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Tips for Marking

Dog marking can get incredibly frustrating for every dog owner and it seems like a difficult behavior to try to stop. It's a natural behavior but there are things we as owners can do to help eliminate this behavior from happening. Of course, we at Awesome Dog Academy recommend using a positive reinforcement method when dealing with it. Even something that is natural, even instinctual for your dog can be adjusted when dogs are taught what we want them to do and shown something we'd rather do instead.

Dogs use urine marking to establish territory. Each dog's urine is distinct and easily discernible to other dogs through a simple sniff. Urine holds pheromones which is what dogs use to figure out who peed there. Now you know why when two dogs meet, they often have a nose under each other's tails or even between each other's legs. Your dog can compare the pee he has smelled before, to the private bits he's sniffing at now. Also, dogs who live in multiple dog households may tend to mark more often than dogs who are the "only child".

Fun Fact: Male and Female dogs mark!

Here's some tips to help deal with your dog's marking behavior

  1. Marking is a completely separate issue from potty training, so make sure you approach it differently. One of the things you can do is to make sure you are sticking to a schedule. Making a routine can help your dog create an understanding of what will come next in their lives. Figure out which spots your dog regularly marks and find out if he has a pattern as well. When your Dog marks outside, in locations you approve of, make sure you are rewarding your dog in a way they enjoy, (like a treat or toy). When you notice him about to mark in a place you don't approve of, make sure you have a way to distract him off of marking and onto something else. Blocking off areas your dog likes to mark will help prevent the incident in the first place.

  2. Don't punish your dog! Dogs who are punished during marking behaviors often learn to just hide it instead of stopping it altogether. You don't want to play hide and seek with your dog's urine! Instead of having a lot of negative reactions, consider getting your dog something that you encourage their marking on, like a fire hydrant or a tall rock.

  3. Walk your dog. If your dog is a marker, taking him for a walk will not only be good exercise, but your dog will sniff things that other dogs have marked, and can help your dog learn WHERE it is acceptable to mark. Learning by example is something that dogs are capable of as well as humans. Keep control of your dog during the walk, and make sure he doesn't mark on anything your neighbors might not appreciate (like their mailbox) but allow for some marking, on things like trees or bushes.

  4. Just like a child just learning to crawl or walk, limit your dog's access to your house. Keep your dog in a specific room which has been cleaned up and "baby proofed". I recommend using baby gates or keeping your dog on a leash while inside the house, to help limit your dog's access to his favorite marking spots. Crate training also helps out a ton.

  5. Spaying is for girls, Neutering is for boys...and this surgery helps prevent or even stop marking. Talk to your vet, getting rid of these unneeded parts can really help prevent the unwanted marking. There are low cost Spay and Neuter locations who can help if you have a budget. Additionally, keeping these parts can cause a bunch of health issues, and bring a lot of "unexpected" puppies into the world.

  6. Belly Bands are awesome. They are often made out of material with replaceable padding that you can wrap around your male dog's belly to prevent him from marking inside your house. The pads are positioned to catch urine so it does not reach the locations your dog is trying to mark. If your dog's urine doesn't reach your couch, then the smell will not be left behind to encourage your dog to mark there again.

  7. Clean it with the right stuff. You want to make sure you're cleaning with something that gets rid of the smell. Remember, you have about 5 million scent receptors in your nose and your dog has between 200 million and 300 million. Water and vinegar just won't do. I recommend cleaning up with an enzymatic cleaner. Soak up the mess, spray the cleaner and leave it to sit for at least 10 minutes before you wipe it up. If you don't give the enzymes time to work, then you're not doing anything.

  8. Dogs need mental stimulation as well as physical stimulation and sniffing can help tire your dog's brain out. Taking your dog on play dates in neutral locations can complete both goals at once! There will be a bunch of fun stuff to sniff and a fun friend to sniff and play with. Neutral ground can be a park, doggy park, or some other location that is not their home of somewhere else they are familiar with.

  9. Check with your vet! If your dog is marking or having excessive accidents inside the house, it could be due to a medical condition. Making sure that your dog is healthy and it's not something beyond his control.

  10. Patience is a Virtue. Marking isn't a behavior which one can get fixed overnight. Your dog has formed habits, your dog has instincts, it takes time to create the right habits in your dog.

If you need more help with your dog's marking behavior, remember, dog trainers can help

you communicate with your dog and help you put together a plan to get unwanted behaviors under control and increase the bond between owner and pet.

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