Urine marking is a very common dog behavior. When a dog urine marks, they urinate only a small amount onto a surface, often with their leg raised. This can happen on walks, at the park, and even in the comfort of your own home or another person’s home — eek! Before we can talk about how to stop your dog from urine marking, let’s talk about why they do it.
5 Reasons Why Dogs Mark
Urine marking is a way for a dog to assert dominance and say, “Mine!” Here are 5 circumstances that increase a dog’s desire to claim objects and territory:
1. Intact Marking
Dogs that are not spayed or neutered are much more assertive and more prone to urine marking than dogs who have been fixed. Spaying or neutering your dog can greatly reduce their desire to urine mark, but it may not completely stop it.
2. In Response to the Unfamiliar
Many dogs urine mark after smelling a new dog (or a new dog’s urine) in their environment, be that your yard, your home, or a street you walk down regularly. Additionally, if a new pet or person enters your home, your dog may feel the need to mark their belongings (a purse, another pet’s bed, etc.) as a way to say, “I’m in charge here!” This goes for new objects, too. If you get a new couch, a dog prone to marking might lift a leg upon its arrival.
3. In Response to Anxiety
The unfamiliar can cause anxiety, as can situations that are classically stressful, such as visits to the vet, a move, or thunderstorms. Dogs who are marking as a result of anxiety often leave more urine behind than dogs who are marking for other reasons.
4. Social Marking
A dog may mark as a result of social triggers, such as excitement, over-stimulation, or arousal caused by a dog of the opposite sex. A dog may also mark in response to social conflicts with other animals in your home, whether they are permanent housemates or visitors. Marking allows your dog to assert their dominance in unstable group situations.
5. Medical Issues
RELATED STORY: 12 Things You Didn’t Know About Dog Psychology
7 Ways to Stop Urine Marking
So how can you prevent or stop urine marking? First, take your dog to the veterinarian to rule out any medical issues. If your vet says that everything is okay, use the following tips.
1. Spay or Neuter Your Dog
As mentioned above, spaying or neutering your dog can greatly reduce their desire to mark. If you spay or neuter your dog before they learn the marking behavior, you may never have to worry about it. However if you spay or neuter your dog after they’ve already started marking, it may be more difficult to break the habit. Ask your veterinarian to recommend the best time to fix your dog.
RELATED STORY: 5 Ways Dog Neutering Makes Your Pet Healthier
2. Clean Soiled Areas or Make Them Undesirable For Marking
If a dog has already marked an area of your home or yard, they’ll probably do it again. Use a cleaner specifically designed to eliminate the smell of urine. If you can’t remove the smell, remove your dog’s access to the area or change your dog’s association with the area by feeding or playing with them there.
3. Keep Items Your Dog Wants to Mark Out of Reach
If you know that your dog is prone to marking your visitors’ shoes or purses, put those items out of reach in a closet or cabinet.
4. Resolve Conflicts
If your dog is urine marking, it’s because they feel like they need to claim territory and assert their dominance; the feeling of needing to assert dominance is often the result of conflict. Make sure that all animals are getting along and that your dog is getting getting along with all human housemates, too. If disputes seem impossible to solve, then contact a trainer for help.
5. Catch Your Dog in The Act
If you catch your dog urine marking inside the house, move or carry them outside. When they urinate outside instead, reward them with a treat or toy. Don’t punish your dog if you find the marking after the fact; your dog won’t understand and may become afraid.
6. Treat Your Dog’s Anxiety
If your dog’s urine marking seems to be related to stress or anxiety, solve that issue first, and the urine marking may subside. Common treatments for anxiety include behavior modification and medication. Read more about treating anxiety.
7. Contact a Trainer or Animal Behaviorist
In some cases, you may not be able to tackle your dog’s marking issue on your own. A trainer or animal behaviorist can help you find the source of the problem and come up with a plan for correcting the behavior.
Does your dog urine mark? Leave a comment and let us know about your dog’s behavior. And sign up for PetPlus, a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, vet visits, boarding, and more.