You might associate urine marking with male animals, but the behavior is far from exclusive to one gender. Female dogs also frequently urine-mark, particularly when they're in heat. When it comes to marking, dogs don't restrict themselves to territory, whether the corner of the basement or the living room sofa. They also often mark possessions.
If a female dog feels unsettled and nervous about the confusing presence of another animal in your home, she might urine-mark a "territory" in your house as a means of asserting herself and communicating to everyone something like, "Just making sure that you all know this is my turf. Not yours, so forget about it." Dogs often find change highly taxing and disorienting, not unlike many humans. Urine-marking is one way they may react to instability and unfamiliarity.
"My Possession Now"
Similarly to urine-marking as a way of establishing their "top dog" status, dogs of both sexes also frequently mark possessions, particularly those of other people or animals. To dogs, the concepts of "territory" and "possession" are alike. The sudden appearance of brand-new things in a dog's living environment is often a major cause for uncertainty and anxiety, and therefore urine-marking behavior. Whether you purchased a new trash can, rug or vacuum cleaner, don't be surprised if your cutie tries to label it as her own possession by marking it—ugh.
More Common in Male Dogs
Although canines of both genders are fully capable of marking, male dogs are definitely more prominent than females in this department. If a female simply has more testosterone than the average girl dog, as some do, then her urge to engage in the messy behavior might be a little more intense.
If you're frustrated by your sweet pet's habit of marking places and items throughout your home, spaying her can be a smart and practical way to get a handle on it. Spaying stops female dogs from ever going into estrus or "heat," and most of their urine-marking occurs during that period, or just prior to it. Spaying often lessens marking behavior or halts it entirely.
Don't necessarily assume that your female dog is marking in the first place. The urine patches you see throughout your home could actually be a result of, for example, urinary incontinence—a health problem that is beyond your poor pet's control. A lot of health conditions can trigger urination issues in dogs. Only a veterinarian can tell you if your pet's marking is health-related, so waste no time in making her an appointment.
- The Humane Society of the United States: Urine-Marking Behavior: How to Prevent It
- UC–Davis College of Veterinary Medicine: Urine Marking in Dogs [PDF]
- Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Texas: Urine Marking by Dogs
- The Humane Society of Southern Arizona: Urine Marking Behavior in Dogs [PDF]
- ASPCA: Urine Marking in Dogs
- The Humane Society of the United States: Urine-Marking: Why Dogs Mark Their Territory
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images