Why Do Dogs Mark their Territory?

Dog Peeing on Fire HydrantFor the past week or two I have noticed Pedro doing something different on our walks. Normally the little guy runs outside when I get home and takes the longest “chi pee” ever (there is always a wee wee pad in the house for an emergency). But lately instead of letting it all go at once, I noticed he has been peeing here and there and back here again…o and I forgot over there too.

After what seemed like endless amounts of pee coming out of this little chihuahua I decided to do a little “digging” into what the heck was this new phenomenon going on and I realized Pedro was marking his territory.

As we all know, dog noses are so much more advanced than the nose of a human. To give you more of a perspective, the average dog has 200 to 250 million scent receptors in their nose, where humans have approximately 5 million scent receptors.  From the smallest drop of urine a dog can learn that animal’s diet, health, sex, mental state and how social it is (friendly, dominant or submissive).

There are a few reasons why dogs scent mark their territory… like; when they are in heat, when a male senses a female in heat, if a new dog is in the area or anxiety. Scent Marking is usually done on vertical surface which is where we get the typical “dog peeing on a fire hydrant” image.  Today Pedro peed on 3 lamp posts, a bush (that he always spends 10 min sniffing) and a tree. Dominant dogs will usually “pee over” or “over mark” the same spot where a more subordinate dog may have previously urinated.  Which wows me because I think my Chi might be over marking the mastiff down the road… that little subordinate mastiff 🙂

A study I found quoted on www.pets.webmd.com said that “10 percent of the dogs who urine marked started the behavior at 3 months of age, 20 percent by 6 months, 40 percent by 12 months, 70 percent by 1½ years, and 90 percent before 2 years.” Pedro turned 3 in May, so I guess he is a little late to the game.

Scent Marking / Territory Marking is healthy as long as it is done outside. If your dog is marking in the house – you should take proper training steps immediately to prevent it from becoming a habit or call your Vet for tips.  It is also important to keep an eye out for our little friends if they appear to be in pain when urinating or marking.  If that is the case they might have a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) – so talk to your Vet!

I tried to get a photo of Pedro in action, but he asked for some privacy 🙂

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