Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."
What's Up With Dogs Peeing on Car Tires?
Many dogs pee on car tires, that's a fact. If you own a vehicle, chances are you've chased a dog away from your car, truck, or motorcycle because you caught the little rascal peeing on your tires. No one likes the odor of dog urine, and you'd think with plenty of other places to do their business, pooches would leave your vehicle alone.
But no, car tires for some reason rank high in a dog's hierarchy of places to pee on. What is it about tires that make dogs sniff, pee, then leave with a contented look of a job well done? Why do car tires attract dogs like honey draws bees?
Dogs can't tell us exactly why they do the quirky things they do, but there are several good explanations as to why they love to tinkle on tires. Of course, until the day dogs can talk and express their feelings about the subject, we can only make assumptions.
In order to better understand this behavior, it helps to put ourselves into our dog's mind and body and carefully evaluate what lies within. This is perhaps the best method to attain some educated guesses.
Introducing the Dog's Almighty Nose
In order to understand why dogs pee on tires, a little appetizing course on Doggy Anatomy 101 can help us appreciate the world from a dog's perspective.
You see, dogs have an amazing olfactory system. They can breathe and sniff scents at the same time, which explains why your dog sometimes sounds like a snorting locomotive when you go for a walk.
An Organ for Messaging
Dogs also have something humans don't: a vomeronasal organ, or Jacobson's organ located in their nasal cavity just above the roof of the mouth. This special organ is there for a noble purpose: it helps Rover detect pheromones (special chemical messengers) released from other dogs.
It goes somehow like this: a dog trickles a few drops of pee on a surface and then leaves. This trickle of pee is not just mere waste that is flushed down a toilet and forgotten, as it happens in humans. It's like a message in a bottle, "pee-mail" so to speak.
It goes without saying that dogs are fascinated by pee, some even appear obsessed about it. Dogs enjoy depositing pee and interpreting the pee left by others.
Doggy Business Cards
Why is pee so fascinating to dogs though? Here's the deal: dog pee is teeming with information. It contains a bouquet of social information such as the gender, age, reproductive status, social status, health, and kinship of the dog who left it behind.
When dogs stumble upon areas coated with pee-mail, they'll attentively sniff the area, and some dogs will even chatter their teeth, so to send chemical signaling scent molecules to their vomeronasal organ, which then relays them to the brain to several specialized compartments relating to mating, communication, social situations, etc.
So when you see Rover concentrated on sniffing a spot, he's carefully analyzing the scent. There you go, now you know why your dog poses a deaf ear when you call him or tug his leash to return to resume his walks while he's sniffing. He's super concentrated!
After analyzing the smell, your dog may then decide to just move on to sniffing something else or press "the reply" button by leaving another pee-mail.
A Bulletin Board at Nose Level
Now that you know why dogs find pee so fascinating, the next thing to know is that dogs are pretty strategic when it comes to depositing it. In other words, they can get quite picky about where they need to leave their pee-mail.
As explained, much like a doggy business card, urine is a valuable way for dogs to learn about each other and tell other canines "I was here." Urine marking in dogs is therefore not something that is done randomly without much thinking involved.
Dog Peeing Positions
If you think all dogs urinate the same way, think again. Interestingly, there are actually 12 different pee-postures in dogs that have been identified Randall H. Sprague and Joseph J. Anisko in their study "Elimination Patterns in the Laboratory Beagle."
The postures include stand, lean, raise, elevate, flex, squat, lean-raise, flex-raise, handstand, arch, squat-raise, and arch-raise. Far more than most humans, that's for sure!
If you want to go into full canine nerd mode, check out drawings of the dog's urinary positions here: 12 dog peeing positions. But please don't try these positions at home.
The Raised Leg Position
Now, let's linger on the elevated peeing position which is the one more commonly observed in male dogs, the quintessential dog "hiking his leg" or "raising his leg."
Veterinary Behaviorist Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver in her book Canine Behavior: Insights and Answers notes that, in female dogs, 68 percent of the urinary postures used consisted of the squat position. In males, 97 percent involved the classical elevated leg posture.
This means male dogs naturally direct their stream toward vertical targets 97.6 percent of the time, Ms. Beaver points out. Some small dogs will do a hand-stand to pee higher. Why is that though? What's this fascination in aiming so high? There's a good reason for that and below is the answer.
A Longer Lasting Hack
Turns out that the scent of urine generally tends to last longer on a vertical surface compared to a horizontal one, explains Bruce Fogle, veterinarian and author, in his book Know Your Dog.
So peeing on a fireplug, the lamppost, garbage cans, electric poles, fences, bushes and tires make more sense in dog terms than lifting their leg or squatting on the ground.
At Nose Level
On top of lasting longer, peeing on taller objects makes sense. These vertical landmarks work best because dogs seem to understand that they need to leave their scent at nose level for other dogs to be able to find their calling card on the doggy "bulletin board."
After all, what's the point of leaving a card if no one "reads" it?
An Uncontaminated Field
But wait, there's more! Peeing on a conspicuous vertical surface offers yet another big perk: the scent being "disentangled from other scents that saturate the substrate" as Alberts, explains it. Fascinating, huh?
Increased detection via olfaction and vision may explain why some mammals elevate their scent marks. The ground physically restricts diffusion, so both size of mark and likeli-hood of detection by olfaction are increased when scent marks are elevated.
— Alberts, 1992
An Alphabet Soup of Smells
The wheels on the car, go round and round...Yes, tires get around. They collect many scents as they roll along the roads, another justification for the canine fascination with tires.
Roadkill, animal excrement, people food and litter (bad people!), and of course, urine from other dogs and cats who have previously marked the tire all show up on the rubber surface. What an alphabet soup of scents ready to be read and interpreted!
Unfortunately, according to Southern Trail Animal Hospital, the deadly parvovirus, a virus transmitted by infected dog feces, can also be carried from one place to another by car tires, along with shoes and clothes. If you own a small puppy who hasn't finished his vaccinations yet and have been in a questionable area, it might be a good idea to hose down and disinfect your car tires with a one part bleach to 30 parts water mixture.
How to Stop Dogs From Urinating on Tires
What's the best way to deal with a dog peeing on your tires without harming the animal? Here are several ideas.
The very best way to keep dogs away from your vehicle is to prevent access to it. A garage is an ideal spot for your car or truck at home, but if the problem is occurring in other situations, like a parking lot, that's not always feasible. In such cases, keeping your dog on a leash when nearby your car may help.
Remove Traces of Odor
If you know a dog has urinated on your tires, they need to be cleaned as soon as possible. Since many household cleaners contain ingredients that are more toxic to animals than humans, care must be taken when using those around animals.
An enzyme-based cleaner can remove the enticing smell of pee from the tires and keep dogs from further communicating with their fellow canines by way of your vehicle. However, your dog may still pee on tires even if the scents of other dogs are gone due to the instinct of peeing high mentioned before. Removing traces of odors may be still worth a try though.
There are many different choices available. Check online for a product that appeals to you as long as it neutralizes odors. Nature's Miracle is one of my favorites.
Placing large pieces of cardboard or pieces of plywood against each tire may prevent the dog from sniffing and urinating on them.
You can try to redirect your dog the moment you notice his interest in the tires by bouncing a ball, wiggling a tug toy or tossing a treat in the opposite direction. Sure, it may be annoying carrying these items on you so to redirect at a moment's notice, but if it saves your tires, why not?
Train the "Leave it" Cue
When the issue is with your own dog, implementing the "leave it" command is another option. This training protocol is done by several methods that involve rewarding the dog with a treat when they respond correctly to you telling them to leave another treat alone. The "leave it" cue is good to use with your dog in other circumstances, too. Remember, a little patience is required with this training.
Always monitor your dog when around the tires so that you can use a cue or re-direction to prevent the behavior.
It may be tempting to punish the dog by scolding him in a harsh tone, using a loud noise or spraying with water, but these methods may backfire. They may cause your dog to fear you and lose trust in you, he risks becoming noise-sensitive or develop a phobia for water and he may just learn to pee on tires when you are not around.
This latter is not done out of spite, but just because your dog has associated your presence with punishment.
Understanding canine behavior takes some time and effort. No one wants their own dog to misbehave nor do they want to deal with bad manners from other dogs. Stopping a dog from peeing on tires is doable, especially if your selected protocol is done on a regular basis. Bad doggie habits can be broken without harming our furry friends.
How to Remove Dog Urine From Car Tires
Fortunately, the occasional splash of dog urine doesn't seem to cause much damage to tires. However, some dog owners report seeing some stains on the rims causing unsightly tarnishing. How can these stains be removed?
Some rims have a special clear coating meant to protect them, in which case, it's important to be careful in not using the wrong chemicals.
In general, products such as mothers wheel polish or Armor All brand wheel cleaner should work, but make sure they're safe to use on your rims first!
- Author's own experience as a dog trainer/behavior consultant.
- Canine Behavior: Insights and Answers by Bonnie V. Beaver
- The Dog's Mind by Bruce Fogle
- Sprague, Randall H., and Joseph J. Anisko. Elimination patterns in the laboratory beagle.
- Urine marking in male domestic dogs: honest or dishonest? B. McGuire B. Olsen K. E. Bemis D. Orantes First published: 25 July 2018. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA.
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.
© 2020 Adrienne Farricelli
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 11, 2020:
Indeed Peggy, tires offer a plethora of smells so dogs are very attracted to them.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 30, 2020:
It makes sense that there would be lots of different scents on a tire that might attract a dog to urinate on it.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 16, 2020:
Hi Devika, dogs are so fascinating! Peeing on tires may seem like just one of those odd things dogs do, but at a closer insight, tire peeing in dogs has many valid functions-although they may seem gross to us!
Devika Primic on May 13, 2020:
I never thought of why dogs do this it is interesting and fascinating to know of such behaviors from dogs.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 11, 2020:
Hi Pamela, the dog peeing on tires behavior is certainly intriguing. I am glad you enjoyed it. Best,
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 10, 2020:
It never occurred to me that such an interesting aticle could be written about dogs urinating. I really learned a lot for your excellent article.