Urine Marking in Dogs

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on March 07, 2023
4 min read

Both male and female dogs urine mark. Urine marking can happen when dogs are on walks, while at home, and visiting new locations. 

Dogs can begin urine marking at three months old. Some dogs urinate on objects while raising a leg to leave a message to other dogs. Other times, dogs may urine mark for medical or other reasons. 

You should consult a veterinarian before treating a dog for urine marking. Dogs typically urine mark for specific reasons, such as:

Reproductively intact dog. Unneutered males and unspayed females are more likely to urine mark.

Female dogs’ marking occurs slightly before and while they’re in heat. The behavior is not typical for neutered or spayed dogs. 

Environmental changes. If a new dog appears, the resident dogs may urine mark to indicate their territory.

A dog’s environment comprises the home, route taken while on walks, the yards visited, familiar locations, and parks. When your dog’s environment changes, they might feel the need to mark their territory.

Social stimulation. Some male dogs urine mark when they encounter females.

Other dogs urine mark when they come close to homes other dogs visit. Some social situations, such as a rival dog nearby, can cause a dog to become overstimulated, resulting in urine marking.

Anxiety. When dogs become anxious, they may deposit more urine than dogs marking for a different purpose. Some things that can trigger a dog’s anxiety are: 

  • Conflict between a dog and people
  • Loud noises
  • New people in the home
  • A person leaving the dog’s home

Urinary tract infection. A dog with a urinary tract infection can frequently pass small amounts of urine. The dog may also excessively lick their genitalia. 

Involuntary urination. Some dogs experience urinary incontinence, where the dog’s bladder becomes faulty and involuntarily passes urine. Dogs with this condition may urinate while asleep without being aware they are doing so.

Medical complications. Something that isn’t common may cause urine marking, such as genitalia abnormalities. The abnormality can cause incontinence, which leads to frequent urination. 

Your dog might also urinate during greetings, play sessions, punishment, or physical contact. Not all of these instances will be urine marking, some will just be accidents.

Excitement. Your dog may also cower, duck their head, and flatten their ears when excited. You may also notice the dog avert their eyes or roll onto their belly as they display submissive postures.

Lack of indoor training.Proper house training ensures your dog doesn’t soil your home. Your dog may soil in specific places like infrequently used rooms or on furniture. Some dogs defecate or urinate in the house or other familiar locations. 

Separation anxiety. If you leave your dog for a while, he may experience detachment or separation anxiety. Your dog may become nervous before or after you have left and urinate indoors. 

Urine marking can be a normal form of communication in dogs. However, if you are concerned that your dog needs specialized treatment, consider the following options:

Spay or neuter your dog. This can reduce household urine marking by 50 to 60 percent. If you don't want to spay or neuter, you can try the suggestions below for reducing social and environmental triggers.

Treatment for environmental changes and social stimulation. If your dog is urine marking due to new things in their environment, you can try the following:

  • Keep your dog away from things he is likely to mark. Restrict other dogs from visiting your home.
  • Try a dog diaper or belly band as a temporary fix. This can be especially helpful when visiting new homes.
  • Clean the previously marked areas with enzymatic cleaners. This can reduce smells that may cause your dog to urine mark the same area again.
  • If your dog marks specific objects like suitcases or certain locations like unused rooms, place treats and food around these points. This can teach your dog to associate the positive item with the object being marked, which can gradually change their behavior.
  • Distract your dog with a different urine marking target. This target could be a tree trunk or another dog’s urine.

Treatment for anxiety-induced urine marking. You can help reduce your dog’s anxiety by the following methods:

  • Reduce conflicts between your dog and other pets. You can separate your dog from others and supervise reintroduction. If the conflict stems from a new pet, introduce your dog slowly. 
  • When new people join your home, introduce them to your dog. The new members may share some moments with your dog, like taking a walk or serving your dog food. 

Consult your veterinarian on the various medications that can supplement behavior modification. Certain medications may reduce anxiety among dogs, resulting in less urine marking. 

You can also change the way you behave when your dog does urine marking. Do the following:

  • Avoid scolding your dog. If you yell at your dog or punish them, behavior change is less likely to work out. They will only remember feeling bad and not connect the scolding with the urine marking.
  • Don’t discourage your dog from urine marking during walks. This may cause the dog to begin marking at home.
  • Don’t use an ammonia-based cleaner to wash the marked areas. Since urine contains ammonia, it may attract the dog back to the same location.