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Dog marking territory is not a bathroom training issue. Rather, it’s an issue concerning a whole range of instinctive behaviors.
We as humans tend to think of dog urine as something unpleasant. But to a dog, it is something of great interest. A dog leaves it’s scent in urine to tell other dogs a message. This message could be about the dog’s social order, whose territory an area belongs to or an advertisement for mating availability.
Dog marking territory vs. wanting to pee
Your dog may be fully house-trained and would never pee in the house. But a dog lifting his leg to scent mark is not the same as wanting to pee.
If you find large puddles of urine on the floor, it is more likely that the dog had to pee and couldn’t or didn’t want to go out. However, it’s a dog marking territory if only deposits a smaller amount of urine. is found on an area.
Dog marking territory in the house is usually done to an upright surface such as a doorway, table leg or piece of furniture. And the dog will lift his hind leg and mark urine on practically any object in your house.
Quite often, the object is something new or different with unfamiliar scents. He is also likely to mark items that he has become possessive about, including you. He thinks you are his possession and any objects related to you are also his possessions.
Why do dogs lift their leg and mark their territory with urine?
Dogs use urine marking to show their dominance or to claim something as belonging to them.
Dogs with feelings of insecurity or who have separation anxiety may also mark, as dog marking territory builds their confidence.
Do all dogs mark territory inside the house?
Most neutered or spayed dogs at an early age do not mark in the house. Male dogs that are not castrated are more likely to mark than castrated dogs. So prevention is better than cure.
Although male dogs are more likely to mark territories than females, it is also possible for a female dog to urine mark. Often, a female dog coming into or is in heat will mark to advertise her availability.
Furthermore, a dominant female will also mark. Female dogs may also urinate over a spot where another dog has urinated, but not usually in the house if they are house trained.
Additionally, small breeds tend to mark in the house more than larger dogs.
Two or more dogs (especially males) living together in the same house may regard each other as competition. And are therefore more prone to urine marking.
Dog marking territory can be a dominance issue. There may be no problem with one dog, but when a second dog is introduced into the house, then this may be the beginning of marking problems.
Why has my dog suddenly begun marking when he wasn’t doing it before?
Usually, it is because of feelings of insecurity or a perceived threat. This perceived threat, for example, can be an introduction of a new baby, a new pet, a visitor or even a new piece of furniture.
The smell of other animals on your footwear or clothing can also trigger a dog to feel the need to mark his territory.
For example, a new baby in the home brings new sounds, smells, and people, as well as changes in routine. Your dog may not be getting as much attention as previously. And these changes cause him to feel anxious, which may cause him to mark.
Some dogs feel the need to lift their leg and pee on all new things that enter your house such as shopping bags, visitors belongings, children’s toys etc.
Many of these dogs are lacking in confidence. And by marking, they feel more secure having deposited their own scent on these objects.
Some dogs will never mark in their own house. But will embarrass you by marking if you visit a friend or relative’s home. Your dog feels less secure there. And they feel the need to make it more comfortable to them by laying down a few of his own familiar scents.
Even a previously house-trained neutered male dog will urine mark under certain circumstances. This doesn’t mean it will become a regular problem. He may urine mark one or twice in a new home and then never do it again.
How to stop dog marking territory in the house
Below are some tips to prevent or stop your dog from marking inside the house.
For the majority of pet dogs, early neutering stops marking behavior. Doing so at an early age can prevent the habit forming.
For older dogs, neutering may not stop your dog marking in the house. Marking might’ve already become a habit that you will have to break.
Additionally, testosterone seems to play a role in dog marking territory. At least one study has shown that neutering a dog at any age will help prevent it.
It can’t be guaranteed that neutering a dog is going to cure this problem. But if you neuter a male dog, your chances of breaking the habit are greatly reduced.
Of course, neutering isn’t always an option, especially if you wish to breed your dog.
2. Confine them in a specific area
Some dogs will never be able to be trusted with the run of the house. Although inconvenient to you, it may be necessary to close doors to certain rooms, only allow freedom in the rooms he can be trusted.
Another alternative to help with dog marking territory behavior is Scat Mat. This can help deter pets from entering a certain area. The Scat Mat is a touch-sensitive training pad that quickly conditions pets to avoid prohibited areas with harmless, low-power electronic pulses similar to static electricity.
With these confinement options, pets soon learn which parts of your home they should avoid.
3. Deal with separation anxiety
Dogs who suffer separation anxiety may pee while you are out. They are not peeing out of spite, but are peeing because they’re feeling anxious at being left alone.
Try leaving them an item with your familiar scent on it. This just might be enough to settle their anxiety.
4. Make yourself a shaker can/bottle
A shaker can is simply an empty can with several coins inside it. The opening is taped over to prevent the coins from flying out. And it makes a lot of noise when you shake it up and down.
On the other hand, a shaker bottle is a plastic bottle with some small pebbles or coins placed inside.
Watch your dog for any signs (such as sniffing and circling) that he is about to mark. The moment he begins to lift his leg, shake the can/bottle to get his attention.
The loud noise should startle him and interrupt what he is doing. As he looks towards where the noise has come from, give him the command in a stern voice, ‘DON’T PEE’.
Sometimes, throwing the can in his general direction works well too. But be careful not to hit him with it as you only want to startle him, not harm him.
Now that you have stopped him once, you have to consistently do this every time you catch him. Do not rant, rave or smack your dog at any time. Punishment will make an insecure dog more insecure.
This method is not intended for house training your puppy. This is only to correct dog marking territory behavior.
5. Clean thoroughly
You must thoroughly clean areas where your dog has peed in the past. And to completely remove the scent to discourage your dog from re-offending in the same place. Use a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water and wash the soiled areas well.
Avoid using ammonia-based products to clean dog urine. One of the ingredients of dog urine is ammonia. And they may be encouraged to mark the same area if you clean it with ammonia-based products.
Remember, your dog’s sense of smell is a hundred times better than yours.
6. Buy unpleasant or citronella spray collars with remote control
PetSafe Spray Commander is a device that helps control dog marking territory behavior. It is attached to the dog’s collar which then releases a harmless but unpleasant (or sometimes citronella) spray to the dog.
You activate the spray with a remote control when you catch the dog in the act of urine marking on your furniture.
7. Supervise and correct
Close supervision and correction is necessary. You must catch your dog in the act of marking. You must be dedicated to stop your dog’s marking behavior and you must be consistent.
A couple of weeks or often much less time of intense supervision and correction can save you a lifetime of trying to find a quick fix for the problem. Some people have reported that it only took a day or two to break the behavior using the supervision method.
To help make it easier for you, confine your dog to an area where you can watch him. Shut doors to other areas of the house. Or barricade them off with baby gates or improvise with whatever is at hand.
If barricading is not possible, another option is to put your dog on a retractable leash while he is in the house with you. This will give you total control at all times.
8. Use behavior-specific praise
Don’t forget to praise your dog when he marks in an appropriate place. If you are outside and he marks on a tree or other acceptable object or area, tell him what a good boy he is. Tell him, ‘Pee here, good boy’ in a happy voice. Dogs learn quickly from positive responses to their behavior.
The message you are trying to get across to him is that urine marking isn’t bad, but that marking inside the house isn’t such a good idea.
9. Dealing with a new house/environment
If you think your dog is likely to mark in your friend’s house, keep him on a leash at all times. You can walk him around the new environment on the leash. And if he gives the slightest hint that he may cock his leg, give the leash a quick short tug and tell him ‘NO’.
Or you could take your shaker can with you. You may eventually be able to trust him. But if the house you are visiting has pets living there, it could be a very challenging task.
10. Adjusting with a new baby at home
If your dog has acquired the habit of marking territory since bringing a new baby home, you will need to reassure him that he is still loved and part of the family.
Involve him in fun activities while the baby is around, making the baby and associated scents less of a threat to him.
11. Belly bands
Sometimes it can be very difficult to stop dog marking territory behavior. If all else fails, belly bands may be the right solution for you.
They are like dog diapers that help with your dog’s problem of peeing everywhere in the house, on your furniture and other objects.
As with any behavior problem, if the dog marking territory behavior is getting out of hand, there may be an underlying medical condition which is causing it.
If you suspect this, then it’s best to get your dog checked by their veterinarian.