While perusing doggie daycare facilities I’m sure you have noticed some very bright green “grass” (well…if there were outdoor play areas). Upon further inspection you may probably would have noticed that this wasn’t actually grass, but a synthetic grass turf, like they use in football or soccer fields.
It makes sense for use on a football field, where lots of feet, with cleats, are kicking, running and pushing off of small areas repeatedly and often.
If you think about the area you saw this turf in at a doggie daycare, you could probably say the same thing. Lots of feet, kicking, running and pushing off of a small area repeatedly and often.
Here enters our first problem. Too little room.
We know that dogs have a natural gait, and instinctively need to experience that feeling of running. When the area they have to play is too small, you can start to see behaviors like those of animals found in zoos, including pacing behavior, around and around the enclosure. On real grass, this wears away the grass and makes patches of bare earth, rock, or mud. This is not a problem on artificial turf — but it doesn’t have to be a problem on grass, either. Here at Doglando we are lucky enough to have 3.5 acres of space for our dogs to open up and play. Which means we have tons of grass, but because we have so much space no one area gets over utilized and becomes bare.
Sanitation is the next problem. Artificial grass is basically a plastic carpet. Based on the investment made when the turf was installed, there could be sand, rubber pieces or layers of a mixture of both under the turf. There could also be nothing but concrete underneath it. Sellers say artificial turf is easy to clean, but, when the plastic “grass” is sprayed down, whether with water or chemicals, liquids can pool under the carpet before draining or evaporating. Urine and feces can do the same thing, and pool under the carpet, which can lead to foul odors among other things, no matter how often you clean the turf. With natural grass, of course, there are still cleanup requirements, but the urine will be absorbed into the ground and broken down naturally.
Injuries: Again, based on what substrate was installed under the turf, injuries could be another consideration. While there are no studies done on doggy daycares with synthetic turf (though there should be!) there are studies on professional sports players who use it. Scrapes and abrasions are much more common in artificial turf, as are ACL injuries.* Imagine running to go down a slip and slide when you were a kid only to find after jumping the mat wasn’t soapy.. or wet. Natural grass can also get slippery, but it doesn’t have sharp edges like artificial turf.
Heat: Boy does it get hot here in Florida! Imagine being outside in the sun barefoot in the cool grass. Then imagine going to the beach on a summer day and having to walk from your blanket to the water barefoot. Now imagine standing on a plastic carpet that has been cooking all day. The temperature difference is astounding.**
Even our US Olympic soccer players don’t want to play on artificial turf, where every slide they make causes turf burns.*** Compare that to our dogs who like to run, jump and roll in the grass and may take the occasional wipe out.
When picking out the best place for your dog to play, remember to think of the world through your dog’s eyes. Even something as innocuous as synthetic grass should be considered. Even though artificial turf seems like a great idea for us, when looked at from a dog’s perspective it might not be such a good thing.