The 5 Best Grass Types for Shade and Dogs (All Climates)

Choosing the right type of grass is even more important than usual if your lawn is used by dogs and doesn’t receive much sun. Depending on where you live, there are several options available to you.

If your lawn doesn’t receive a lot of sunlight and you’re a dog owner living in the southern United States, you should use the following warm-season grasses: zoysia or centipede. For colder, northern climates, it’s best to use the following cool-season grasses: fescue, perennial ryegrass, or Kentucky bluegrass.

Unfortunately, there is no one type of grass that is perfect for both shade and dogs. So, in order to keep your lawn strong and healthy, I’ve included a list of maintenance tips at the end of this article.

Best Warm-Season Grass

Warm-season grasses are better at coping with dogs running around, laying, and roughhousing on them. These grasses can also repair themselves faster than cold-weather grasses.

Warm-weather grasses tend to grow with stolons and rhizomes, also known as runners. This means that warm-weather grasses are efficient at filling in areas discolored and damaged by urine.

Zoysia and centipede are warm-weather grasses that flourish in the summer, fall, and spring but go dormant in the winter. These grasses enjoy full sunlight but will still grow well in partial shade.


The zoysia takes up to four years to mature, but the end product is a dense, soft, and strong lawn that is perfect for pet play. The thick leaves are resilient to the rough play styles that dogs enjoy, and the roots cope well with drought.

Zoysia is a flexible grass that will grow in either full or partial shade, and you do not need to water it as often as some other species. Dog urine will turn the grass yellow or brown, but it will not kill it if you help the grass by hosing down the area.

  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade (3 hours)
  • Soil Needs: Mild acidity to neutral, clay
  • USDA Growing Zones: 5-11

Centipede (Eremochloa ophiuroides)

Centipede grass is one of the stronger warm-weather varieties and copes well in sandy soils with low nitrogen levels. Ideal conditions include moderate sunlight and soil acidity, so a dog’s urine is within acceptable growing limits.

Though centipede grass performs well in hot conditions, it needs around an inch of water a week to flourish. Watering will also help disperse dogs’ urine that tends to pool around and beneath their favorite turf spots.

  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade (3 hours)
  • Soil Needs: Moderate acidity 5-6 pH, sandy
  • USDA Growing Zones: 7-10

Best Cold-Season Grass

Hot weather grass is often better at growing in arid and high acidity soils with low foot traffic. Though, cold-weather grasses are thicker and cope better with activities and the shade.

Cold-weather grasses are also less likely to go into dormancy during the cold and dark winter months. But cold season grass is not good with extended droughts.

Some types of cold-season grass are better at growing under the chaos of constant foot and pet traffic than others. Its shorter bunch-type root systems mean this grass can manage dog urine with regular rainfall or watering.


Tall fescue is a favorite grass for its resilience to all types of harsh conditions, including heavy foot traffic and active pets. The fescue endures heat, shade, and a lack of water for short periods but prefers regular watering with moderate sunlight.

The bunch-type growth of the roots means that this grass is good at offering a thick coverage, though annual seeding is still needed to fill in bald patches. The fescue’s deep roots give it greater access to deep reserves of nutrients and water than other species that struggle in droughts.

  • Sun Exposure: Shade to partial sun (4 hours)
  • Soil Needs: Neutral 7 pH, clay with good drainage
  • USDA Growing Zones: 4-7

Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne)

This is a fine dark-green grass that prefers full sunlight but will accept short periods in the shade. Ryegrass is fast to germinate, but then it needs cool growing conditions and regular watering to prevent brown patches.

The roots are bunch-type, so if your dog’s urine or feces does scorch the grass, you will have to reseed the area. If you are quick, you can try to dilute your pet’s gifts before it causes fertilizer burn on the grass, which will turn it yellow.

  • Sun Exposure: Full sun (4-5 hours) to partial shade
  • Soil Needs: Acidic to neutral 6-7 pH, clay with drainage
  • USDA Growing Zones: 3-7

Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis)

Kentucky bluegrass is a fast-healing variety that grows back fast and thick from the damage of dog activities. Bluegrass is a cool-season grass that prefers neutral but nutrient-rich soils with good drainage and access to plenty of water.

This means that the bluegrass does not cope well with droughts and its shallow roots are quick to display the negative effects of hot weather. Despite being a more time-consuming grass to care for, the bluegrass produces some of the most vibrant greens in the family.

  • Sun Exposure: Full sun (3-6 hours) to partial shade
  • Soil Needs: Acidic to neutral 6-7 pH, clay with drainage
  • USDA Growing Zones: 2-6

Tips for Maintaining Your Lawn

Though each of the above grasses has merits for pets, soil requirements, and growing zones, they each have different weaknesses. But, with a few habit changes, you can offer some level of protection to these grasses and give each one a fighting chance.

Walk the Dog for the Winter

Cold season grasses look after themselves during the winter months. These grasses continue to grow and repair themselves from damage done by dog activities. Warm-weather grasses will lay dormant, and any damage will continue to get worse.

Rather than letting your dog on a warm-season lawn, take the dog out for walks until the spring comes around. Then give your grass two to three months to come out of dormancy and build back its immunity.

Trim the Shade

Most grasses will tolerate some level of shade, but this lack of sunlight may prove too much in the short days of the winter. You can help your grass survive by clipping plants, pruning back tree branches, and clearing away fallen leaves.

You should aim to give your grass at least five hours in full sunlight in the winter to prevent it from going dormant.

Hose Down

After a long summer, you should have a good idea of where your dog prefers to urinate and defecate. Even if you do not see your pet using the area, it is worth rinsing their favorite spot off with a hose to dilute the fertilizer burn effects of pee and mess.

Replant and Resow

Treat the winter months as an opportunity to repair bald patches on the turf with new seeds. You may want to consider digging up old grass damaged by dog urine or excessive shade and planting new sod.

Replanting and resowing will keep your grass looking green and prevent diseases from spreading across your lawn.

Joshua Milton

I want to share everything I know about home improvement in order to help you. Whether you're a home enthusiast or an industry professional, I have the information that you need.

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