Why do dogs pee everywhere? What to do if it becomes a problem

Silhouette of dog peeing from left and right on fire hydrantOur beloved dog “Cissy” who died a few years ago, was notorious for peeing frequently when we took her for walks. It seemed like we couldn’t take more than a few steps and she’d be at it again. But, it wasn’t just Cissy. I’ve seen the behavior in many dogs and I’m sure you have too. Thus, peeing is a very common behavior in dogs. So, why do dogs pee everywhere? Well, it depends on a number of factors and we will explore those here.

Territory urine marking

Cissy was claiming her territory with scent marking. So, when you take your dog for a walk and she is constantly urinating and sniffing, scent marking is what she’s doing. By peeing, she’s asserting her social status. By sniffing, she is finding information on other dogs and trying to limit potentially threatening interactions with them.

Dogs who aren’t spayed or neutered are more likely to urine mark than altered dogs. In unaltered females, this tends to happen more just before and while they’re in heat.

A male dog might urine mark to impress a female while a female might do the same as a form of competition.

A 2011 study at the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-White Water, revealed that dogs may use urine investigation and scent marking as a way to establish safe social connections with other dogs. Anneke Lisberg, Ph.D., co-author of the study, asserted it’s possible dogs “might be able to assess many personal aspects of the health, stress, virility, diet and more just by sniffing another dogs urine.” In other words, they get a lot of useful information that may come in handy without meeting the other dog.

Now, just imagine if humans could do that! I don’t know about you but that creates a pretty weird image in my head. But, I digress.

Tiny dog in person's handsDog size as it relates to marking

A recent study from Cornell University shows that small dogs scent-mark more often than larger dogs. This study involved 281 shelter dogs. The researchers took them on 20-minute walks and kept track of the urinations. In fact, if you’d like the results, here they are:

Huge dog and little girl

  • Small dogs pee at .36 urinations per minute
  • Medium dogs pee at .26 urinations per minute
  • Large dogs pee at .24 urinations per minute

I know you really needed to know that so next time you’re a Jeopardy contestant and Alex asks “What is the urination frequency breakdown for small, medium and large dogs,” you’ll have the answer at your fingertips!

Dog gender as it relates to marking

There are also gender differences in territorial marking. In another experiment, Anneke Lisberg presented short wooden stakes that had been urinated on to a group that included intact and spay/neutered dogs of both genders. She observed that the females spent just as much time investigating the pee of unfamiliar dogs as the males did. However, the males were more interested in the urine of other males whereas the females were interested in the urine of both sexes.

Additionally, when taking dogs to a dog park she found:

  • Male and female dogs were equally likely to urinate immediately upon entering the park. However, males peed more frequently.
  • Male dogs already at the park over-marked/adjacent marked (urinating on or near a mark left by another dog) more than the females. They also spent more time investigating the pee of new dogs entering the park.
  • None of the females over-marked. Instead, they adjacent marked from a distance of 4 to 5 feet.

Both male and female dogs usually lift a rear leg to mark. As a matter of fact, some dogs even do a handstand against a post or a tree when they perform the act. I have actually seen this and it is rather comical!Light colored Pug doing a handstand against tree and peeing

I gotta say that watching dogs pee isn’t exactly my idea of a good time but I’m sure glad someone does it!

Urinating in the house

So let’s take it inside and see why your dog might be peeing in the house. Here are some reasons:

  • Your dog is not spayed or neutered
  • There’s a new pet in the house
  • Another pet in the house is not spayed or neutered
  • There are conflicts with other pets in the house
  • There’s someone new in the house. This can include a baby, spouse, roommate or anyone he’s not familiar with
  • A familiar person or animal is absent
  • There are new objects in the house that have unfamiliar smells or the scent of other animals
  • Your dog sees or hears another animal through a door or window

Keep in mind that when your dog senses instability in the pack dynamics, he may feel the need to assert himself by marking his territory.

Medical Issues

A medical issue may be another reason for frequent urination. For example, your dog could have a urinary tract infection. This is common and treatable. Older female dogs are much more likely to have this than male dogs of any age group.

Diabetes is another possibility. Specifically, Diabetes Mellitus. This occurs when the digestive system cannot effectively convert food into usable energy. Low blood sugar means that your dog has less energy and feels the need to eat more. In order to avoid all the additional food sugars he’s consuming, he will drink more water. The result is more peeing.

While an altered dog may have limited drive to mark his territory, the altering procedure can also cause incontinence, especially in female dogs. In this case she pees more because she lacks bladder control. However, you should still have her spayed.

Also, if your dog pees when left alone in the house, determine if he suffers from separation anxiety. For more information on this problem, read here.

little white dog with sign that says how to prevent peeing and pooping in the houseWhat to do if peeing becomes a problem

Remember, do not prevent your dog from urine marking when you’re outside taking a walk because he is then more likely to bring this behavior into the house. Let your dog be a dog in this case. If urine marking becomes a problem inside the house, there are measures you can take. If your dog is unaltered, the easiest way to alleviate the problem is spaying and neutering. Neutering male dogs will solve the problem in at least half the cases.

Here are some other tips that can help:

  • Restrict his access to things he’s likely to mark
  • Don’t allow other dogs in your house or yard
  • Block visual access to the outside
  • If you have a male dog have him wear a dog wrap
  • If he predictably marks certain objects or specific locations in the house, place treats in those areas. He may start to regard these as food instead of peeing locations
  • Try to resolve conflicts with other household pets. Read more about this here
  • Clean previously marked places with enzymatic cleaner to minimize smells that can attract him and cause him to mark again
  • Make the marking areas unpleasant by placing double-sided sticky tape there
  • Use a synthetic hormone diffuser. In some cases, this will calm your dog
  • As a last resort, consult your veterinarian for an appropriate medication
  • If you catch your dog in the act of urinating, try clapping your hands loudly, spraying him with water or making a startling noise with a chain. It’s very important you do these things during the act or he won’t make the connection

Remember, scolding your dog or punishing him in any way won’t work.

Professional help is also available. You can consult a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior (Dip ACVB) or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT).

Conclusion

So, why do dogs pee everywhere? Now you know! Oh, one obvious reason I didn’t mention is – “Because they have to pee!”

We love comments so be sure to leave yours below. And, if you ever care to spend an afternoon watching dogs pee, please let us know the results of your observations.person in yoga pose while dog pees on her leg

 

4 comments on “Why do dogs pee everywhere? What to do if it becomes a problem

  1. Hari S Nair

    Thank you for the information. This was the problem I was facing when my mother was out of town for a week, my dog was peeing all over the kitchen. I never knew that this was due to the reason that he was not able to see my mother anywhere therefore he was peeing in the kitchen where he used to find her most of the time. What will you personally suggest for me to do when the next time she is out of town and my dog starts repeating this?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Mitchell

      Hi Hari:

      Thank you for your comments!

      Try this – get something of your mothers with her scent on it – maybe an article of clothing. Let your dog smell this. Dogs associate with smell so this might work!

      Reply
  2. Clare

    This is very interesting and informative article. I really enjoyed reading it. I had never put this much thought into why I was stoopping every 2 minutes trying to walk my dog.
    If humans could learn that much from each other, just by sniffing another’s pee, I’m not convince we would do it. lol

    This is definitely a page a will be coming back to, to learn more interesting things I hadn’t thought about.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Mitchell

      Hi Clare:

      Thank you for your comments.

      Maybe humans could learn about others by sniffing pee. What a sight that would be!

      Reply

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