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Canine urine marking is most likely to occur on or near new or novel odors, especially the urine left by other dogs. Marking is not the same as a dog relieving itself – it is leaving small amounts of urine on items (trees, bushes, couch) to establish dominance .

This behavior seems natural for dogs, but is very annoying to humans. This often starts happening in adolescence as dogs mature. Female dogs can urine mark, although it is seen as a problem most commonly in male dogs.

Canine urine marking may also come from a feeling of apprehension or distress. A new person in your house also brings a new voice, new odors, and even an altered routine. Your dog may not get as much attention as he did before. All of this can upset him enough and drive him to urine-marking.

Urine-marking, as pointed out earlier, 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 does not 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.

Before doing anything else, take your dog to the veterinarian to rule out any medical causes for the urine-marking behavior. Neutering can often resolve the problem. Behavior modification, environmental treatment, and elimination of anxiety triggers can help to eliminate the behavior.

Reasons for Canine Urine Marking

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.
  • Environmental changes. If a new dog appears, the resident dogs may urine mark to indicate their territory.
  • Anxiety. In some cases, new objects or people in the home, furniture, luggage, or conflict with other animals or people could cause anxiety that leads to urine marking.
  • Establishing dominance. If he’s in conflict with another dog, or even a cat, your dog may be having trouble establishing his place in the pack.


Your veterinarian will start by discussing when, where, and how often the behavior occurs. A workup should be conducted to rule out medical disorders that may be causing the problem. If there are no medical causes, your veterinarian will need to determine if incomplete house training or other behavioral conditions are causing the problem.

How can Canine Urine Marking be Treated

  • Consult your veterinarian on the various medications that can supplement behavior modification.
  • Neutering will reduce male marking behavior in more than 80% of male dogs but will only eliminate it in about 40% of dogs. Neutering is also recommended for female dogs that mark during estrus.
  • Clean soiled areas thoroughly with a cleaner specifically designed to eliminate urine odor.
  • Restrict your dog’s access to doors and windows so they can’t observe animals outside.
  • Keep your dog away from things he is likely to mark. Move objects he has marked so that they are out of reach
  • Leave treats around and feed and play with your dog in the area he marks — he’s less likely to continue marking there.
  • Try a dog diaper.
  • Positive reinforcement. Never punish a dog for urine marking. Punishment can create more anxiety.


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