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Healthy Dogs

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Urine Marking in Dogs

What to Do About Urine Marking continued...

Both male and female dogs usually lift a rear leg to urine mark. Females can also do a handstand to raise both rear legs! A dog engaging in urine marking behavior typically deposits only a small amount of urine. Dogs of either sex often engage in “overmarking”—urinating in the same spots where other dogs have already urinated. In many canid species, more dominant individuals overmark the urine deposits of more subordinate individuals. Many dogs will only overmark the urine of other animals or people. Other dogs will mark a few specific areas or things, such as prominent vertical objects, new objects, or areas around exit doors or windows. Some dogs seem to mark indiscriminately.

Many dogs will urine mark during walks but never mark inside their homes. What prompts a dog to urine mark in the home? It might be a territorial response, especially if the marking occurs when a dog encounters a nonresident dog or smells another dog’s urine on his property or in his house. For example, a dog might mark on his pet parent’s shoes, presumably because the person walked through and picked up the odor of urine from another dog.

Other causes for urine marking involve exposure to social triggers, such as encountering a female dog in estrous (in heat). In this kind of situation, a male dog might be prompted to mark to impress the female, while a female dog might be prompted to mark as a form of competition. Male dogs might also urine mark when they find themselves in the presence of rival males. Some dogs never mark in their own homes but will mark when they visit others’ homes. A dog is especially likely to urine mark when visiting a home if another dog has previously marked in that home. Dogs who become highly aroused and stimulated in the presence of other dogs, especially in large, gregarious groups, sometimes “zone out” and urine mark any object in the area, including other dogs and people’s legs. On rare occasions, dogs who mark frequently during walks become highly aroused and continue marking when they return to their homes.

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