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The most basic function of urination is elimination. In canids and dogs, urination is also part of social communication, representing both an olfactory and a visual signal (posture).

Dogs may assume different postures during urination. Females may lift their paw during urination, and mark on objects; this occurs mostly in females over 4 years old and outside the home territory. (Wirant, McGuire, 2003).

dog olfactory and avisual signals

dog olfactory and avisual signals

Greeting ritual

Adult dogs use urine marking as an "introduction" to a stranger dog, or as a greeting to a familiar individual. My female German Shepherd, Arjuna, urinates when we are reunited after a separation.

greeting signals in dog communication

Social bonding

Two or more familiar dogs may mark in the same spot or in adjacent spots, often at the same time.

familiar dog comunication


Urine marking may be part of the courtship ritual. A female may sometimes use marking to distract the male and move away.

dog courtship behavior

Mate guarding

A male may mark over the marking of a female as a competitive behavior against other males. In this case the male Lakeland terrier is marking on the female!

dog competitive behavior

Status - conflict

Both males and females may overmark as a gesture of social affirmation, challenge or threat.

dog impositive signals

Cache marking

dog urine marking on food

Dogs can mark where there was food, and the cache has run out: "There is no food left here". (And in the dog world people still believe that dogs don't soil where they eat...)

Coping strategy

coping and stress behavior of dog communication

Adult male dogs may use urine marking as a coping strategy; the behavior can indicate a state of stress, and it can help the dog coping with the social-physical context.

Space - territory

territory of the dog

Dogs may mark the boundaries of their territory, especially where there are neighboring or passing dogs or their markings. They can also mark in familiar areas anc pathways, or gateways.

Text Alexa Capra 30 august 2021

Photo Alexa Capra and Daniele Robotti

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