female dog marking territory
Pet Behavioral Problems

Do Female Dogs Mark Territory

When we picture a dog marking their territory, we typically think of a male dog lifting his leg to pee on a fire hydrant. You may not realize that female dogs also mark territory.

Female dogs mark territory using urine and feces just like male dogs. They’re less likely to have problematic marking behaviors like peeing in the house but they can, especially while in heat.

A dog’s urine helps them to communicate details about themselves, such as age, gender, and sexual availability, to other dogs in the area.

In this article, we’ll talk all about female dogs marking territory, how to know if your female dog is marking territory, and more!

Do Female Dogs Mark Territory?

While unneutered male dogs are most likely to mark territory, female dogs also mark using urine and feces. Even spayed females rarely mark indoors or in other inappropriate environments.

Marking is how our dogs communicate with one another, and it isn’t inherently bad. However, we never want our dogs marking in the house, on people or other dogs, or on other people’s things!

female dogs do mark territory

How do I know if my Female Dog is Marking?

If you can’t tell that your female dog is marking, it likely isn’t an issue. Marking outdoors is completely normal and doesn’t look different from any other time your dog pees.

It becomes a problem if your dog is peeing in inappropriate places, like inside the home. In this case, you’ll definitely smell it!

She’s likely to mark in a specific area. Dogs often mark their own items or things that smell strongly of the humans in the household.

If she’s been punished for marking in the past, your dog is more likely to try to hide her urine in corners or by going into another room alone. (We don’t recommend punishing your dog for peeing indoors as this usually worsens the behavior.)

If you’re trying to stop marking before it happens, look for these signs:

  • Sniffing intensely in a specific area
  • Wandering around in circles while sniffing
  • Tilting the head to the side as if considering marking
  • Squatting

Watch your dog when she pees, and you might notice even more signs that are unique to her. Once you learn what it looks like when she’s about to urinate, you can interfere before it happens and take her outside to do her business.

Your dog will then quickly learn what’s expected of her!

Why do Female Dogs Spray?

Female dogs spray for all the reasons male dogs spray! These include:

  • Big life changes, such as a new house, family member, or schedule
  • Anxiety including nervousness, clinical anxiety, or separation anxiety
  • Lack of resources, especially in a multi-dog household
  • Overstimulation or excitement
  • Being forced to hold urine for too long, such as during a long workday
  • Illness or incontinence due to old age
  • Lack of potty training
  • Females in heat will urine mark to show availability

I once worked as a dog sitter for a female dog who urine marked indoors because she had separation anxiety. She had a history of abandonment and didn’t like when her owner went away.

Other dogs might not be able to hold their urine for as long as their owners expect. It’s not healthy for an adult dog to hold their urine for more than 6-8 hours. 

This means that, if you work full-time outside the home, it’s best to have someone stop by to let your dog out in the middle of your shift. Once you factor in your commute, you’re going to be gone for longer than 8 hours—and even longer if you work overtime.

Puppies can only hold their bladders for one hour per month of age, meaning a two-month-old needs to potty once every two hours.

Keep in mind that these are the ideal maximum timeframes, and every dog is different. Yours might need to potty more often than this. 

Many dogs can hold their bladders even longer, but it can lead to health problems, including urinary tract infections. It also increases the risk of them having an accident.

Why is my Female Dog Marking all of a Sudden?

If your female dog is marking suddenly, it’s time to look into what’s changed in her life recently. Here are some possibilities:

  • A new pet or person in the home
  • Moving house
  • A change in routine, such as you working different hours or feeding her at a new time
  • New items in the house with unfamiliar scents
  • Illness or injury
  • Incontinence due to old age

As you can see, it’s often your dog’s environment that causes her sudden change in behavior—but not always.

Many ailments can lead to peeing in the house, including urinary tract infections, bladder stones, or kidney disease.

Arthritis or injuries can also cause a dog to mark indoors. She might choose soft surfaces in this case, like a bed or pile of clothes, that feel comfortable for her to squat on.

Old age can also cause incontinence. As a dog ages, they become less able to hold their bladder for long periods of time. Your dog might have to be taken outside more frequently to prevent accidents.

If your dog is marking in the house suddenly and you can’t figure out why, it’s vital to bring her to the veterinarian. Dogs hide illness well, and sometimes changes in behavior like this are the only symptoms they show.

If you think this is happening due to illness, injury, or old age, it’s equally important to get your dog to the veterinarian. They can treat whatever is wrong, even if it’s just giving your pup some pain pills to increase their quality of life and, maybe, make it a little easier to walk out to the backyard.

Dog Peeing on Artificial Grass Pad
Dog Peeing on Artificial Grass Pad

Related article: All About Dog Grass Pee Pads

Female Dog Marking or UTI?

If your dog is peeing indoors, your first step should always be to see a veterinarian. They can rule out medical issues like a UTI (urinary tract infection) or prescribe treatment if your dog is sick.

Some signs that your dog has a UTI include:

  • Frequent peeing, inability to hold bladder
  • Straining or crying while peeing, pain
  • Blood in the urine
  • Dripping urine
  • Licking the genitals
  • Urine has a stronger odor than usual

Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria making its way into the bladder and reproducing. UTIs can also lead to bladder stones.

Your veterinarian will likely perform a urinalysis. They’ll take a sample of your dog’s urine and test it for things like pH, blood, and protein levels.

They might also recommend an x-ray or ultrasound to check for bladder stones. The urinalysis is likely to be sent out to a laboratory for further testing.

Treatments include antibiotics, pain medications, and dietary changes. Typically, your veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic for the most common bacteria to cause UTIs (Escherichia coli) because it offers immediate relief to most dogs.

If the lab results indicate another bacteria, your vet will then prescribe more antibiotics as needed to get the infection under control.

Another urinalysis will then be used to confirm the infection is cured.