The Appeal Of Pee-Mail to a Canine

You are probably wondering why I would ever write an article on canine urine, right? It is not a fascinating subject to humans. As a professional dog walker, basic manners canine trainer, licensed and certified pet sitter through the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, I inform my clients everyday about whether their dogs "pottied" on the walk. Furthermore, I am always looking at poop for good reason: the general bowel health of a dog can be seen in the how the poop looks. But dog urine is another matter completely-for dogs, not for me, not really. I'm just there to make sure my fur-clients go potty during the day and have a great outing!

My daily status update communication to my clients, post walk, reassures pet owners their pets are comfortable during their absence. Actually, pet owners LOVE sweet pictures of their pets much better! Some owners do like my 'potty' updates because it helps them to gauge how long they have until they need to get home before another potty break is required.

As it stands, I can think of about only three circumstances where a canine pet owner has to deal with potty issues whether they like it or not:

1. Training: Potty time becomes very much a part of the human day when it is fussed over by a pet parent who is trying to teach their little puppy to "go potty outside". This is an 'all hands on deck' family event where pee and poo-poo become all that is on the human's mind, every 20 minutes, until the puppy is happily on their way to being trained. During this delicate training phase, owners are looking at the puppy to see if the puppy has to pee, wiping up the accidental pee, or showing the puppy its 'pee place' again. Also, the owner is busy rewarding their puppy for each properly placed pee/poop, or picking up the poop and saying something else (grumble-grumble) if the poop is in the wrong area. But no matter WHAT is happening in the human's life, it's all about the puppy pee and poop during this phase.

2. Cleaning: Once successfully trained to go potty in the proper place, the human only then thinks about dog pee and poop when they must trudge out to the potty yard and scoop it all up or wash it down with a sanitizer. Yes, now that we have rewarded our sweet dog for going potty, they will be doing this a lot, many times a day for many years to come. I have always referred to the potty yard as "the mine field". Looking at the statistics of households with dogs, I would guess that there are about 80 million homes whose side and back yards have been sacrificed and the garden forgotten for the love of their pet! Whoever has potty duty in a family always dislikes it. It's almost up there with having to put on a Hazmat suit in 80 degree weather and squeeze under the house to inspect for dry rot or broken air ducts. Unfortunately, this doo-doo duty has to be done. Note: You can always pay us as the pet professional to do this duty for an additional charge, but I have to state that if it's pouring rain, well... I might wait for a drier day for poop patrol.

3. Bowel Issues: The only other time a human has to think of these matters is if one's dog is possibly dealing with a standing health issue, straining during potty, or having sudden odd stools with tummy problems. Imagine for a moment, there you are, standing in the treatment room, and your vet says the words that can stop any pet owner in their tracks: Dr. Vet looks at you and says, "Yeah... I'm going to need a fresh stool sample to see if we have any living things in there, like worms or parasites... icky things like that. Can you get a fresh stool sample over to us today?"

The less time owners have to spend focusing on the back-end of a canine, the better! Most pet owners prefer to focus on that sweet canine face that makes our hearts go pitter-pat: The wet nose, the loving eyes looking at us as we cuddle together. Those soft, velvety ears which always look so cute when they are perched up and listening to our conversations as their head cocks from side to side trying to understand what we are saying to them. Our world is so good and comfortable when we only have to deal with the front end of our canines! Nose to nose...

While we appreciate their inviting and innocent fur-face, while simultaneously experiencing the unconditional love of our dog, we forget what all of this urine and poop stuff really means in their canine world. In fact, all that back-end stuff means EVERYTHING to our sweet dog. Which is why their greeting behavior with each other involves the back-end, too. When they are on a walk with us, sniffing intensely, working scents through their nose, they are doing more than just taking in the smells of nature. They are reading and writing Pee-Mail. Urination is MUCH more than a potty break. Urine is their INK. And trees, grass, and dirt is their 'paper'.

This covert world, undetectable to the human nose, is a robust and dynamic form of canine communication and important olfactory nasal cavity activity for your dog. Pee-Mail around your neighborhood informs your dog about what kind of dogs are in their neighborhood. The pheromones, proteins, cortisol, and sugars produced in their urine is very specific and can be read by dogs who are smelling and receiving incoming olfactory information about the size, health, age, gender, fertility capability, happiness, and stress levels of all the dogs migrating around their world. Poop informs them about what kind of food a dog is eating, wet or dry, protein rich or poor, ill-health, etc.

Remember, you are at the other end of the leash and watching your dog intensely sniffing 'the message'. Why is your dog going koo-koo over a particular urine spot? It's because something has been 'sent' by another dog and 'read' by your dog that is exciting! Some gossipy Pee-Mail has informed your dog about another dog in the neighborhood. Suddenly, your dog decides to send a message back or throw a little shade another dog's way. They pee over the original pee! Like an email thread, multiple dogs will respond to this one message. Have you ever watched your dog take in a urine scent very carefully, taking in all the dimensions of this one Pee-Mail, and then look up and scan around looking for something? Aha! Something is up. As a professional dog walker, I have seen many dogs do this over the years. Not every time, but every once in a while a Pee-Mail is telling something profound to the canine and they look up and around to scan their world of this news-worthy development. What is it they just discovered in this new Pee-Mail? We don't know. What we do know in reading about clinical research on canine urine is this kind of canine communication is so important for dogs in a social setting.

When I walk a dog, I always allow the dog to empty their bladder. If I begin to notice that a dog is marking too much despite having an empty bladder, then I pick up the pace and end the walk on a good cardio note. Too much marking, as a behavior, without any urine is not good either. But the next time you ask your dog if he/she wants to "go for a walk" and they jump up and down, it's because their world is outside and there is new Pee-Poop-Mail to read since the last walk. Heck yeah--they want to go for a walk! They will look at you like: "Get the leash! Let's go!"

Let me share some of my experience with you as a person who is constantly reading about this kind of thing in research articles and vet blogs. Canine urine and canine poop informs a dog who is new to a neighborhood about the canines in the area and many other things, too. Stressed canines leave stressful Pee-Mails. Calm and happy dogs leave calmer messages. When a dog moves to a new neighborhood, they are nervous because they don't know where they are or what kind of canines are around. New, nervous urine is a new Pee-Mail thread. Other canines will smell their urine and know a new dog is in the neighborhood. Taking your dog for a walk where you live will allow your dog to find out very quickly by reading the local Pee-Mail what is happening in their world.

Psychologist Alexandra Horowitz, who works at Barnard College's Dog Cognition Lab, has studied the urine phenomenon for some time. In her 2009 book, 'Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know,' she posits that canines urinate on objects to give each other information on sexual readiness, social confidence and the crucial detail of whether they're a dog-about-town (meaning, how often they pass a location). "In this way," Horowitz writes, "the invisible pile of scents on the hydrant becomes a community bulletin board, with old, deteriorating announcements and requests peeking out from underneath more recent posts."

In my travels around neighborhoods as a dog walker, I have seen and heard dogs who reside only in their backyard, day after day. They do not get out too often and their barks or howls are sometimes desperate and sad. They are isolated, visually and physically, and can become frustrated barkers, fence chewers, fence fighters, and fence jumpers. These canines are not informed about their world or other canine-buddies in their neighborhood and it can lead to depression in canines if a dog is not allowed to get out, smell, exercise, and read the current Pee-Mail and Poop-Mail in their area. It can also lead to fear aggression.

Imagine if I told you that you can no longer read your email or the newspaper. That you are not allowed to look out the window and see your neighborhood or neighbors, or watch the news on TV. That's what it's like for dogs who cannot get out to smell and see the world around them. Their news and local information is on the hydrants and trees. Their world is located in the grass and dirt. Their 'real' world is beyond the fence in a closed-in backyard. Their happiness is outside discovering the next scent or visual experience on a walk.

This is why I really like walking dogs for a living as a "Handy Pet Nanny". I like getting non-aggressive dogs out into nature beyond their yard. I encourage you to consider allowing a professional dog walker to walk your dog for you. Hire a professional canine trainer if your dog needs special attention due to aggression. Relegated to the backyard just because a canine has anti-social issues can be overcome with a patient dog trainer. If you are working or can no longer walk your dog, a dog walker can be a huge asset to the family. I promise you, your dog will REALLY appreciate being outside and will definitely be reinvigorated by all the Pee-Mail and social activity. They will jaunt from tree to bush and 'read' each pee-message very carefully and then leave their response if they see fit. They will get into a walk routine and feel more confident as time goes on. They will feel more a part of their neighborhood and will understand their surroundings much better. When you come home after work, they will have lots to share with you about their walk that day! Tail-wagging and open-mouth happiness will be waiting for you. You might not know what they know about your neighborhood from a four-legged standpoint, but they will know all the canine gossip going on in their world. And I guarantee that you will have a much happier and much less frustrated dog in the long run. One other thing: Don't forget to stoop and pick up their poop! We all appreciate owners and dog walkers who are conscientious about poop patrol.