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No doubt your dog stops multiple times on your daily walk to pee. It’s almost comical. When male or female dogs lift their legs to pee, that might be a sign of your dog urine marking, or it could be for a number of other reasons. But what if your dog goes potty inside? Is that urine marking, too?

Although there are many possible reasons that your dog might pee in the house, including illness and lack of proper training, this behavior could also be a sign of urine marking. It’s important to distinguish marking from peeing because understanding why your dog is peeing can help you deal with their peeing habits more effectively.

What Is Dog Urine Marking?

Urine marking is a normal dog behavior where a dog pees small amounts on an object. Preferred objects usually have a vertical surface, like a fence post or tree trunk, but even a person’s shoe or pant leg will do.

Male dogs, and even some females, lift their legs to get their mark as high as possible (at nose level, so other dogs can easily detect the scent). Intact males are by far the most common markers, but neutered males can also mark, as do intact or spayed females. The behavior tends to start when a dog hits adolescence, which is around 6 to 9 months of age, depending on the dog’s breed.

Why Do Dogs Urine Mark?

In the past, marking was seen as territorial behavior. Now scientists know that dogs are using their urine in a different way. In fact, in her book Being a Dog, Dr. Alexandra Horowitz notes that, in contrast to other animals, domestic dogs don’t actually mark territorially.

©Paolo Cremonesi -

Then what are they doing? They’re communicating with other dogs. Think of it like posting to social media. It’s less about saying “Keep out!” and more about saying, “Here I am.” An individual dog’s urine says a lot about them, providing information on their health, sexual receptiveness, and maybe even their mood. In addition, urine is full of pheromones (special chemical signals dogs use to “talk” to one another). By leaving urine on a fire hydrant, your dog is sending a message via urine to other dogs in the neighborhood.

Why Do Dogs Urine Mark in the House?

It makes sense for your dog to leave their calling card outside where other dogs will encounter it. But why do they do it inside the house?

Marking alters the smell in the house and can help a dog feel more comfortable in their surroundings. It can also be a sign of stress or anxiety. Some of the reasons dogs might mark in the house could be:

  • Adding their smell to new objects or people in order to make them smell familiar
  • Bringing a sense of odor familiarity to an environment that is new to the dog (such as when they enter a new home)
  • Responding to a stressful life change, such as the loss of an owner
  • Experiencing anxiety about a stressful event, such as loud noises or the addition of a new pet

What Causes Your Dog to Pee in the House?

Of course, your dog might be peeing in the house for a reason other than marking. For example, they pee regularly to empty their bladders, and if your dog is unable to get to their designated toilet spot, they might have to go wherever they can.

Belgian Malinois peeing on the side of a path.
©Eudyptula -

Some of the common reasons dogs pee in the house include:

  • Accidents: If your dog can’t get outside in time, they will be forced to go inside
  • Too much freedom: Don’t give your puppy access to your entire house before they’ve fully learned the rules of potty training
  • Health problems: Many illnesses, such as kidney disease or diabetes, cause increased urination in dogs, which may raise the probability of accidents in the house
  • Urinary tract infections: UTIs make a dog feel like they need to go frequently and urgently
  • Submissive urination: To communicate peaceful intention, dogs often roll on their backs, but some will even pee to show they come in peace
  • Excitement: Puppies’ bladder control is poorly developed, so overly enthusiastic playtime or greetings with puppies can sometimes lead to accidents
  • Separation anxiety: Dogs who are stressed by being left alone will often soil in the house due to anxiety

How to Know if a Dog Is Urine Marking or Peeing in the House?

If you’re struggling to tell marking apart from other types of peeing in the house, consider when, where, and how your dog is peeing. Marking usually starts in adolescence and continues through adulthood. Potty accidents usually happen with puppies, newly adopted dogs who don’t yet understand their new routine and rules, and senior dogs who are experiencing bladder issues or cognitive decline.

Golden Retriever female puppy peeing outdoors in the grass.
DieterMeyrl/Getty Images Plus

Marking also usually involves small amounts of urine in multiple locations, while a dog emptying their bladder will leave more pee in a single spot. Finally, if you catch your dog in the act, marking usually takes a few seconds. In contrast, regular urinating in a healthy dog takes around 20 seconds.

How Can You Stop Your Dog From Urine Marking?

There are many ways you can stop your dog from urine marking. First, rule out health issues that can mimic marking. You can also consider neutering your male dog. A scientific study in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior found that neutering reduced marking in males by as much as 72%. Spaying didn’t significantly change female marking frequency, but a dog in heat may cause males to mark, so spaying female dogs in a multi-dog household might bring some relief.

Other ways to reduce marking include:

Related article: Expert Tips for Potty Training Your Puppy
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