The truth about canine urine marking


Have you ever wondered why dogs urine mark? Marking is most common in intact males and is characterized by urinating a small amount on upright (vertical) surfaces.The first step is to visit your veterinarian to rule out medical causes such as a urinary tract infection.  Urine marking is similar to other behavior problems in that the underlying motivation for the dog performing the behavior must be determined in order to solve the problem. Castration (aka neutering) decreases marking in 70-80% of male dogs, regardless of the age of castration.


Once hormonal causes are eliminated by castration, remaining causes include anxiety and territoriality. The first important step is to prevent situations that elicit marking. For example, a territorial pet can be prevented from watching dogs and people pass the home through windows by covering the windows ( Also, dogs tend to mark new objects in the house, so these objects should be kept out of the dogs’ reach. For example, avoid leaving a grocery bag or back pack on the ground when walking in the door with hands full. Instead keep these items out of reach of the dog. If the dog marks only when home alone or nobody is looking video tape can help determine what his triggers for marking may be and to make sure he is truly the culprit in the case of a multiple dog household. Urine marking is a normal behavior, so avoid punishing the dog if “caught in the act”. Punishment can also make his anxiety worse. Instead, if the dog is caught marking he can be interrupted by calling him away from the area and taken outside immediately, so that he can urinate in an appropriate place. Make sure to clean with a combination enzymatic/bacterial cleaner to degrade the urine rather than simply covering up the smell (my favorite is Anti-Icky-Poo, Once the triggers for marking are avoided other behavioral techniques such as desensitization and counter-conditioning are tailored specifically for the dog in order to help change his emotional response to these triggers. Sometimes anti-anxiety medications and supplements may also be used in conjunction with behavior modification. For more information visit your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist (


Dr. Meredith Stepita, DVM, DACVB (Veterinary Behaviorist)


Jump start behavioral health in your puppy with socialization!


The days of keeping your puppy confined to the house until 16 weeks of age are over! The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (, a well respected group of veterinarians who share an interest in understanding behavior in animals, believe it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive socialization as early as 7-8 weeks of age after a minimum of one set of vaccines and deworming at least 7 days prior to the first class, with other healthy dogs in an environment that is clean, not in places such as dog parks.

Socialization is the process by which pets develop a relationship with animals of their own species, other species, and humans. With adequate socialization starting as a young puppy, pets are often able to maintain these relationships for life, helping to prevent behavior problems. Although socialization should be continued throughout life, pets are more likely to be defensive, fearful, and possibly aggressive later in life if not properly socialized during their sensitive socialization period, between 3 and 16 weeks of age.


Here is a checklist of some, but not all, experiences your puppy should have before 16 weeks of age. Always associate the experiences with high value rewards such as treats or a tennis ball. Every puppy is different so make sure to go slow if your puppy shows signs of fear or anxiety. If your puppy shows aggression or extreme fear contact your veterinarian immediately.

___ Veterinarian/ Veterinary technicians

___ Person wearing hat

___ Other animals (including non-dog)

___ You with vacuum

___ Person (child & adult) on bike & roller blades

___ Jogger

___Stranger on street

___ You mowing grass

___ Person with umbrella, open and close umbrella

___ Toddler (supervised)

___ Person with coat, take coat on and off

___ Man with beard

___ Drive – thru window or toll booth

___ Children playing ball

___ Walk on different surfaces (soft, hard, unsteady)

___ Mailman

___ Person with wheelchair, walker, stroller

___ Rain

___ Person in uniform (police, etc)

___ You with hair dryer

___ Handle your puppy on a daily basis (ears, mouth, paws, belly, tail, etc)

Remember: Avoid socializing your puppy in areas frequented by dogs of unknown vaccination status such as dog parks.

Here is a list of recommended books to use as a guide in raising your puppy:

  • The Perfect Puppy by Gwen Bailey
  • An Owner’s Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet: Dog Behavior by Ian Dunbar, Ph.D., MRCVS
  • Raising a Behaviorally Healthy Puppy by Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D. and Daniel Estep, Ph.D

What other experiences can you think of that will be important for your puppy? Let me know for the next blog!

– Meredith Stepita, DVM, DACVB (Veterinary Behaviorist)