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Why Do Dogs Pee On Trees? Facts & Tips

Savannah Stanfield

By Savannah Stanfield

male poodle peeing

Whether you’re taking your dog for a walk in the park or just hanging out in your own backyard, you’ve probably noticed your dog peeing on a tree. But as you’re surely aware, this isn’t just something that your dog does. Other dogs do it too, and in fact, it’s a part of normal dog behavior.

Dogs pee on trees in order to mark their scent. Although tree marking is commonly seen in male dogs, female dogs can mark trees, too. Even though this is a totally normal dog behavior to mark their scent on a tree, why do dogs do it? And is it bad for the tree? Let’s find out in this article.

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Why Exactly Do Dogs Pee on Trees?

Dogs pee on trees as a way to mark their scent, but they have more than one reason for wanting to mark their scent. The first reason is that they are claiming the tree as theirs or as being part of their territory. This is particularly true of trees in their own backyard. They want other dogs (or other animals) to know that the tree belongs to them and not to mess with it.

The other reason why dogs mark on trees is due to something called overmarking, and it happens more often in a public place such as a park. It can also happen in your yard as well if you don’t have a fence to keep other dogs out.

Overmarking happens when a dog smells another dog’s urine on the tree, particularly when a male dog smells the urine of a female dog in heat. When a female dog is in heat, her urine releases chemicals called pheromones that attract other dogs to her scent. The male dog is able to pick up on that scent and urinates on the tree himself as a way to make his presence known.

But, male dogs can also countermark trees where other male dogs have peed, and female dogs may countermark areas where other females have peed as well. In this case, it all goes back to trying to claim territory, even if that tree is in a public place such as a park.

dog peeing on tree
Image Credit: Sukpaiboonwat, Shutterstock

More Than Just Tree Marking

It’s also worth noting that trees are not the only objects that dogs use to mark their scent. Dogs may also just pee in the grass, or on signposts and fire hydrants. However, some objects are better for dogs to pee on than others, and trees are one such object on which you may want to stop your dog from peeing.

Is It Bad for Dogs to Pee on Trees?

Dogs peeing on trees isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, it mostly depends on the location of the tree and what may be around the tree. And, dogs peeing on trees may not necessarily be bad for the tree itself, but for the environment as a whole.

One of the biggest areas of concern when it comes to dogs urinating on trees is in city parks, not necessarily in your own backyard. Dog urine contains high levels of nitrogen, which has the potential to leach into the soil as well as on the tree.

One study actually measured the effect of dog urine on soil health in city green spaces such as parks and found higher concentrations of nitrogen in the soil around areas with lots of trees, especially when those trees were closer to walking paths.

This is bad because although nitrogen is an essential part of plant growth and keeping plants healthy, too much nitrogen can negatively affect plant growth or even affect what plants can grow in a certain area. But if this study was performed in city parks, what about trees in your own backyard?

For large, well-established trees, your dog peeing on them occasionally is not likely to cause a problem. However, if a particular tree is your dog’s favorite spot to pee, or the tree is young, newly planted, or has flowers or other plantings around it, dog urine could affect their growth over time.

Dog urine is also thought to weaken tree bark over time, leaving the tree more susceptible to damage from pests as well as interfering with the proper uptake of water by the roots. But, more studies are needed to verify to what extent it could cause damage.

dog peeing on tree at the park
Image Credit: pcdazero, Pixabay

How to Stop Your Dog from Peeing on Trees

Now that you’ve learned that a dog peeing on a tree may not be a good thing, you may be looking for ways to stop your dog from peeing on them. Whether you’re looking for solutions in the park or in your own backyard, we’ve got some suggestions for you.

In the Park

Stopping your dog from peeing on trees in the park can be a tall task, especially when there are trees all around. But, the best way to prevent your dog from peeing on trees in the park or other outdoor spaces is to take him to an area away from trees to urinate.

The study mentioned above found that there were fewer negative impacts to the environment in areas with fewer trees, in which dogs urinated on grass instead. Although dog urine can cause some damage to grass as well, it’s also important to remember that you’re not responsible for the landscaping in the park so it’s okay for your dog to pee in the grass or even on a tree if it can’t be prevented.

In Your Backyard

Preventing dogs from peeing on trees in your backyard is a little bit easier. One of the best things you can do is to train your dog from an early age as to where to use the bathroom. Training your dog to pee in a certain area and giving him treats when he goes in that area can help prevent him from peeing on trees or on your other plants.

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The 3 Ways to Protect Trees from Dog Urine

If you can’t stop your dog from peeing on a particular tree in your backyard, or other dogs are coming into your yard to pee, there are ways that you can protect the trees from dog urine as well.

1. Tree Guard

One of the easiest ways to protect your trees is to place tree guards around them. A tree guard is essentially a plastic or metal cage that goes around the trunk of your tree to protect it from dog urine.

Tree guards are a great solution if your dog insists on peeing on the same tree over and over again. The guard will prevent the urine from reaching the trunk of the tree. A lot of tree guards can be expanded so that they still fit around the trunk as the tree grows. However, if you have other plants and flowers around the tree, a tree guard may not provide them with the same protection.

2. Mulch

Mulch may not necessarily stop your dog from peeing on trees, but it can offer protection to the roots of the tree as well as other plants around the tree. Mulch can soak up some of the dog’s urine before it reaches the plants.

The only downside to this is that the mulch may get smelly over time and entice other dogs to urinate there we well. You can try adding a layer of rocks on top of the mulch as well for both visual appeal and to create a space that isn’t as enticing for your dog to pee on.

dog trying to pee on tree at the streets
Image Credit: brennermatthias, Pixabay

3. Wash Off the Tree

This method of protecting trees requires you to be very diligent and aware of when your dog is peeing on the tree so that you can spray it with a hose afterward. It may not protect the tree completely either, but what it does do is help dilute some of the urine, lessening the damage that is caused to the tree and soil.

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Final Thoughts

Peeing on trees is a normal part of dog behavior, as it allows dogs to mark their territory or let other dogs know that they’ve been there. However, dogs peeing on trees could have potential negative impacts on the trees and the soil around them, so it’s up to you whether you want to allow that behavior to continue. If you do choose to try to prevent it, we hope that you’ve found some of our suggestions helpful.

Featured Image Credit: ThamKC, Shutterstock

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