Stop again and again, sniff and then lift the leg: This is what walking looks like with many dogs. For you as the owner, this can be quite annoying, if you can hardly get away from the spot. The question is: Why do dogs do that? Here you will learn what is behind the marking behavior of dogs and whether they really have to pee so often.
Which dogs mark and why?
When we humans mark something, we want to make a certain thing recognizable. It is similar with the marking with the dog. The animal sets a scent mark with its urine or excrement and thus transmits information to its fellow animals.
When looking closely, it is often not even possible for us to see that pee has been taken at all, so small can be the amount.
A dog sets scent marks by the way also over its paws, if it scrapes with these after marking over the soil.
What exactly does a dog communicate through urine or feces??
In feces and urine there are a lot of scents, which are called pheromones. Exactly these are interesting for other quadrupeds, because they contain numerous information. Congeners learn in this way, for example, about the sex of the dog, its health, its age, its readiness to mate and its social status. Marking is therefore a form of communication that is part of normal canine behavior.
If the next dog sniffs such a scent mark, it may even lick it. The reason for this is the so-called Jacobson's organ. This is a special organ for smelling, which is located above the palate. By licking the mark, the dog absorbs the pheromones even more intensively and can process them better.
Which dogs mark actually?
Marking behavior is shown by almost all dogs, large and small, males and females, neutered and unneutered animals. Some become real acrobats for it and lift not only one hind leg, but even both and do a half handstand. There are also bitches who lift their legs when marking. Others squat down as with the quite normal pee.
Where do dogs mark?
The place, where dogs mark, is important for them. House walls, car tires, trees, lanterns or bushes are only a few of the many possibilities on which dogs mark. Often they leave their scent mark at nose level, so that the next quadruped can perceive it directly. Droppings are sometimes deposited in conspicuous places for the same reason, such as on a small mound or a lump of rock.
Attention: Of course you should not let your dog mark everywhere he wants to! House walls, garbage cans, cars and other things that are someone's property are taboo!
Here you can find more information about dog behavior and dog equipment:
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Is marking dominance behavior?
Unfortunately, there is a persistent misconception that marking is a sign of dominance. But this is not so fundamentally correct. Marking is first of all only a normal form of communication between dogs. Some do it more, others less.
If you watch several dogs walking, you can sometimes see this: One four-legged dog marks in one spot, then the next follows and marks directly above it, and so on. This has nothing to do with dominance, but is a way of cohesion. Marking gives the place a common meaning for the dogs and strengthens their sense of belonging together.
The situation is different when two dogs meet, which have not yet clarified their social status. In such a case you can observe that they circle around each other and move quite stiff-legged. Possibly also with one or both the neck hair stands up. They sniff each other and then one of them puts urine as a marker. If the other does not mark in the same place afterwards, he accepts that the other has a higher social position. If it sets however its scent mark over it, the clarification between the two goes on. Under certain circumstances, this can also lead to a scuffle. For you as an owner it is important to recognize such situations and to be able to intervene in time before it escalates.
And there is one more thing that speaks against the basic idea that marking always equates to dominance. Strong marking behavior is often exhibited by even very insecure dogs. Both marking and sniffing have a calming effect on them, which is why they do it more often than self-assured dogs. This also explains why insecure dogs sometimes mark the house.
Marking in the house
If your dog marks in the house – i.e. pees in certain places – this usually has a specific cause. It is important to understand the reason behind this and to find a remedy for it. Under no circumstances should you punish your dog for it, because this will most likely only worsen the problem. Remember that it is often insecure animals that show this behavior. They need from you the feeling of security and trust, no fear by punishment.
Have your dog thoroughly checked out by a vet and then consult a good trainer.
The right way to deal with marking
To forbid a dog to mark in principle, would limit it in its communication strongly. It is important for our four-legged friends to be allowed to act out this behavior. This does not mean, however, that your dog really has to mark everywhere and that you will not be able to get away from the spot.
In such a case it is a matter of finding a middle way. In some places, let him sniff and leave his scent mark. At others, teach him to walk on your signal and not to pee. After all, not everyone likes it when a four-legged friend pees on their car or house. You can teach your dog that it is not okay to mark everywhere.