by EcoWellDog– The Natural Leaders in Problem Solving Grooming & Wellness.
Have you ever watched your dog sniff around in the park, and then suddenly lift his leg to pee somewhere? This is scent marking and is a normal form of communication between dogs. Dogs have many more scent receptors than people, so are much more sensitive to smells than we are. Dog urine contains pheromones and other unique chemical markers. So when your dog sniffs the urine of other dogs, these chemicals allow him to receive information about the dog that left the mark – in particular, their sex and reproductive status. And when he ‘urine marks’ in response, he is leaving his own unique signature at that spot. Think of it as e-mail for dogs= P-Mail!
Although all dogs can urine mark, it’s certainly more common for intact dogs to do this – those that have not been spayed or neutered. And certainly in the case of females, they are more likely to scent mark around the time when they are in heat. Urine marking tends to be a behavior that develops by about the age of 2 years, although some dogs may begin marking as young as a few months old. The best way to reduce the likelihood of a male dog becoming a urine marker is to have him neutered at a young age, before he develops territorial behavior.
Why Might A Dog Mark His Territory?
- A new dog on the block: Your dog may scent mark when he comes across a new dog in his territory. He may do this when he sees a new dog (or even just their scent) in or near his home, or in his favorite park, for example.
- Excitement: Some dogs tend to be very particular about when they urine mark, and might only do it in response to certain situations that arouse them in some way. Some males only mark in response to other males, and some only in response to females.
- Anxiety: Dogs can urine mark when they are experiencing emotional stress too. Maybe a new pet has joined or left the family, or a new baby has arrived. Some dogs can be very unsettled by change, and even events like moving house can be stressful for them, especially when boxes are being packed, or different people are wandering in and out of the house on moving day.
Should I Worry If My Dog Starts Urine Marking Inside the House?
Typically, scent marking tend to be an outdoor activity (although occasionally some dogs can become extremely territorial!), so if your dog starts urinating in the house, it’s certainly wise to rule out any underlying issues:
- Urinary infection: Dogs with urinary infections may urinate inside – typically there may be a “little and often” pattern to the urination. He may also show other cues, such as discomfort when urinating, or he may be off his food.
- Not house trained: If you have recently acquired a new puppy or young dog, and he is urinating inside, consider a lack of house training as a reason.
- Separation Anxiety: If you notice that your dog only urinates inside when left alone, this could be a sign of separation anxiety. You should especially consider this condition if he seems anxious before you leave the house, or is excessively clingy when you return. And especially if he destroys things in your absence too.
Overall though, urine marking outdoors is nothing to be concerned about – most of the time it’s just your dog’s way of communicating his boundaries with his four-legged friends in the neighborhood. It’s his trademark signature, reminding other dogs how “trespassers will be prosecuted”!