Dogs Marking Vs. Nervous Peeing

Shy or timid dogs sometimes urinate when they're nervous.

Shy or timid dogs sometimes urinate when they're nervous.

Nervous peeing and territory marking are normal communication tools used by dogs, but these behaviors can be a nuisance if Fido is using your sofa to announce his presence. If he's peeing excessively, first consult your vet to rule out possible medical reasons, and don't punish him -- that can make it worse.

Identifying the Behavior

The dog who urinates while marking territory exhibits different behaviors than a dog who pees when he's nervous. A nervous or submissive reliever might roll to his back, then pee on himself to show his acceptance of your dominance, but now you have a pee-soaked dog. If he pees while crouching, tucking his tail, flattening his ears, avoiding eye contact, lowering his head or cowering, he might feel threatened. A dog marking territory is a confident urinator as he sniffs around and proudly lifts his leg to mark a spot. Both males and females lift their rear leg and some females do a handstands. Feel lucky if your dog aims for the couch since some dogs will walk over and pee on a person's leg.

Causes

Submissive urinating is common for puppies, but they usually outgrow it. If he doesn't, it could be due to a traumatic puppy experience, a history of confrontational punishment methods or even unintentional reinforcement on your part. Submissive urinating often occurs during punishment, when the dog is greeted, or in response to loud noises, quick movements or when someone is hovering the dog. Marking territory is a singles ad for dogs -- the pee says who they are, their sex and if they're available for love. Unneutered males and unspayed females are most likely to mark. Dogs might have a strong urge to mark with urine if they see a strange dog or smell another dog's urine in their space. New objects, such as furniture, luggage or even being in a new home can trigger the urge to lift that leg.

Stop Nervous Peeing

If your pooch takes a submissive position while peeing, completely ignore the behavior. If you punish him, the cycle of submission continues, and praising him only confuses this shy pooch. Approach your dog from the side, and lower yourself to his level while scratching him under the chin instead of patting him on the head. If your dog decides to roll on his back or do anything submissive, walk away and try again in a few minutes. Have your dog sit and give him a treat to distract him from submitting, and reward him for being a brave little guy. Greet your dog using a calm and quiet voice while avoiding direct eye contact to get the nervous response under control.

Stop Marking

Spaying and neutering reduces household marking in 50 to 60 percent of dogs, but if you want your dog to keep his goods, there are other steps. Never allow a friend's dog into your home or yard. If your dog marks in the house, clean it good with an enzymatic cleaner since the enzymes breakdown the pee smell. Never clean urine with ammonia-based cleaners -- urine contains ammonia and this basically invites your dog to come pee again. Cleaning the area with only soap and water is likely to leave traces of urine, and just weakening the odor will prompt your pooch to strengthen the smell by adding more urine. Jock straps or belly bands can discourage leg-lifting in your clean house. Always allow your dog to mark during walks and outside, since discouraging the behavior outside will cause frustration.

 

About the Author

Melissa McNamara is a certified personal trainer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication studies from the University of Iowa. She writes for various health and fitness publications while working toward a Bachelor of Science in nursing.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images