Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who
partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

Urine marking is a natural behavior in dogs.

Urine marking is a natural behavior in dogs.

A. farricelli (all rights reserved)

Why Do Dogs Pee on People?

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. There
he goes again, 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. The truth is that 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.

Urine Marking in Male Dogs

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, make an important clarification by asking yourself this: Is your dog
peeing when guests come over, or is your dog actually marking on your guests
by deliberately lifting his leg?

Submissive and Excited Urination

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 greeting them instead. He might be rolling on 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? Here 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 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.

Excuse the pee, he's just happy to see you!

Excuse the pee, he’s just happy to see you!

patchattack via Flickr

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.

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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

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

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

Question: 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?

Answer: 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

© 2013 Adrienne Farricelli


Lynn on August 11, 2020:

Thank you

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 11, 2020:

Lynn, thanks for the extra details, if this was something against this
boyfriend, I would have expected something more directly related to him, such
as peeing on his belongings. Since this was a tire, and your dog normally
leaves “pee mail” given the opportunity, I think it boils down to simple urine
marking. You can find more on why dogs pee on tires here:…

Lynn on August 11, 2020:

This was the first time I’ve noticed.

He urinates while out for walks so as to say I was here.

But, this was totally out of the norm.

He urinated on his tire.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 11, 2020:

Hi Lynn, has this dog ever urine marked before, or was this the first time?
Where did he pee? Inside the car, tires?

Lynn on August 10, 2020:

My adult poodle urinated, on my daughters boyfriend car, the day he came to
ask for her hand in marriage.

This bothers me, is he accepting him or sense something about him.
Additionally, the bird kicks seed at him.

Cara on October 20, 2019:

My male Rotti is 9 months old and suddenly started peeing on strangers at the
dog park. What can we do to stop this behavior?

Kim on October 07, 2019:

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

Ellie on February 25, 2019:

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?

Lena Ronk on December 23, 2018:

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

Tonia on September 12, 2018:

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

carolynne on April 04, 2018:

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 ??????

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on October 17, 2013:

Great advice! I’ve known one dog that did this, but he wasn’t mine and
thankfully he never tried to “mark” me! 🙂