A common and frustrating behavior seen in dogs and puppies is urination on objects that strongly smell like the dog's owner. Clothing and bedclothes are frequently targeted. This urination behavior can be caused by anxiety, stress or even a physical health problem. It may also be a territorial behavior in some dogs. Treatment involves eliminating a health cause and then addressing any underlying behavioral problems.
Why Do Dogs Urinate on their Owner's Clothing?
Any dog experiencing a sudden change in elimination habits involving indoor accidents should be seen by a veterinarian. A urinary tract infection (cystitis) could be to blame. Dogs with urinary tract infections experience pain during urination. As a result, they often seek out soft items on which to urinate. It is common for dogs suffering from cystitis to urinate on the owner's clothing or bedclothes.
Puppies that are not yet able to hold their urine for long periods of time may urinate on their owner's clothing. This most often happens if a puppy is left unsupervised. He becomes lonely without his owner and also needs to urinate, so he seeks out an item that smells like his owner and urinates on it. From a puppy's point of view, this makes perfect sense. It's not fair or productive to punish puppies for this behavior. If a young puppy gets the opportunity to urinate on his owner's clothing, the owner is at fault for failing to supervise a puppy that isn't yet housebroken. Puppies should be crated or confined to a puppy-proofed room with potty pads if the owner can't actively supervise them at any given time.
Dogs with separation anxiety may urinate on an owner's clothing when left alone. This is a self-calming behavior, just like the more common destructive chewing seen in dogs with separation anxiety. The dog's anxiety causes it to seek out any behavior that has a calming effect, including chewing or urinating on objects that smell like its owner. Separation anxiety is a serious behavior problem that should be treated with the guidance of a professional.
Urination on an owner's clothing may be a way for dogs to reassert territorial claims to the owner when a conflict with another dog or human occurs. This behavior may be seen if the owner has overnight guests or if two dogs in the household are fighting over access to the owner. The arrival of a new baby may also prompt territorial urination. Frequently this problem can be solved or prevented by avoiding disruptions to a dog's routine that cause anxiety and territorial behavior. For example, some owners stop walking their dogs and instead put them outdoors alone to exercise after the arrival of a baby. If the dog's exercise routine is interrupted, he is more likely to resent the baby's arrival and use urination on the owner's possessions to reassert his territory. Keeping the dog's routine stable with daily walks and affection can prevent territorial behavior.
Any dog that suddenly starts urinating inappropriately should be seen by a veterinarian to check for health problems that could be causing this behavior. In some cases, antibiotic treatment is appropriate even if the dog tests negative for a urinary tract infection. After health issues have been ruled out or treated, the next step is a behavioral approach. Start with the obvious: If your dog urinates on your clothing, don't leave clothing where the dog can get to it. Use hampers and closets to restrict your dog's access to your clothes. If necessary, use baby gates to seal off certain rooms of the house. Then take steps to correct the underlying issue that created the undesirable behavior. If anxiety or territorial behavior are involved, you may need to contact a professional animal behaviorist or veterinary behaviorist to create a behavior modification plan. If the dog is simply a puppy acting like a puppy, don't leave her unsupervised except in a crate or a safe room with potty pads.