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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Marking in the Home

Marking in the home is probably the second reason that dogs are given to shelters though I am sure no owner giving a dog up for this reason would state it!

Marking by male dogs is common and is more common among in tact dogs than neutered dogs, however I have found in my own group of 26 dogs over the years that dogs were more likely to mark if they were not neutered by six months of age.  If  they were neutered at a later age they continued to mark if not watched.   I’m sure there will be backlash from those that are against neutering but I am going on my own experience as a seasoned multiple dog home owner where competition to be known among the dog pack can be fierce, especially the moment a new dog enters the home.

Also it stands to reason that a dog coming from a shelter which already is understaffed may continue to mark once you get it home because they got used to eliminating where they eat and sleep which can make marking even more frustrating.     Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying to forego your local shelters to find the perfect companion; what I am saying is you may need more patience and knowledge so you don’t get frustrated. Frustration doesn't help you or the dog. If you handle the problem from the beginning, while the marking may not stop, you may not get so frustrated if you take certain steps.   It is a new way of learning how to keep a marking dog from having a chance to fail so you don’t ban them to the outside world 24/7. 

 Dogs mark for many reasons.
  • A new pet in the home
  • A new child or visitors
  • Being unaltered
  • Having access to stimuli (other animals) through a window or doorway.
  • Having separation anxiety
  • Claiming their territory
  • Physical ailment

First you want to be sure it is marking and not a health problem as dogs with urinary tract infections and bladder stones will spritz out some urine so if you know the dog is potty trained by you, and this behavior is new then get a health check ASAP because if you wait it out, it can suddenly become a habit the dog does not lose.

There is a misconception that if the dog is neutered he will be cured and although this would be the first thing I would have done as the marking will be cut down by about
60 % it does not stop altogether, especially if the dog has reached sexual maturity.
 (over 6 months ) Marking can be a life long act and even those that Neuter a dog late in life still have a problem.
Another misconception is that only males mark. Females who have a strong desire to be in the lead position will also mark.  

Marking is not a behavior you are not likely to change 100% with basic obedience training as it is a natural instinct so the dog would have to be monitored constantly and not left to roam the house. However, though you may not be able to make a dog stop marking there are things you can do to help keep him from continuous marking inside the home.
1) Keep him in a crate when you can’t watch him and put a treat or small bowl of food and a water dish in the crate.
 2) Tether him ‘to you’ while you are home going about your business so you can keep your eye on him and if he starts to lift the leg you can interrupt him by saying his name or clapping your hands or tugging the lead then take him outside to finish. If he continues outside then praise like crazy!
3) Tether him on a ten food wire dog lead to a spot in the home near his bed and water dish as most dogs do not like to eliminate where they sleep and eat. It would be helpful to toss a couple of treats on the bed as well. Tethering a dog inside the home with his bed and water dish sometimes helps to make the dog feel not so cooped up as a crate might especially for those dogs that do not like crates in general.

Do not allow the dog to sniff and mark outside places when on a walk. You will know it is marking if the dog is stopping at every bush sniffing and spritzing out urine rather than producing a full stream of urine. Give him a heel command so he is not allowed to do this.  Make yourself the hierarchy in the family so hopefully he sees no reason to mark. To do this you can try the nothing in life is free diet.    

For the places that the dog has marked:  Clean it with an enzyme cleanser made just for dog urine. Once that is done sprinkle some of the dog’s kibble or treats in those spots so he learns the home is for eating and not for marking. You can even put small water dishes in those areas. It is not a fool proof plan for everyone but for some it works.

Next you can try a belly band which is sort of a diaper for male dogs. This will at least keep the urine in the band and off of your furniture.

 Never punish a dog that marks as it does nothing but eventually the dog will fear your presence near him and start hiding to mark. To the dog he is doing something very natural, not naughty.

To totally prevent marking you have to be on top of the dog 24/7, keeping him confined to the same room you are in.

If anyone  else has some tips on the subject I surely welcome them in the comments section:)