require more preparation of the ground surface, or sub-base, than others. Your artificial grass will look better and last longer if you properly prepare the sub-base—often a layer of compacted sand, crushed granite, river rocks, and gravel beneath the artificial grass that allows for optimal drainage and support.
Consider what associated materials will be needed for installation and include them in your cost evaluation. Thoroughly measure and plan so you buy enough square footage and determine whether the brand you choose sells artificial grass in rolls that will suit your space. Some require seam tape for connecting multiple strips of artificial turf, or you can buy interlocking sections.
Some artificial grasses don’t require infill so consider this factor before committing since it will have an additional cost and labor. In turf that requires infill, choosing the right one will keep your artificial turf in top shape and help with longevity. Artificial grass designed for use with infill will become flat and matted if you skip the infill.
Infill helps keep fibers upright, acting as a stabilizer to prevent the turf from moving, and they can also make the grass look and feel more realistic. Some help keep the turf cooler in hot weather, while others that are black or other dark colors will heat up the turf, so consider those recommended for your climate when selecting an infill.
Infills also cushion your dog’s paws and protect the backing from sun damage. A wide variety of infill materials are available, including silica sand and black crumb rubber. For pet surfaces, choose brands with antimicrobial, anti-odor, or cooling properties.
Why Trust the Spruce Pets?
The Spruce Pets exhaustively researches and recommends a broad range of products. We also tap a network of experts and testers to help you make smarter purchases.
This piece was written by Lorraine Wilde, who has had at least two dog companions in her home for the past 35 years. When researching these brands, she evaluated the type and quality of the materials, the company’s research and development of the grass, and their business ethics. She has only the highest standards for pet products in your home. She holds a master’s degree in environmental science with an emphasis on toxicology.
Kate Perry is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and a certified dog trainer with the Animal Behavior College, where she also works as a mentor-trainer, teaching students how to become trainers in their own right. She is the author of the best-selling guide, “Training for Both Ends of the Leash,” and was rated “New York’s Best Dog Trainer” by New York Magazine. Her philosophy and methodology, which have been approved by numerous veterinarians, centers on the use of positive reinforcement.