Why do they urine mark?
Urine marking is a territorial, social and sexual behaviour in dogs. They use urine as a powerful communication tool. From it, it is believed that dogs can determine important information such as species, gender, if a female dog is in season and much more.
Territorial marking is the main reason for urine marking in male dogs. We only have to look at our dog’s wild ancestors to understand this behaviour. As pack members, wild dogs and wolves lived within a well-delineated territory. This territory provided all the resources required to sustain a pack, including food and mating opportunities. Nowadays urine marking is the means by which dogs mark the boundary of their territory. This makes it clear to strangers that they have crossed a territorial boundary and, to avoid conflict, it would be a good idea to turn back.
Female dogs are also prone to urine marking, but to a lesser degree than males and usually for a different reason. As well as small amounts of testosterone, female dogs also excrete their own urinary (and vaginal) pheromone, parahydroxybenzoic acid. This chemical signals to other dogs how receptive they are to mating and it is at its strongest during a heat cycle.
Why do they urine mark in the house?
Urine marking is usually a result of stress and anxiety to some factor- or factors- within their household. Here are some of the most typical ones:
- Introduction of a new baby or unwelcome guest.
- The introduction of another dog or a dog staying with you.
- Your dog accesses areas of your house it does not usually have access to.
- Objects entering your house that have the scent of other dogs (e.g. clothing).
- An imbalance in the hierarchical status within the pack (e.g. where a dog thinks it is a good time to improve its rank within the pack, marking objects to show his possession of them).
How can I stop urine marking in the house?
Treatment for urine marking can depend on the source of the problem causing this behaviour. Corrective programs can range from dominance control and acclimation to desensitisation. Since this can be wide and varied, it is wise to seek professional advice so that the right corrective program can be established for your dog.
Some dogs have been seen to stop or reduce urine marking if they are castrated, particularly if this is done early on in their life. Depending on your views on castration, you might want to consider chemical castration as a means of advance testing if actual castration would be successful. This is something you should talk to your vet about.
Alternatively, here are a few hints and tips to help tackle urine marking in the house:
- Ensure any areas that your dog has urine marked are fully cleaned with an ammonia free cleaner (such as FomulaH Disinfectant and sprayed with an odour eliminator. Attempting to mask urine smell with scents and air fresheners will not be effective.
- Praise your dog when they urinate in the correct places (i.e. outside).
- Where possible, keep strange dogs away from your house.
- Dogs will often ‘urine mark’ over the marks of other dogs. Gwen Bohnenkamp (well known author) suggests one way to encourage marking outside, rather than inside, is to soak a few cotton buds with the urine from other dogs. Pin these buds to a post in your garden and praise your dog when he marks over them. And how do you get the soaked cotton buds? well, I’ll leave that one for you to resolve, but it really comes down to how serious the problem is and how keen you are to stop it !
- Unlike house training mistakes or submissive urination, your dog should be disciplined for urine marking. But this can only be done if you catch them in the act of doing it, not a few seconds later. Just as they are about to urine mark, startle them with a loud “NO, OUTSIDE!” and chase them outside. Continue watching them and the minute they mark outside praise them warmly.