Lamp posts, electric poles and fire hydrants are classic items dogs seem to enjoy peeing on, but owners can get quite upset when Rover starts marking the TV stand, the comfy armchair or that costly Tiffany lamp. Not to mention the appalled look on dog owners' faces when they notice their pooch raising his leg on other dogs. Luckily, there are several reasonable explanations for what humans may see as unacceptable, unorthodox practices in their canine companions.
If your dog starts marking that new piece of furniture you just purchased or the crate where your new puppy is enclosed, it's possible he is doing so to make things smell familiar again. A certain element of anxiety may be present in this case since the presence of novel stimuli seems to trigger this form of marking. If your dog is marking new objects, the luggage of your new guest or the bed he sleeps on, or if there is some form of conflict between your dog and unfamiliar people or other animals residing in your home, suspect urine marking due to stress and anxiety.
If your dog gets very excited in social situations, you may expect some dribbles of urine. For instance, if your dog is highly aroused from meeting other dogs, he may "zone out" and mark any nearby objects -- including people and other dogs. Hormonal influences and sexual arousal may also contribute to indoor marking behaviors if you own an intact male dog and there is a female in heat in your neighborhood. The indoor marking behavior may also be an isolated event if another dog has recently visited your home and your dog is marking over this dog's smell.
Just as humans place bolted doors in their homes and erect fences to define property lines, dogs mark to establish their boundaries and claim their belongings. If your dog hikes his leg on items in your home he is likely claiming his territory in hopes of keeping other rival dogs out of his space. A male dog may also urinate on a female dog to claim her as his own or an adult dog may urinate on a puppy to send the message that the little one is being protected.
Because several medical and behavioral conditions may cause inappropriate urination, it's a good idea to seek a veterinarian's advice -- especially if the marking behavior has started inside the home and out of the blue. If your dog marks indoors when he is left alone at home, you may be dealing with a case of separation anxiety, or if your dog is getting older, it may simply be an early symptom of canine cognitive dysfunction. While illness, stress or the innate desire to set boundaries are the most common causes of indoor urine marking, it is wrong to yell at your dog for engaging in this behavior. Dogs do not mark out of spite, vengeance or anger towards their owners so yelling rarely works to solve the problem.
By Adrienne Farricelli
About the Author
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.