Marking is a common reason dogs are relinquished to shelters. It can definitely be frustrating if you have to clean up urine spots all over your house several times a day. And, if you have multiple dogs, if one starts to mark, the others may mark or go to the bathroom in the house because the “scent” is there. Before you banish your dog to the backyard, however, try these tips and tricks.
Why Dogs Mark
Before you can stop something, you can to know why dogs do it. One big common myth is that only intact males mark.
IN FACT NEUTERED MALES AND FEMALES MARK!
I have a female dog that when I take her on a walk, she stops ever few feet to mark. I have a dog trainer friend who got a young puppy, already neutered, from a rescue; he was a terrible marker.
The truth is, we don’t really have a solid answer to why dog’s mark. We believe it has something to do with territory and new studies show that how often and where a dog marks (for example over marking another dog’s scent) has something to do with that dog’s position in his pack or territory. Do not quickly think “dominance!” The studies relate to the carriage of the male dog’s tail (high vs. low) and the author is quick to point out that this is the “standard biological definition of the often mis-used word, ‘dominance,’ which simply indicates which individual animal is going to get something that everyone wants, usually without fighting about it.” (www.patriciamcconnell.com)
The study does not address female dogs marking.
What we do know is that marking is a way of “chemical communication” and therefore your dog does not understand why it upsets you so much.
Curbing the Communication
So, now that you know your poor dog is just trying to communicate, try not to get upset when you find him marking. Besides, you getting upset – yelling and/or punishing – is not going to stop your dog from trying to do what his instincts tell him to do. All you will get is a dog that tries and hide it from you, which in some ways is worse because you will smell it before you see it to clean up.
Instead, there are some training and management tricks you can try to stop the marking. Amanda Cornell, CPDT-KA and owner of Accomplished Canines, is the friend I mentioned above. Her little Scout has a BIG personality and that included going to the bathroom EVERYWHERE. She tried a lot of different tricks to try to stop his communication, ah, problem. Here is what she found worked:
- Tiedown/crate/puppy pen whenever you cannot soley focus on dog
- Kitchen time to remind you to take puppy out before he has a chance to go
- Dragging a leash whenever he wasn’t confined so you can catch him (in case you have a dog that runs) and it can sometimes help you grab quickly and lead outside before he has a chance to mark because the collar and leash are already on
- Treats and praise for going in the appropriate places
- Trained a positive interrupter noise to redirect him when I thought that he was thinking about peeing on something
What about belly bands? Cornell decided to not use one because she did not want to bath her dog all the time (remember, the pee will be touching your dog, so he is going to need cleaning frequently). In addition, belly bands don’t teach your dog anything. In fact, they can be detrimental because your dog “gets” to go anywhere it pleases with the band on. If you do use these, be sure you are also training your dog.
About the Author
Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She also owns her own custom pet products company, A Fairytail House, where she makes personalized collars, leashes, beds, keepsake pillows and blankets, and anything else your imagine can think up. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.
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