The Plant Select program in Colorado, where environmental conditions are challenging and dog ownership is high, is marketing a dog-friendly bluegrass alternative named Dog Tuff™. Cynodon hybrida Dog Tuff™, to be precise, it’s an African native commonly called African dogtooth grass, and it was “discovered” about 30 years ago by noted plantsmen Panayoti Kelaidis and Jim Borland on a plant collecting trip in southeastern Colorado. They spotted it in a yard and asked the resident, who explained that his daughter, who had served in the Peace Corps in Lesotho, had brought back a sample. Planted in her dad’s yard, the grass became an enticing lawn.
Research really began with horticulturist Kelly Grummons, who experimented with a few tufts for another purpose, gave up and tossed it in a compost pile. The following spring, he noticed “this green velvet growing in the compost, and as I was turning the compost, I realized it was that grass,” he explains.
Grummons decided to try it on his own property, and “over the years, it worked its way down my hardpan gravel driveway. That’s where it really started to flourish: it loves growing in that hard-packed gravel,” he says.
Propagation and trialing followed, and over the past 20 years or so, the sterile hybrid has proved to be truly dog tough. Grummons planted it in his yard in Fort Collins, where it was subjected to the antics of up to five dogs. The tufted grass withstood the canine treatment, and soon Grummons noticed that the No. 1 complaint of dog owners just wasn’t evident.
“There were virtually no pee spots at all,” he says. “We had a lot of wear and tear along the front fence — where the mailbox and the garbage bins are — that would very quickly heal. As soon as spring and summer arrived, it’d grow back in and it was amazingly hardy.”
Aside from being truly friendly to dogs, Grummons says that the grass needs only about 10 percent of the supplemental water required by other turf selections. “Just like any other grass, it takes water to get it established,” Grummons explains. “And then tremendously less mowing; I only mow a few times in July and August, and you can choose not to mow it if you don’t mind that mossy, moundy look.”
Full sun is a necessity; it won’t tolerate shade. It’s hardy to Zone 5.
For more information about Dog Tuff™ grass, check out Plant Select’s You Tube video below featuring Grummons.