What Does Marking Mean?

In your dog's head, marking his territory with a small amount of urine is likely just a simple way of saying "hello" to other dogs that might be nearby. It's a totally normal and instinctive way for dogs to communicate, and something they've been doing since humans started tracking their behavior. Beyond basic communication, there are several reasons why dogs mark.

  • The dog hasn't been fixed: Male dogs that have not been neutered are more likely to mark their territory than dogs that have been fixed. One study, published in the journal Animal Behavior, showed "high-status dogs" marked territory more often than lower status dogs. So perhaps your dog is simply king of the hill! While marking is typically an issue with male dogs, unspayed female dogs will sometimes mark territory as well, especially just before and during heat.
  • The dog is overly excited: New and super exciting social situations can make your dog want to mark everything in sight. Reasons for overstimulation include a female dog in heat nearby, or even just a dog visiting a home or park where other dogs have marked before.
  • Someone new has visited: In his head, a dog's territory might encompass not just his home and yard, but also the route he takes on walks, and other homes or parks he regularly visits. If another dog has been in your dog's "territory" recently, your dog might feel the need to mark as a way to assert ownership.
  • The dog has medical issue: You might think your dog is marking his territory, but the reason for all that peeing might be due to an underlying medical condition. Some conditions that can cause frequent urination include incontinence, urinary tract infections and reactions to medication. Visit your veterinarian to rule out these issues before attempting to train your dog not to mark.

It's also worth noting that some dogs pee frequently for reasons other than marking, including conditions like submissive urination and separation anxiety — or simply poor house training. Understanding the reasons for your dog's behavior is the critical first step in addressing it.