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Why Do Dogs Pee on Fire Hydrants?

Sarah Psaradelis

As dog owners, it is not uncommon to be taking your dog on a relaxing walk, only to have them stop and seek out a fire hydrant to pee on. You may notice the classic behavior of your dog circling it a couple of times before finally lifting its leg and peeing over it.

If this sounds familiar to you, then this article is perfect for you. Although there is no definite explanation for this confusing behavior, this article will provide you with answers that outline the most possible causes believed by veterinarians and animal behaviorists.

So, what is so special about the bright red fire hydrant and why do dogs want to pee on it? Well, let us get into the possible answers!

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9 Fascinating Reasons Dogs Pee on Fire Hydrants:

There are several different explanations for why your dog is attracted to urinating on fire hydrants. There is no way to tell which explanation applies to your dog, but it can give you a general idea.

1. Red Paint Dyes

Many veterinarians have suggested that the reasoning behind dogs urinating on red fire hydrants is due to the dyes used to paint on municipal fire hydrants. The dyes smell sweet which entices your dog to the fire hydrant. The sweet smell of the dye is like how dog urine smells.

Although this is more scientific reasoning behind the behavior, it does make sense. Even if the fire hydrant has no build-up of urine from other dogs or animals, the dyes make the dog think that another dog has been there regardless. It may not be backed up by proof, but it is interesting reasoning behind this phenomenon.


2. Scent Marking

When your dog passes the fire hydrant, they want to mark their scent for other dogs to know that they have been there. This is normal behavior and dogs do it to other objects like trees or bushes.


3. Other Animals

When a dog smells that another animal has been near the fire hydrant, like a cat, they want to wash out the smell of that animal with their scent and urine.


4. Attractive Color

Red and yellow are common colors for fire hydrants to be painted in. These bright colors stand out to dogs against the dull surroundings or buildings or trees. Dogs will then seek out this brightly colored object and urinate against it. Possibly because they even find it attractive and know that it will draw the attention of other dogs who pass it.


5. Territory

The main reason dogs pee against objects is because they are marking their territory. This lets other dogs know they have been there, and that it is ‘theirs’. When another dog passes it, they will smell the dog’s urine and see that another dog has been there. It is a way dogs can claim their territory, even if it is a public space, your dog does not know that.


6. Overmarking

Dogs like to urinate over other dogs’ pee. There is no real known reason behind overmarking, but most dominant dogs like to urinate over an old pee mark. Sometimes you can see the stain from the previous dog’s urine, and this is typically the spot your dog will choose to directly urinate over.


7. Spraying

If your dog is not spayed or neutered, they naturally spray against desirable objects. This type of urine contains pheromones that attract potential mates. This can be done by both a male and female dog and should stop once they have been either spayed or neutered by a vet. This sprayed urine is strong and more concentrated than typical urine and can be smelt by dogs who are further away. It can also be the typical behavior of a female dog in heat.


8. Vertical Objects

Fire hydrants are smooth, upright objects that may seem like a tree to a dog. They may find this appealing because there are no sharp trees or leaves that they must go through to urinate against. Dogs seem to have a fascination with trees and other vertical objects as a desirable place to urinate. This can stem down from instincts.


9. Border Marking

Some streets have a fire hydrant lurking around every corner. This makes your dog want to mark the boundaries of its territory. It’s a way of them attempting to claim their domain and they will try to pee on each one they pass, even if they run out of urine. This sends out signals to other dogs that this walking area is solely theirs.

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Is It Gender-Based?

Peeing against fire hydrants is seen in both male and female dogs. Although males are more likely to display this behavior. Females will generally only spray on the fire hydrant to release pheromones. About 10% of female dogs will urinate against fire hydrants, whereas 90% of male dogs will display this behavior. It is also believed that male dogs are more concerned about scent marking for territory purposes.

How Can You Stop It?

Stopping this behavior can be easy. The first thing you want to ensure is that your dog is spayed or neutered. This seems to calm down the dogs’ hormones and the natural urge to urinate against objects for various purposes.

The next thing you can do is to avoid walking your dog in areas with lots of fire hydrants. This is because the urine from other dogs will draw their attention to this area regardless of if they intend to urinate against it.

Lastly, you can try to distract your dog from the fire hydrant by talking to them or giving them a treat as you pull them away from the fire hydrant by the lead. They will associate a treat with their behavior of avoiding the area.

Is This Behavior Harmful?

It is quite a normal behavior that is not particularly harmful. It does not seem to be linked to any behavior issues or neurological problems. Your dog does not understand why peeing on a fire hydrant can be unwanted by its owner, so reprimanding them will not be helpful.

There is no real harm to a dog peeing against a fire hydrant and it can be compared to a dog peeing against a tree or other object, they may just be more attracted to the fire hydrant than anything else in their surroundings.

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Conclusion

Now that you have discovered some of the main reasons dogs pee against fire hydrants, it’s up to you to decide the most likely reason for your dog wanting to do this. There are plenty of interesting theories behind the fire hydrants’ attraction to dogs that pass it and we hope this article has helped ease some of your confusion.


Featured Image Credit: TheShiv76, Pixabay

Sarah Psaradelis

Sarah Psaradelis is an avid young writer with dual passions for literature and animals. She enjoys sharing knowledge of animal care and helping others. Sarah has over 8 years of writing experience and is currently studying veterinary science. She resides in South Africa with her supportive partner who shares the same love for animals. She takes care of 25 fish, aquarium snails, dogs, and rodents. When she is not writing, she is researching animalsl or instructing a sports pole dance class. Sarah is a passionate vegan activist and animal rescuer pursuing her path to make the world a better place.