The Truth About Dogs and 'Pee Mail'

Curiosity or Secret Messaging?

We know that dogs communicate with each other (and try to do so with us, of course) through a variety of nonverbal signals. Many dog owners are well versed in at least the most obvious canine body language (hackles up, for example, or a happy tail wag), but until recently we didn’t know much about communication through scent marking. But it’s not at all surprising that dogs communicate in intricate ways through their urinary postings, since their sense of smell is so complex and powerful that we can’t begin to imagine the messages dogs get through their noses.

We're starting to key in on the contributions of pee mail. For example, we're learning that scent marking is another strategy dogs use to avoid conflicts with each other. By marking his territory with a yellow stream, a dog who wants others to stay away may get his wish.

All well and good, of course, but what to do about a dog who spends all of his time reading pee mail when it’s time to be walking and insists that you stop at every vertical surface along the way?

A sniff or two with your permission is fine, but you should not allow your dog to "spread the word" near and far. We may be impressed with our dogs' ability to communicate with each other without saying a word, but we still need to keep moving on our walks together, no matter how juicy the gossip they’re smelling on that fire hydrant.


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