Dogs are full of behaviors that seem weird to us humans. However, most of these behaviors do have some logic behind them. Dog logic.
One weird habit many owners have observed in their dogs, especially in male dogs, is peeing on car tires. Why do dogs do this?
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Do all dogs pee on car tires?
Not all male dogs lift their leg to pee, but the ones that do usually begin doing so once they reach sexual maturity, between 6 and 9 months of age. Peeing serves multiple important purposes for dogs, and elimination is just one of them. Dog urine contains communicative hormones. When your dog pees, it's kind of like a calling card to other dogs — "I was here."
Peeing also serves to mark their territory, letting other dogs know, among other things, the last dog who marked a given spot.
Many dogs pee on vertical objects
For these reasons, many dogs like to pee on vertical objects, like fire hydrants, telephone poles, and, yes, car tires. In her book Canine Behavior: Insights and Answers, author Bonnie V. Beaver explains that male dogs direct their urine at vertical targets 97.6 percent of the time. This behavior is likely because they want to leave their "business card" at nose level, so that it's in the prime position to be smelled by other dogs.
A Smorgasbord of smells
Car tires are also a wealth of smells, making them a desirable urine depository for dogs. Imagine all the disgusting, enticing smells your tires have rolled through: animal feces, food, general garbage, possibly even roadkill. If you've ever owned (or been near) a dog, you probably know that they love smelly things, especially for peeing purposes, and tires are nothing if not covered in smells.
In addition, there's some evidence that the scent of urine tends to linger longer on vertical objects than on horizontal ones, as veterinarian and author Bruce Fogle explains in his book Know Your Dog. We don't know why this is, but it offers a benefit to dogs, who would prefer that their scent remain for other dogs as long as possible.
Finally, as with anything else: if one dog has peed on it, other dogs are going to follow suit.
How to stop dogs from peeing on car tires
For most people, having a dog who occasionally pees on tires isn't the worst thing in the world. However, it can become a problem if they slow down to pee on every car, or if you have a neighbor who's especially picky about their beloved tires.
A house-trained dog knows that peeing outdoors is okay and peeing indoors is not. It can be challenging to set limits on where he's allowed to pee outdoors, but it's not impossible.
- Use positive reinforcement to reward your dog when he chooses not to pee on car tires — even if it's an accident at first.
- Use a "high value treat" (a treat he really likes, or doesn't get very often) so he's motivated.
- When you pass by a car tire, redirect his attention toward you, using the treat.
- Choose a short, concise cue like "leave it."
When you notice your dog looking at a car tire, say your cue and click or say "yes!" when the dog looks back at you, then give them the treat. Keep repeating until they get the hang of it. You can also call in a qualified professional trainer to help with this process.
Never punish your dog for peeing on care tires. They won't understand the specifics of what they are being punished for, and punishment tends to lead to fallout later on, in the form of dogs with higher anxiety and stress-related behaviors.
For everyone else: just be happy knowing that your car tires are a wealth of information and entertainment for dogs. That, and they're probably covered in dog pee.