Marking: What to Do if Your Dog Thinks He Owns the Place
Brought to you by the AKC GoodDog! Helpline – the AKC’s 7-day-a-week training support service
By Hilarie Erb, AKC GoodDog! Helpline Trainer
Marking is something dogs do to let other dogs know that they’ve been in a particular spot, and that it’s now their spot. They may mark lots of things around the house with small amounts of urine. For dogs, this is a perfectly good way to establish ownership, but it is not something humans want to live with. Marking is not the same thing as a housetraining accident, which is what happens if a dog simply cannot hold it and does not have the opportunity to relieve himself in the right place.
With any urine stain, be sure to thoroughly clean up any spots with an enzymatic cleaner. Dogs will mark repeatedly in the same place, so you must remove any odor. Never punish the dog after the fact. He will not be able to make the connection to what he did an hour, or even 15 minutes, before. If you don’t catch him in the act, just clean it up and resolve to supervise him more carefully in the future.
“If this is a new behavior in your dog, first rule out any health issues, such as a urinary tract infection.”
Intact male dogs are the most likely to mark in the house, but some female dogs will mark too. In males, it usually starts when the dog reaches adulthood, and when that happens varies among breeds. Females usually do it outdoors and when they are in season, but some spayed females also mark. Other things that might make a dog start marking include adding another dog to the family or seeing other dogs outside through the windows.
“Neutering is not a guarantee, but it usually stops the marking habit.”
If you have an intact male dog, you may need to manage marking for years – especially if other pets have accidents that he can smell or there are other intact males in your home. If the instinct for a dog to mark his territory is strong, so you must strictly limit his freedom in the house and block access to new things, especially furniture. If seeing dogs outside gets him in a possessive mood, then make sure he can’t look out the windows. Supervise carefully, and if you catch him in the act distract him with a clap of your hands or an “Eh eh!” and whisk him outside. Praise him for taking care of business in the right place. Note: Don’t use his name in a scolding way to get his attention! This will teach him that the sound of his name is a bad omen. Read The Name Game for ways to make sure he loves hearing his name.
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For more tips and advice on training your dog, join the AKC GoodDog! Helpline, a seven-day-a-week telephone support service staffed by experienced dog trainers: www.akcgooddoghelpline.org.