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One of my clients has a 6-year-old spayed female pug. When the client visits other people's houses, the dog lifts its leg
to urinate in the house. The owner has to keep the dog right by her side to prevent this from happening. The dog has had no
accidents at home since it was a puppy. This sounds like a marking behavior. Do you have any ideas on other causes or suggestions
A. You are correct that this is likely a marking behavior. However, knowing if the dog squats or lifts its leg in other circumstances
either to urinate or mark may also be useful. For example, if the dog squats to urinate in its own yard but lifts its leg
to deposit urine when on walks, then the leg lifting in a friend's house is likely to be marking behavior.
Many dogs will mark when confronted with new objects. Urine marking might also occur because of anxiety. The anxiety could
be associated with a novel place, the presence of other dogs in the home, or even anxiety associated with the people in the
DIFFERENTIATING THE PROBLEM
If the dog always lifts its leg to urinate, no matter where it is, then it could be eliminating in a friend's home because
it sees it as a noncore area, similar to the outdoors (i.e. "This is not where I live, eat, sleep, etc."). In this case, it could be considered more of a housetraining problem. However,
some dogs will mark from a position referred to as the squat-raise, where the leg is only slightly lifted, and some dogs may use the same position whether they are eliminating or marking.
(CHRIS AMARAL /GETTY IMAGES)
Thus, leg position does not always clearly differentiate marking from elimination behavior until that information is combined
with a detailed description of the entire behavior sequence as well as a complete behavioral history. Other associated information
such as whether the dog sniffs a lot before and, possibly, after depositing urine or whether or not there is scratching of
the ground afterward may help to differentiate marking from elimination. Scratching the ground after eliminating is another
form of marking behavior. When combined with a lot of olfactory investigation, it suggests that the event has a purpose other
than just responding to the need to empty the bladder. Another criteria that might help to differentiate urine marking from
elimination is the fact that smaller quantities of urine are typically produced when urine marking. If the dog were eliminating,
then a larger quantity would be expected, as the dog is likely to completely empty its bladder.
RULING OUT A MEDICAL PROBLEM
We are assuming that the dog is not exhibiting any polydipsia or polyuria and that urinary tract disease has been ruled out.
If this were a completely new behavior in a 6-year-old dog, I would be cautious about assuming it is strictly behavioral with
no medical underpinnings. Even some medical conditions and medications can increase a dog's level of irritability or agitation,
making it more anxious and likely to perform an anxiety-related behavior that it may never have performed before. An increased
degree of anxiety can also lead to an increased sensitivity to stimuli and, thus, an increase in behaviors such as urine marking.