Brief background information: I'm in the military and on the east coast for training. My home is in San Diego, where my girlfriend and 2 dogs currently live. I will be there for 3 weeks before leaving for Iraq in November and I would like to fix my lawn while I am there. My front yard is fine, but the back yard (where the dogs stay when we are at work) needs help. It is approximately 6,000 sqft and is mostly dirt with patches of grass/weed. There is a large tree in the center of the property that gives about half of the yard shade most of the day. The rest of the yard is subject to sun all day long. We have tried overseeding with steady watering, but the water just puddles up and the seeds never take root. The dirt is fairly compact and have thought about aerating and trying overseeding again, but am wondering if it might be better to just till the whole yard and seed from scratch? I talked to a few people at lowes and home depot and they all suggested tilling in manure to help with the acidity of the soil... but mind you, I have 2 dogs that would undoubtedly track it inside. Also, I know that after I seed, I have to keep the dogs off the lawn until it has had a chance to take root. I have thought about zoysa grass, but the thought of planting 12,000 plugs is overwhelming. I have thought about fencing off half the yard, tilling and seeding. Then after two weeks (hoping it's enough time for the seed to germinate), fence off the other half and do the same thing. I've also thought about sod, but .50/sqft is $3000, and that's a bit out of my price range. Basically, I am out of ideas. Any advice on how to start a lawn from scratch in 3 weeks, while still allowing my dogs access to some of the back yard?