Why Does My Dog Mark Everything?

Posted on by Jayme Dukart

Urine marking, also known as territorial marking, is a normal, instinctive dog behavior that is most commonly seen in males, but also sometimes in females. Dogs get a lot of information from urine scent, and just as humans react to sight according to past experiences, a dog’s reaction to particular scents is heavily influenced by the dog’s experiences.

In nature, urine marking helps to provide boundary signs for a pack, as well as help males and females find each other at mating time. Only the leader of the pack is allowed to urine mark on the boundaries and den areas of his territory. Male urine contains pheromones, which are natural chemicals that can be detected by other dogs and will direct them to alter their behavior. A plausible example of this would be a male dog that comes into contact with a tree that has the smell of another male dog that he had lost a fight with earlier that week. Based on this experience, he may decide to change his route to avoid coming into contact with that particular dog again. While this type of behavior may not be the same for every dog and every scenario, it’s an example of a way that pheromones in urine could alter behavior of other dogs.

Dogs will often attempt to cover over the urine marks (smells) of other dogs with their own urine, which can sometimes result in some fairly comical maneuvers as a smaller dog tries to over-mark a larger dog’s scent. (The concept of a “doggie handstand” comes to mind).

And if you wonder why your dog lifts his leg to urine mark on a vertical surface instead of just urinating on the ground, this is because by lifting the leg to urinate, the dog is able to spray his urine higher, where other dogs are more likely to notice it and a breeze can more easily spread the smell. Although not proven, some people speculate that by leaving a scent higher up on a vertical surface, the dog will make himself seem bigger to the other dogs that come along, possibly deterring them from traveling the same path. 

Once a dog is spayed or neutered, their urge to urine mark is greatly reduced. They may still mark from time to time, but it should become much less frequent.

For more info on common dog behaviors, read the other posts in our Why Does My Dog…? blog series.

About Jayme Dukart

Jayme Dukart is on Banfield's Medical Quality Advancement Team at Central Team Support in Portland, OR. View all posts by Jayme Dukart →


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