Marking behavior in a pet dog is sometimes frustrating and many veterinarians advocate neutering as prevention and/or treatment. But sometimes neutering a pet will not affect the behavior. It is important that we understand how dogs work to try to explain this annoying behavior.
All About That Mate
Marking behavior, like urine marking or scratching the dirt, can be a reproductive based signal and intact male dogs certainly engage in it. These intact dogs are using the scents associated with their marking as a signal to other dogs. He wants to signal to females that he is sexually mature and interested in a mate. He wants to signal to other males the boundaries of his zone to deter them from entering and attempting to lure away any receptive females.
It may be that potential mates are not all that your dog holds dear. He also likes the other resources afforded to him by his territory, like shelter and food… and yes, even you. He wants to alert others that these resources belong to him. Neutering him does not change his need for resources or his instinct to protect them. Although you cannot truly teach him not to want to protect his territory, you can help guide where he chooses to mark.
The marking behavior can be a habit or brain pattern that has become ingrained. Just like some of the habits we have, if he isn’t engaging in the behavior, he might feel out of sorts. When he is not able to mark in his usual spots, he may feel like someone trying to quit smoking or crash diet. He might feel anxious, like he is at risk. Habits are hard to break, but it can be done with a consistent reward based program.
Pick where you would prefer him to mark and start predictably and consistently making it the preferred choice. You might want to walk him on a leash so that he cannot return to the areas that you do not prefer until the better habits are seeded. When he finally chooses an option that you are happier with, reward him with extreme praise and high value treats. Be consistent until the right options become habit. You will need to consult with your veterinarian to make sure there is no underlying medical reason for the urine marking and some cases may require a certified dog trainer to help you develop an easy to follow training plan. In the end, patience, consistency and reward will be your closest allies in the battle against unwanted marking.
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