I now have a 10 year old (female) Border Collie and a 15 month old (male) Belgian Tervuren. To say they are different is the understatement of the year.

When I had two BCs, I would exercise them in the 20+ acre field in the middle of the development I live in. They were so good and so obedient that there was never a problem with doing that. So, no yard tearing-up.

My BT is a dog of a different color. I thought Border Collies were intelligent and energetic; this BT makes them look like laid back bananna slugs.

Because he had/has issues, I cannot exercise him anywhere but in my back yard. Walking him is out of the question, and they (both BC and BT) need and want more strenuous exercise than a long walk or two. So, I chuck balls for them in the yard several times per day.

My BC is fine. But my Belgian Terv thinks he's Lou Gehrig or something. He doesn't just catch a ball; he charges at it and slides (honestly) like he's running for home base. Every time. Low ball, high ball, ground ball, whatever, it's the same. And the lawn in a disaster; we all come in with terribly muddy feet. (Well. my BC and I have muddy feet. He's muddy from the belly to the tip of his toes.)

The ground doesn't reliably freeze/stay frozed where I live, so waiting for it to freeze isn't the answer.

His claws are kept short. He is exercised until he's so tired, he doesn't want to go for the ball anymore, or he's getting too hot (he'll walk up to a kiddie pool of ice water, wade in and stand there cooling off.) But every time he does go for a ball, he does it with his entire being!

My dear boy doesn't do well with negative reinforcement. I wouldn't know how to do that for ball catching anyway.

Any good ideas on how to get Max/Lou Gehrig to not tear up my lawn?

I do do a lot of indoor exercises with them both, and he doesn't tear up my carpets, thankfully. But it isn't nearly enough to tire him out for more than 5 minutes. We do a lot of mentally challenging things as well. But he loves him his yard.

Edited for update:

I did what Yvette suggested and put down two layers of plastic mesh (the green, open one in her examples) on the worst areas of the yard. Max quickly caught on that it was more comfortable for him to slow down when he got to the mesh. It worked wonderfully! Thank you, @Yevette Colomb!

  • Wow this is a tough one. Why can't you take him to the 20 acre field? Is there a fenced off leash dog park or will that cause more issues?
    – user6796
    Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 2:52
  • 1
    @YvetteColomb - He doesn't obey enough to be taken to the field. He also doesn't do well with other dogs at all, even subservient ones. :( Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 3:52
  • I'll have to give this some thought. My first instincts were putting something down on the ground, but I'd have to give this careful consideration. So the yard that's being destroyed is essentially lawn? How big is the area? One other option is using a portable electric fencing in a large acreage. But that may not be viable for you.
    – user6796
    Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 3:54
  • 1
    Those are good suggestions, @YvetteColomb. I put down some wire mesh on part of the lawn, but Max jumps over the meshed area every time (it's quite impressive!) He will not step on it. As to electric fencing, it's not my property. :( My yard is about 110 by 55 feet. Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 3:57
  • I'm always managing paddocks, for the same reason- except with horses. I use crusher dust and blue metal. That's not good for the dogs. It would be ok in areas, and would actually serve to keep their nails trim, But it's not something I'd like to see him sliding into. Let me write up an answer with some suggestions.
    – user6796
    Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 4:02

1 Answer 1


I'm faced with this issue constantly with horses. They have an incredible wear and tear on the areas they frequent (usually where they're hand fed). It requires a degree of dedication to keep grass looking good when faced with high wear and tear. The most useful way of preserving lawn is to rest it.

I've offered a few suggestions here, that can be mixed up.

Resting the grass

I'd recommend splitting part of the yard (farthest from the house) as suggested in the diagram. Creating Area 1 and Area 2, that can be rotated for ball catching play. It's not vital to keep them out of the resting area at all times, but at play time. So the only secure fence you need is between the areas, as you can simply toss the ball into the area being used.

With horses it's a good idea to rest paddocks for 6 weeks. I'd recommend trial and error with the dogs. You may find one week on and off stops the lawn from being too damaged. As it sounds like there is already a bit of damage, you could even try 3 areas to rotate until it's repaired.

enter image description here

As such I've recommended a cheap and easy fencing type to separate the areas and another temporary fence that can be used to fence off the resting areas.

Using star pickets, star pickets caps (for safety against injury) and dog wire. You can always grow a vine on it (it is survives).

You can use electric fence Poly Tread in Posts for the temporary fence, with polytape strands to fence off the resting area (without it being electrified!) to cordon off the resting area. You can also use an electric fence to fence off the resting are, but these means tolerating watching the dogs get shocked. They soon learn. A type of electric fencing that would be useful is the one suggested or poultry netting. It depends how vigorously you want to rest that area.

star pickets
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star pickets caps
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dog wire
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Poly Tread in Posts
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poultry netting
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You could also lay down mesh over the grass - plastic not wire (so paws are not hurt). There's two types. One that would allow grass to grow - a shade cloth type. One that wouldn't.

Plastic mesh that would allow grass to grow.
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Mesh that will stop grass from growing.

enter image description here

Crusher Dust or gravel

Another thing you could do is put crusher dust or some time of fine gravel onto the high wear areas. Though this may wear on the dog's paws. Grass can still grow up through it, but generally there won't be a lawn there. I use it for my horse paddocks where there's mud problems and wear. It packs down nicely.

Before crusher dust:
enter image description here
After crusher dust: enter image description hereenter image description here

Artificial grass

If push comes to shove you could use artificial grass in a designated area you throw the ball.

It may be you only need these fixes while he is young. Once he matures, you may find the acreage is an option.

  • 2
    Thanks for this thorough answer! And yes, my yard looks a bit (well, a lot) like that paddock before crusher dust! My home is part of an HOA which would restrict me from using some of these suggestions, but the crusher dust for the worst areas is a great idea. Yes, it would wear Max's feet, but he's soon learn to slow down on the stuff. I've tried netting (it's actually deer fencing, 700 lb.) but that doesn't do anything. I can try a smaller grid that's stiffer and heavier. Thanks!!! :) Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 10:32
  • @anongoodnurse let me know how you get on. The plastic mesh - with the holes in it, is also probably a good idea. It will help stop him from chewing it up. You could use tent pegs to hold it in place. You can get tent pegs of all different sizes. Although he will wreck it and it will need updating, it may help the lawn.
    – user6796
    Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 10:33

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