Behavior Mod.

Why Dogs Mark their Territory

Ever wondered why your usually very housebroken dog will sometimes lift his leg and urinate in inappropriate places? It’s quite likely that he’s not having an accident in the house, but he’s probably marking his territory. Why do dogs mark their territory? There are a number of reasons dogs do this natural behavior. This article by the Humane Society of the United States explains.

Why Dogs Mark their Territory

Much like the miners during the Gold Rush, dogs are territorial animals. They “stake a claim” to a particular space, area, or object by marking it, using a variety of methods at different levels of intensity.

For example, a dog may bark to drive away what he perceives to be intruders in his territory. Some dogs may go to the extreme of urinating or defecating on something to say “mine!.”

Pets aren’t people

Dogs don’t urinate or defecate out of spite or jealousy. If your dog urinates on your baby’s diaper bag, it’s not because he is jealous of, or dislikes, your baby. The unfamiliar scents and sounds of a new baby in the home are stressing him out a bit and he feels the need to reaffirm his claim on his territory.

Likewise, if your dog urinates on your new boyfriend’s backpack, it doesn’t reflect his opinion of your taste in men. Instead, he has perceived the presence of an “intruder,” and is letting the intruder know this territory belongs to him.

Urine-marking is not house soiling

House soiling is when your dog empties his bladder or his bowels inside the house. There are a few reasons he may do this.

  • He’s not housebroken.
  • He has a medical issue.
  • He’s terrified and has lost control of his bladder and/or bowels.

Urine-marking, on the other hand, is a territorial behavior. Your dog feels the need to assert his dominance or ease his anxiety by laying out his boundaries. He does this by depositing small amounts of urine on anything he feels belongs to him—the furniture, the walls, your socks, etc.

Urine-marking is most often associated with male dogs, but females may do it, too. Leg-lifting is the primary way of marking, but even if your pet doesn’t lift his leg, he may still be marking.

The amount of urine is small and is found primarily on vertical surfaces, but dogs do sometimes mark on horizontal surfaces.

Reasons for urine-marking

  • Your dog isn’t spayed or neutered. Unneutered dogs are much more assertive and prone to marking than neutered ones.
  • There’s a new pet in the household.
  • Another pet in your home is not spayed or neutered. Even spayed or neutered animals may mark in response to other intact animals in the home.
  • Your dog has conflicts with other animals in your home. When there’s instability in the pack dynamics, a dog may feel a need to establish his place by marking his territory.
  • There’s someone new in the house (spouse, baby, roommate); your dog puts his scent on that person’s belongings as a way of proclaiming that the house is his.
  • There are new objects in the environment (a shopping bag, a visitor’s purse) that have unfamiliar smells or another animal’s scent.
  • Your dog has contact with other animals outside your home. If your pet sees another animal through a door or window, he may feel a need to mark his territory.

Now that you know why your dog is marking his territory, you’ll be glad to know he can also be trained not to do it. See this article from The Humane Society of the United States to read more. Do you have any experience with this topic? Share your comments below!

Photo of “Jeffrey” courtesy of www.k9closet.com.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. annette delgau

    Oct 9, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    My twinkles chia and Jack Russel and Healer????? Mix Goes whenever My great Grand daughter comes to visit. She has even peed on my lap. She is fine with older kids but not with little kids and other dogs

    .

    • Annette woods

      Oct 9, 2013 at 10:35 pm

      My coton de telear , he is 5 years old, pees on my tires every time we go outside, and when we go to the park, I notice he will pee on my tire before we go for our walk when he done walking he will lead me to the car, I notice he smells his way back to our car, again we have stray cats outside, I started feeding them, cubby doesn’t like them, he will chase them away, he will pee all around my tires, lol I guess to show the cats this is his home…

  2. Dee

    Oct 9, 2013 at 11:40 am

    After adopting a male Scottie 9yrs ago, he had been neutered late, upon bringing him home, he began picking up his leg on “everything”. But he has been the cutest pup w/a wonderful personality, I loved him enough so I researched his issue & added velcro pants. I initially thought, this won’t work he will get the pants off, however, altho’ he tried to get them off, he has become accustomed to wearing either peepee pants or even better a belly band, he actually acts like he enjoys wearing them. He’s also required to stay in the same room w/me which prevents him from marking because he’s never marked in front of me.

  3. Beth

    Oct 9, 2013 at 9:26 am

    I wonder why the bumper of this car is sitting on the ground?

  4. Kim

    Aug 8, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Great article! Very concise tips for owners confused about marking behaviors!

  5. Kay

    Aug 8, 2013 at 11:16 am

    I would like further information on the possibility of a medical condition when house-soiling. My two-year-old Maltese still poops upstairs or in my closet…even when he has access to the back yard. I am getting worried. His urine-marking has decreased significantly since he’s been neutered.

    • kel

      Oct 9, 2013 at 10:53 am

      Some ‘mark’ with poo. My brothers min pin does that to the kids room upstairs. He doesn’t have continual access to upstairs and when he gets it, he poops there.

      • Sybille Stahl

        Dec 30, 2014 at 12:11 pm

        Hey! My minpin too! He engages in this behaviour whenever my daughter comes by with her dog. Even poops and pees on the guest bed where she sleeps.

  6. Adoption Revolution

    Mar 5, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Interesting… especially since my 4 year old dog pooped in Anthropologie the other day. I was so shocked, I literally stood there with my mouth open…oy…

    Help me get some shelter dogs seen and adopted. Please “like” FB page https://www.facebook.com/AdoptionRevolution

  7. George Chase

    Mar 5, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Or he is just reading his “pee-mail” outside. I’ll notice my pug will sniff around where other dogs have, mark a bit and go on his way. I am told they can differentiate between many other dogs scents, and just saying “hi.”

    • Andi Lee

      May 20, 2013 at 8:27 pm

      Lol we call it “pet messaging” dog version of sending a text!

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