What does it mean when a dog pees on you or your guests? What if they pee on a stranger in the park? It certainly makes for an embarrassing experience, and many dog owners may be tempted to shout or punish their dog for urinating on them or another person.
The problem is that punishment or making a fuss is likely only to make the issue worse. Dogs peeing on people signifies a serious psychological or emotional problem. It is far more than just an embarrassing inconvenience.
If it’s a frequent issue, we can arm ourselves with a good Pet Stain & Odor Remover to eliminate the stain and smell from our clothes. But we still need to address the underlying problem. So why do dogs pee on people, and what can we do about it?
What Does It Mean When A Dog Pees On You? Possible Causes
There are a large number of reasons that dogs pee on people, and despite what you may think, it’s not because a dog is being naughty. Remember when dealing with this issue that dogs don’t understand good and bad behavior the same way we do. And when it comes to dogs peeing on people, context is everything.
Territorial Marking & Asserting Dominance
The first idea that jumps to many people’s minds is of a male dog peeing on a newcomer to assert dominance. The truth is that this is not how dogs assert dominance over other dogs or people. So it is extremely rare that a dog will ever pee on someone to “show them whose boss.” This is a myth!
Dogs who are asserting dominance or marking their territory (typically male dogs and more often unneutered males) will move around an area “marking” or peeing on various objects. They do not mark people when they are doing this. Dogs have other ways of physically showing someone their dominance that does not include urinating on them.
That doesn’t mean it will never happen. A dog in the process of staking out its territory, usually in a new environment or if there are new people in the house, can be so busy marking its territory, it may accidentally lift its leg against a stranger’s leg. This is usually not intentional.
However, behaviorist Dr. Mark Bekoff strongly argues that dogs can hold grudges and dislike people. This means a dog may pee on people they don’t like, such as a new boyfriend stealing their human’s attention. It is possible, but if it happens, it’s an exceptionally rare behavior.
More often, dogs will pee on something belonging to the person who offended them, like their luggage or their bed.
Inappropriate urination is a risk factor for aggression, according to one study. Nevertheless, it is extremely rare, and dominance and aggression is perhaps the least common reason a dog may pee on you.
Picking or greeting an extremely nervous and submissive dog is one of the more common reasons that dogs pee on us. Submissive urination happens when dogs desperately try to appease or make sure we are friendly to them. Signs of submissive peeing include:
- Tail tucked or kept low with only a tight wagging at the end
- Rolling over onto the belly or side (lifting front paw)
- Lip or nose licking or trying to lick your mouth
- Ducking head low
- Shivering or shaking.
Dogs like these need help with socialization and training to build confidence around people. Punishing dogs for submissive peeing will only increase the fearfulness and exacerbate the issue.
Stress & Anxiety
A dog with separation anxiety may pee on you when they think you are leaving. Similarly, dogs with a noise phobia may pee if there is a thunderstorm. Chronic stress can also sometimes cause dogs to leak urine.
Several medical issues can cause incontinence in dogs, which may lead them to pee on you when they are on your lap or nearby. Some issues to look out for include the following:
- Canine cognitive decline in senior dogs
- Hormonal imbalances
- Weight problems
- Side effects of medications such as Prednisone
- Spinal cord injuries
- Congenital defects in the urinary tract
- Urinary Tract Infections
- Kidney stones
Why Does My Female Dog Pee On Me?
If you’re googling “my female dog peed on me,” you’re far from alone. Female dogs are prone to incontinence, especially as they get older. Spayed females, in particular, often develop urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence (USMI) because of the lack of estrogen, causing incontinence.
Female dogs are also more likely to develop UTIs and some kinds of kidney stones. Of course, other medical issues, such as diabetes, or behavioral problems like nervous peeing may also be to blame.
Help! My dog peed on someone at the dog park!
If your dog peed on a stranger in public, context is everything. If your dog lifted their leg to pee on someone’s leg, it’s likely just a matter of confusion. The person was probably standing near a bush or fence post the dog wanted to mark. A small dog may also mistake someone’s leg for a territorial landmark.
If someone was making a fuss of your dog or picking them up, it is more likely that your dog peed out of fear, submissiveness, or excitement.
In both cases, do what you can to help clean the mess from the stranger. It’s always good practice to have a few wipes and waterless sanitizer on you when you go for walks.
After that, keep your dog leashed and intervene to keep strangers away from your dog. Remember, it’s not rude to politely ask that people don’t pet your dog. You can also follow our steps below to teach your dog how to calmly and politely greet new people and avoid incidents in the future.
Help! My dog peed on me on the couch!
If your dog peed on you while cuddled on the couch, your dog likely has an incontinence issue. If your dog was sleeping at the time when they urinated, it means the muscles holding their bladder closed relaxed too far, causing them to leak urine.
This could be due to several physical issues, including urinary tract infections, so it’s time to visit the vet.
For more help on getting dog pee out of the couch, you can see our article on tips for getting a dog smell out of the couch.
What To Do if Your Dog Pees On You or Other People
- Take your dog to the vet to look for medical problems such as a UTI, diabetes, or other causes of incontinence.
- Limit your dog’s access to your lap or other areas where they may pee on you if they if incontinence problems.
- Stop your dog rushing the door when you or other people arrive. Use crate and place training to prevent your dog from greeting people when excited. Also, keep your dog on a leash, so they do not greet people freely in public areas.
- If you suspect a grudge or dislike is the reason a dog pees on someone, remove your dog from that person. Shouting and punishment will make things worse by increasing the negative association your dog already has. Restart the introduction process with positive reinforcement training, and use obedience training to teach your dog to always greet guests politely in a sit.
- Neuter your male dog if they are not neutered.
- Address issues such as separation anxiety.
- Step up your dog’s daily exercise, training, and socialization to help them cope with excess energy.
- Revisit obedience commands such as “sit” and insist that your dog never runs through a door ahead of you. Ask as many friends to come by as possible to teach your dog to greet guests calmly.
Avoid your dog urinating from excitement by teaching them to greet strangers calmly (dog training 101):
- Keep your dog on a leash and ask them to sit.
- Allow your guest to enter but ask them not to acknowledge the dog in any way.
- Reward your dog for holding its sit while the new person is present. If they break their sit and get overexcited, remove your dog for 20 seconds or until they are calmer. Start the process again and be patient.
- When your dog can sit calmly when a new person stops by, you can allow your friend to pet the dog. If they get overexcited, go back several steps.
- If your dog pees when you come home, start the same process of leaving and coming home to desensitize your dog.
- Ignore them when they come home and only pay them attention when they have calmed down.
- Gradually teach them to sit calmly when you enter the door if they want your attention.
- Take your time with this process. It is not easy to calm an anxious or excited dog. Getting angry can only make things worse. The key is calm consistency.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Should I pee on my dog to show dominance?
No, do not pee on your dog to show dominance. Firstly, dogs don’t pee on each other to show dominance. They are more likely to pee when scared and submissive, so you will not be teaching your dog anything by doing this (except that they make you nervous).
Secondly, you establish leadership with a dog through communication, structure, and trust. Peeing on your dog indicates a failure in all three of these, implying that you cannot lead your dog and that having a dog is likely not the best choice for you or the dog.
What does it mean when a dog pees on your foot?
If a dog pees on your foot, it may be because you were standing close to something your dog wanted to mark as part of their territory, like a bush or lamp post. Some dogs take to marking territory more when they feel threatened by strangers, so sometimes a new person in their environment may catch some “friendly fire.”
What does it mean when a dog pees on your bed?
Most dogs pee on beds because of some kind of urinary incontinence. They may have a urinary tract infection, diabetes, or an older female dog may lose muscle tone in the sphincter around her bladder. Some medications may also be to blame. Occasionally dogs pee on beds to mark it as their territory, particularly if they’re upset, such as when you’ve been gone for a while.
If your dog has an issue peeing on beds, see our article on why dogs pee on beds.
It can be distressing if your dog pees on you, but remember that it is a myth that dogs pee on people to show dominance. Dogs have specific behaviors rooted in body language when they feel aggressive or dominant toward someone. Peeing during a greeting is more likely a sign of extreme submissiveness.
For this reason, any peeing on you or others is abnormal behavior. It indicates either a deep set of behavior problems, such as fear or anxiety, or there is a medical cause, and your dog may need to see the vet.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.