Why Do Some Dogs Pee on Guests, and What Can You Do About It?

Updated on July 29, 2019
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Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and the author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Urine marking is a natural behavior in dogs.
Urine marking is a natural behavior in dogs. | Source

While you greet your guests with a warm "hello" and a vigorous handshake, Rover, your unscrupulous dog, may decide to sniff their shoes and hike his leg, peeing on your guests as if it was the most natural behavior in the world. What gives? Of course, nobody enjoys this form of "greeting," and it's definitively something that cannot be ignored; indeed, that warm pee quickly seeps into those shoes and pant legs!

If you're wondering why Rover seems so intent on "watering" your guests, you'll have to put on your critical hat on and immerse yourself in some canine psychology. Truth is, marking is quite a natural behavior in dogs. Unlike real urinating, marking is different in many ways. For one thing, a dog who marks will use a significantly lower volume of urine, versus liberally emptying the bladder. This means your guests can count their blessings, as they will likely receive just a trickle of warm pee versus a whole puddle. To learn more about this, read "How to Tell If a Dog Is Marking or Urinating."

A disadvantage, though, is the fact that a guest's legs are vertical, which makes them particularly appealing to dogs who love to urine mark. Indeed, dogs who mark love, love, love vertical surfaces! This is because this puts the area marked at the level of another dog's nose. "Pee mail" this way can be easily and effectively read by other dogs. The legs of a person offer the perfect vertical surface which makes them an appealing "pee post" substitute.

Note: It's a common myth that only intact males will urine mark; indeed, many neutered and spay dogs enjoy marking as well! This shows that urine marking isn't a behavior exclusively triggered by hormones. There are many other non-hormonal explanations. In the next paragraphs, we will take a look at a few.

Why Does My Dog Love Peeing on Guests?

First and foremost, an important clarification. Is your dog peeing when guests come over, or is your dog actually marking on your guests by deliberately lifting his leg? These are totally different circumstances. If your dog is peeing when guests come over (not by lifting the leg) and this happens when your dog greets them, most likely you are dealing with a case of submissive or excitement urination.

In this case, your dog is not liberally hiking his leg on your guests, but most likely he is greeting your guests, rolling over his back and then peeing (which, depending on where your guests are, may spray them with an unexpected jet of urine) or he is simply keeping his head low, ears back and tail wagging while peeing on the floor as he greets. If this sounds like the case, then please read my article on how to deal with submissive and excitement urination; however, come back to this page, as the treatment is almost the same.

So your dog sees your guests, goes over to sniff them and then out of nowhere, he unexpectedly lifts his leg to dribble some urine. What causes this behavior? Following are some possible explanations:

  • Your dog may be aroused in certain social situations. At times, when dogs are excited, they don't know how to deal and manage the overload of emotions that floods them. This may lead them to "redirect" by engaging in another activity that may appear almost out of context. You may, therefore, see some dogs urine mark or even hump people's legs.
  • Your dog is anxious. At times, some dogs are uncomfortable when other people come into their territory. They therefore urine mark unknown people or other items with their scent (such as their luggage or the sheets slept on) in hopes of covering their foreign smell with a more "normal", familiar scent.
  • Your guests may be carrying the scent of another dog, and your dog instinctively wants to cover that scent.

How to Deal With Dogs Who Urine Mark Guests

Regardless of the cause of your dog's marking behaviors, (at times, it's just wasted time trying to figure out why dogs engage in certain ways--as we may never know for sure) you may be interested in how to reduce this behavior. There are several strategies:

1. Distract Him.

To distract him from engaging in this habit, it helps to provide your dog with an alternate, incompatible behavior. In this case, let's try having your guests toss a rainfall of small bite-sized treats right when he comes over by them. After he eats them, try letting them toss a few more around and then see how it goes.

Remember: The more a dog rehearses an unwanted behavior (like urine marking) the more it puts roots and becomes harder to eradicate. This way, rep after rep, your dog will learn a new pattern—looking for treats instead of marking.

You can also put the behavior of looking for treats on cue, by saying something like "go hunting!" right before the treats fall to the floor. After all, your dog cannot eat treats while he is actively urine marking! This strategy in dog training lingo is known as "differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior."

2. Practice With Guests.

Practice the looking for treats behavior with several different guests. If feasible, have volunteers come by to help you out. If you are unsure how your dog will react, put him on leash, so if he doesn't pay attention to the treats, you can cue him and guide him towards the treats while removing his attention from the guest.

3. Try Desensitization.

Should your dog not take treats, it's often a sign that he is over threshold. When a dog is too concerned about something, his digestive system may shut down. You will need to work more gradually using desensitization.

If your dog appears anxious about having guests over, you can invest in some calming aids such as DAP diffusers. These are pheromone-based plug-ins that may help dogs relax. Large pet stores also carry them in collar and spray forms.

By tossing treats, you offer a win-win situation. You will indeed get two pigeons with one stone. By giving treats you will:

  • Provide an alternate behavior to urine marking.
  • Change your dog's emotional response towards guests if he's slightly anxious about them. This is a process known as "counterconditioning."
  • Set your dog up for success. Scolding, reprimanding a dog for urine marking often makes the behavior worse.

As seen, with a simple handful of small treats, you can help your dog overcome this behavior, and change his emotions while preventing your guests from getting their shoes and pant legs showered by your dog's pee! Also, as seen, the use of food in dog behavior modification can accomplish many powerful results!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

  • My nine-year-old Chihuahua just peed on my friend's lap. My dog never did this before, and she knows my friend really well, so why would she do that?

    That is quite unusual, especially since she knows your friend. At this age, it could be stemming from a medical condition (urinary tract infection, the presence of crystals/stones, loss of sphincter control due to aging, etc.). Or maybe she just has been keeping it for long, and she just relaxed a little too much. Perhaps your friend has a new smell, and she was marking.

© 2013 Adrienne Farricelli

Comments

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    • profile image

      Kim 

      6 weeks ago

      I went to my cousin house. I haven't been over there in a while. Her dog always brake when i come in the door. This time she did bark as usual but she stayed up under me, peed a little on my lap, she layed on my lap, sniffed my stomach and right breast, layed in my spot when i got up and snapped at my son when he tried to pet her. She was very over protective of me and she would follow my son in the room i guess to make sure he stayed in there and then come back and lay up under me

    • profile image

      Ellie 

      8 months ago

      My one year old pup pees on people. Its not only guests but the people who live in the house and care for him too. When he does this it is only a tiny little bit and he does it unexpectedly. How can i stop this?

    • profile image

      Lena Ronk 

      11 months ago

      My dog 1yr old got up on my male friends bed and straight peed on him .i find this very odd

    • profile image

      Tonia 

      14 months ago

      My friends dog pees every time he sees me. He doesn’t do this with anyone else. Help how do I stop this

    • profile image

      carolynne 

      19 months ago

      my 7 month old {not neutered} started lifting his leg on people at the park.the same lady twice ,and a stranger.he had met the 1st lady many times,I noticed he also likes to lean into her????

      he is 97lbs mastiff I have never had this problem with my previous dogs ??????

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Great advice! I've known one dog that did this, but he wasn't mine and thankfully he never tried to "mark" me! :)

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