Marking is not eliminating – it is leaving small amounts of urine on items (telephone poles, signs, your couch). It is different than having accidents in the house.
By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and Cynologist
You mark your stuff by putting your name on it; your dog marks with urine. Dogs mark for many reasons; it is a calling card to show ownership of what they consider their territory or do it because they are anxious.
Unfortunately, although it is normal for dogs, it can become problematic if your dog is marking in your home.
What you can do to prevent your dog from marking
Spay or Neuter
The longer a dog goes before neutering, the more difficult it will be to train them not to mark the house. Spaying or neutering your dog can reduce urine-marking and maybe stop it altogether.
NOTE: If your dog has been marking for a long time, a pattern most likely has been established. Marking then has become a learned behavior, and spaying or neutering won’t solve the problem. It will be important to use techniques similar to housetraining an adult dog to modify your dog’s marking behavior.
If your dog is marking in your home, make sure you use an appropriate cleaner to take the scent out. Even though you might not smell it, they will, and this will continue to draw them to that area. We recommend an enzymatic pet cleaner such as NonScents to remove any pheromones left after your dog has marked.
Dogs that are marking in your home don’t need to mark on walks. If you catch your dog in the act of marking on a walk, stop them and encourage them to continue walking. This will help them understand marking is not a behavior you encourage and should help reduce marking in the home.
To stop your dog from marking in the house, make sure that they are supervised or placed in a crate when you cannot watch your dog. This is similar to teaching housetraining to an older dog. You mustn’t punish your dog after the fact. Your dog can’t connect what he marked to your punishment, so it does not deter the marking. In fact, it can make your dog afraid and confused.
Although this is not a fix for the situation, I recommend a belly band for marking in the home. It refocuses the dog and helps break the pattern. Just know your dog may need to wear the belly band for up to a month to correct the marking behavior.
If you choose to use one, make sure you check them frequently for wetness. And be sure to remove the belly band before your dog goes outdoors.
You can find either belly bands (males) or diapers (females) on the internet. I like to put padding such as a KOTEX in the belly band.
Teaching your dog self-control builds confidence, and the easiest way to do it is through commands. When a dog has confidence, the need to mark is reduced. I recommend 3 commands: SIT, HEEL, and PLACEMAT.
By having your dog obey at least one of these commands and using them daily (before you feed them, putting on their leash, or throwing them a toy), you build a strong relationship with your dog, which carries over to diminishing bad behaviors.
Remember, it didn’t take a day to start the marking behavior, so it will take time to break the cycle. The good news is you should start seeing improvement within a week. Keep at it, though, and don’t rush things. And soon, you’ll be comfortable having your dog left alone in your home. He’ll be more confident and comfortable too.