If you have a dog that lifts his (or her) leg on anything and everything, you know what a frustrating and disgusting habit this can be! While it may be perfectly normal dog behavior, it’s not acceptable for dogs to choose to mark inside homes and public places. So it is up to the humans to try to explain that rule to the dog in a way he or she can understand.
Why Is Your Dog Marking?
Understanding the causes may help you pinpoint the best method for stopping the behavior. If your dog is young, you may notice he’s recently started lifting his leg to eliminate. He is trying to be a “big dog”and leave his mark higher than other dogs. Some small dogs will even walk backwards up a vertical surface in an attempt to mark higher! It’s not just the boys. Females may also mark and some get it just as high as the boys!
Territorial marking is often done in response to the sight or smell of another dog. Your dog may be trying to cover the scent left by another dog or be trying to send the message, “hey buddy, this tree is MINE!” or “I’ve been here.” While this may be acceptable outdoors, the problem starts when your dog doesn’t realize that leaving those little p-mail messages inside is NOT OK.
Some Reasons For Dog Marking
Marking is not the same as relieving a full bladder. A dog who marks will often only leave a small amount on a spot he wants to mark, and save the rest for other spots … but he’ll “go” for much longer if simply emptying his bladder. So while your dog may be house trained to not relieve himself indoors, he may not see a problem with territorial marking. Because his motivation for marking is different, it’s a different behavior to him than regular potty time.
Your dog might also suddenly start marking in the house if there’s a change in his environment. It could be because there’s a new dog in the house or the nearby houses or yards, a new baby, a new mate for his owner or a change of address. Just as with people, life changes can be stressful and cause your dog anxiety. Some dogs exhibit their stress through marking. When my husband first moved in, my Rottweiler (who had been an only dog till then) decided he didn’t like the change. He lost his spot on the bed, he lost some of my attention and this guy’s scent was starting to get all over the house. So at one point, he walked over to my husband’s shoes, looked right at him and lifted his leg on the offending footwear! He did come to love my husband and only marked inside that one time, but I think his message was loud and clear.
RELATED: How to potty train a puppy …
Rule Out Medical Causes
Sometimes what seems like a marking issue could have a medical cause. If your dog has been house trained and suddenly starts peeing in the house, your first thought should be bladder infection or UTI – urinary tract Infection. Anyone who’s had a UTI knows that the urge to go can be very urgent, overwhelming and even painful. So get a urine sample to your vet as soon as possible. Tell your vet if you notice any blood in the urine. Meanwhile, keep your dog confined to easy-to-clean areas or in a crate and take him outside at least once every hour. Don’t limit your dog’s access to water. Drinking water can help flush the urinary system and keep him more comfortable … so If anything, you want your dog to drink more!
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Stop Dog Marking In The House
So how do you teach your dog that it’s not acceptable to mark inside?
Catch It Early
Start working on prevention and training at the first sign of indoor marking. If you let it become a habit, it will be much harder to get your message across to your dog. Marking can be its own reward because it feels good and fills a natural urge. So make sure that when you’re rewarding alternative behaviors, that you use high value rewards (what your dog wants most).
Don’t Punish Your Dog
Using punishment may make the problem harder to stop! This is because your dog will learn that marking when you can see him is dangerous, so he’ll wait till you’re not looking or not around. This just adds to the frustration for you and adds difficulty to his training.
Watch For The Signs …
The goal is to notice your dog’s “set-up” behaviors that precede marking. Watch your dog when he’s outside. What does he do just before he lifts his leg? Often there will be sniffing and then movement of the body to get on target. This is what you need to watch for in the house, and it’s when you need to interrupt him. If you can let him know at the “thinking about it stage” that it’s not allowed in the house, you’ll make it easier to get the message to him (and will save yourself some clean-up!) But it means you’ll have to watch your dog like a hawk … and prevent marking until you can be sure he understands.
Interrupt and redirect sniffing behaviors. There are likely not very many places in your home the dog has not already sniffed. And even if you’re visiting someplace new, sniffing is not a critical behavior for your dog to do (though it may be a sign your dog is feeling stressed). So unless you’ve just dropped a dog cookie, your dog doesn’t NEED to be sniffing around. If you see your dog sniffing, call him to you … then reward him for leaving the interesting smell and listening when you called. This will get his brain on something else. Or better yet, take your dog outside when you see him sniffing!
See if he will mark outside instead. If your dog is marking outside, reward that! You want the outside behavior to have a stronger and more frequent history of reward than doing it indoors. If your dog gets “paid” high value rewards to mark outside but gets nothing if he does it indoors … why would he want to mark indoors for free? How effective this will be as the only training remedy depends on how much of a habit the marking inside has become. You will likely need to do this in addition to the other suggestions here.
Clean-up messes correctly and completely! A dog’s nose is very powerful and can detect amazingly small amounts of odor-causing bacteria and oils … or whatever else causes the scent in urine. Completely wetting the area with a cleaner that has an enzyme in it will do the best job of removing the odors. Because enzymes are living organisms, choose and store your products carefully. You don’t want to let them freeze or get too hot or sit around in storage too long, which could kill the enzymes and make the product much less effective.
Never use an ammonia-based cleaning product. Ammonia is found in urine, so it will make your dog more likely to try to cover that scent.
Prevention Tools For Dog Marking
Regardless of the training methods above that you choose, you’ll want to also use prevention to make sure your dog isn’t marking in the house when you aren’t looking.
Belly bands are a popular method. If you search online you’ll find several sources and many colorful styles. You can also make your own out of an ace type bandage and a feminine pad. The band wraps around the dog, covering his boy parts, so that if he tries to mark, he can’t leave any liquid behind. This means that he doesn’t get the satisfaction of smelling his own scent over the other dogs. It also leaves him feeling wet and smelly himself. Some dogs are really bothered by that and others couldn’t care less. You’ll want to use training in addition to the band, otherwise your dog may need to wear the band the rest of his life. Changing the pad and washing the band is nearly as time-consuming as cleaning up messes. It’s a temporary tool, not a permanent fix.
Crates, gates, doors and leashes can also help. If your dog has specific spots he likes to mark, you may be able to stop it by restricting his access to that spot. If you want to keep an eye on your dog, but not use a crate, you can keep him leashed to you. Whether or not this is a practical solution depends on your situation and dog.
RELATED: Crate training your dog …
Why is my dog suddenly lifting his leg in the house?
Do female dogs mark?
Is my dog peeing or marking?
As with any change of behavior, teaching your dog not to mark in the house may take some time to teach. The longer he has been doing it, the longer it may take to change. It may require you to detect and remove an underlying cause (previous urine spots, hormones, medical causes, etc). Be patient and use as many of the above suggestions as you can.