Although you may think of canine urine marking as being an exclusively youthful behavior, the reality is that dogs of all ages are susceptible to it -- as long as they're a minimum of 3 months old. Territorial marking behaviors in older pooches are nothing out of the ordinary.
Identifying Territorial Marking
When older dogs lay claim to a "possession" of theirs, whether a wall in the living room or an easy chair in the den, they tend to do so by urinating over it -- typically in tiny amounts. Territorial marking with fecal matter is uncommon in dogs of all ages. Urine marking usually takes place vertically -- on drapes and on bedroom dressers, for example. While canines do indeed frequently mark items that they are familiar with and believe are already theirs, they often do so with brand new things, as well, as a way of getting to something first. Your older dog may urine mark things that have been in his life for years, and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, shiny new objects -- say the new curtains in your den.
Triggers of Territorial Marking
Older dogs mark territory indoors when they feel threatened or anxious due to a situation. If you have a house guest staying at your home for a week, for instance, and your dog -- who is used to years and years of a reliable routine -- feels like everyone is suddenly too busy to give him any attention, he may urine mark as a way of letting off tension and frustration -- and to strengthen his feelings of ownership over his designated turf -- his pride and joy. If you are temporarily fostering a young kitten, your older dog may urine mark as a means of notifying the newbie of his territory. "I got to this first, way before you, so this is mine and only mine. Got that?" Urine marking is a way for dogs young and old to clearly label things that they firmly believe belong to them.
Neutering or Spaying
If your older dog has never been neutered or spayed, it may have something to do with his penchant for territorial marking actions. Although "fixing" surgeries are particularly beneficial for minimizing or getting rid of marking behaviors in youngsters, they also can be helpful in managing the issue in older pooches, too. Sexually mature dogs often urine mark in order to gain the attention of members of the opposite sex, whether they're young, old or anywhere in between. If you are concerned about your dog's older age with regard to spaying or neutering surgery, consult a veterinarian beforehand to inquire about safety. Make sure to provide the vet not only with your dog's age, but also with key information about both his health background and lifestyle.
Urinary Incontinence and Medical Ailments
Do not always assume that your dog's indoor elimination habit is necessarily a result of territory marking. Elderly dogs are often susceptible to urinary incontinence, which entails the loss of bladder control. Urinary incontinence can also be related to a bevy of different canine health ailments, from urinary tract infection to kidney disease. Before assigning any kind of name to your dog's behavior, take him to the veterinarian to check on his overall health.
- The Humane Society of the United States: Urine Marking - Why Dogs Mark Their Territory
- The Humane Society of the United States: Urine Marking Behavior - How to Prevent It
- The Humane Society of Southern Arizona: Urine Marking Behavior in Dogs
- ASPCA: Urine Marking in Dogs
- Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA: Urine Marking
- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images