How to Stop a Male Dog from Marking in a House

by Simon Foden
Male dogs typically leave marking scent on trees or bushes outdoors.

Male dogs typically leave marking scent on trees or bushes outdoors.

watering the plants image by Gato from Fotolia.com

Male dogs, wolves and other canines mark with urine to communicate socially in their natural world. This calling card, which can convey a wide variety of information, helps to reduce conflict. Domesticated dogs usually learn not to urinate indoors at an early age during house training, and marking is seldom an issue. But some dogs continue to mark. It’s essential to end this behavior in your dog.

Step 1

Place a blanket or toy belonging to another person or dog near your dog in your home. Items containing an unfamiliar scent, such as that of other dogs or visitors to the home, typically encourage marking. By putting his own scent on top of the scent of strangers, your dog is claiming his territory.

Step 2

Observe your dog in the presence of these unfamiliar scents. Note down behaviors that typically precede marking. These may include pacing, sniffing, circling and, most tellingly, cocking of the leg. Knowing that you dog is thinking of marking gives you a head start in tackling the problem, as you can disrupt the behavior.

Step 3

Distract the dog. While observing him, wait until he displays signs of wanting to mark, then call his name, throw a ball or jangle your keys. Use your knowledge of what motivates your dog to choose the most irresistible distraction.

Step 4

Issue verbal praise as soon as the dog focuses his attention on you. This teaches the dog that focusing on you has a positive outcome, making him more likely to repeat this behavior in the future. This is called positive reinforcement.

Step 5

Remove all stimuli likely to encourage marking, such as bedding or toys belonging to other dogs, strong scented plants or shoes belonging to visitors. This step won’t cure indoor marking, but will make it easier for you to control, as the dog is less likely to mark in the absence of unfamiliar scents.

Step 6

Take the dog outdoors, and lead him to a tree or post where it is acceptable to mark. Observe the dog, and be ready to reward him as soon as he marks. Use your understanding of the behaviors that precede marking to time this perfectly. As soon as he starts marking, issue verbal praise and encouragement, for example, “good boy!” This creates a positive association with marking in the outdoor location.

Step 7

Reward the dog with food or a toy as soon as has finished marking. This reinforces the positive association with outdoor marking.

Step 8

Take the dog back inside and reintroduce unfamiliar scents. Wait for your dog to display signs that he is considering marking, then issue a verbal distraction, such as “no!” If the verbal distraction isn’t enough, use a physical distraction such as a ball, bone or whistle. Over time, phase out physical distractions and use verbal distractions only. This means you can disrupt inappropriate marking using just your voice.

Items You Will Need

  • Blanket belonging to someone unknown to the dog
  • Dog toys
  • Food treats

Tips

  • Repeat the distraction and reward techniques for as long as it takes to fully control your dog’s behavior.
  • Ensure that you are on hand to let your dog outside whenever he needs to urinate. This helps him build positive associations with outdoor marking.
  • If your dog continues to mark indoors despite discouragement, consult a veterinarian.
  • If your dog only marks when you’re not around, his marking is linked to separation anxiety. Trick your dog into thinking you’ve left by putting on your coat and leaving the room. Then observe and distract through a window.
  • Use unscented cleaner to remove urine scents. Residual scents may encourage your dog to mark, especially if he has a favorite spot.

Warning

  • Never punish your dog if you find evidence of marking. You must deal with marking the moment it occurs.

Photo Credits

About the Author

Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.