How to Stop a Dog from Marking in Your House
Why Do Male and Female Dogs Mark?
Recently, I was asked how to stop a dog from urine marking. Dogs may mark for a variety of reasons. Yes, even female dogs mark. A dog may mark on walks, in the home, on new items, in new locations, or even on you!
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Why Do Dogs Mark?
The nose always knows. Marking is yet another way dogs communicate with each other. These chemical communication signals provide a lot of useful information between dogs, giving a glimpse into another dog’s health, status, and we don’t know what else.
Dog Marking Territory
A recent study by Anneke E. Lisberg and Charles T. Snowdon found a competitive function of overmarking from males to males. In other words, they can claim territory by marking. This isn’t surprising when you think about canines or other animals in the wild competing for both territory and mating rights. This is a way to AVOID conflict.
Marking New Items
It’s not uncommon for a dog to mark new items in their environment. Whether this is a new piece of furniture or a lawn ornament, a dog may feel the need to add his scent to the item. This role can also be reversed when a dog is in a new environment such as a dog-friendly hotel room. He may feel the need to signal that it is his new home and territory.
Marking and Canine Anxiety, Tension or Stress
When dogs are around other dogs in a highly social environment, they may urine mark more than usual. Over-stimulation often can be the trigger for urine marking and even mounting. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, he may even mark your suitcase or another object as he watches you pack. Conflict between family members, dogs, cats, humans or otherwise, is often a trigger for canine marking behavior.
The Lisberg and Snowdon study also showed that when unknown dogs met for the first time at a dog park, if given the opportunity, new dogs would more likely pee, then allow the present dog to investigate. This is interesting, because this gives the first dog a chance to get to know the new dog without any physical contact between the two dogs, diminishing the chance of an altercation.
Marking Behavior and Medical Concerns
If your dog seems to be urinating more or dribbling pee, you should seek the guidance of your veterinarian immediately. A few common causes of dogs dribbling are urinary incontinence, urinary tract infection, obstruction, nerve trauma, bladder stones, and kidney disease.
Change in Behavior
This dog blog post was inspired by a question regarding a senior dog all of a sudden marking his home. Whenever I am working with a new pet client, I ask them to fill out a detailed history form prior to even discussing their case. This helps facilitate the appropriate treatment and training protocol. Detective work is a big part of my job, and I try to elicit detective work from my clients.
A change in behavior is a huge key to what is actually going on with a pet. Medical issues need to be ruled out first, and this can be quite challenging at times. In the case of senior dogs, medical issues can easily be the culprit causing a behavior change. Sometimes, just the change in a dog’s cognition or physical ability (hearing, pain, sight) can jump-start a marking behavior. When a dog’s body and mind is changing, he can become stressed. Marking may be one way he is trying to communicate his anxiety to his humans. Another thought is that as a dog ages, the family structure may also be changing, which can elicit urine marking.
How to Stop a Dog From Marking
That depends. As with any dog training or behavior modification, it’s not just about stopping the behavior, it’s about addressing the cause of the behavior. If you have a dog who marks non-stop during a walk, just keep on walking and don’t allow so much sniffing and peeing. This isn’t to say he can’t mark and pee along his walk, just not a hundred times.
If your dog has anxiety or medical concerns, those issues must be addressed. It’s important not to reprimand a dog for marking, but just to re-direct quickly. Reprimanding a dog is likely going to make the issue worse—more stress and more conflict. You will just end up with a dog who marks the house in private!
A good management strategy to save your furniture or hotel room is to place a dog belly band around your male or female dog during likely times of marking. This belly band wraps around your dog’s lower abdomen and will catch any urine flow. I use a belly band for Dexter the first 30 minutes we are in a hotel room, just to ensure he doesn’t mark anything. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Does Your Dog Mark? Tell me in the comments.
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