There is no secret that dog
marking is a never-ending circle of sniff, mark, sniff, mark. But
when your dog is marking areas in the house or flower garden, you
probably get as frustrated as every other dog owner trying to make
it stop. Dog marking is a natural behavior ingrained in the canine
pack mentality, but you can take steps to keep it from happening in
the house or on your azaleas.
Any good dog trainer will tell you that positive reinforcement
training combined with patience and consistency is the key to
changing any dog’s behavior. Even instinctual tendencies can be
adjusted in dogs once they are taught what is expected of them and
given new appropriate behaviors from their pet owners.
Why Dogs Mark: Normal Animal Behavior
Those in the canine family use urine (through marking) as a way
to establish territorial control and leadership in the pack. The
unique odor comprised of pheromones found in urine is like an
aromatic doggy fingerprint discerned by smell. Pheromone scent is
essentially how dogs identify each other. This explains why they
greet each other with one dog’s nose between the hind legs of
another dog; they are matching the urine marks found on light poles
with the actual dog in front of them.
Marking with urine happens with both male and female dogs,
though many dog owners seem to find that alpha male dogs tend to be
the biggest culprits. The problem usually starts as puppies mature
and begin to establish their place in the pack order. This is a
progression that eventually leads to establishing mating orders
where the most dominant animals have the pick of the pack to mate
Additionally, dog owners with more than one dog may find one is
more prone to marking than the other dog due to an alpha dominant
personality. Small dogs may be trying to establish leadership and
security within the pack. Because it is a natural part of any
dog’s behavior, marking can be difficult to control.
Consider these 13 tips to help control dog marking in the house
1. Behavioral Training to Stop Urine Marking
Behavioral training helps teach your dog where you can and
can’t leave a mark. Keep in mind that you are not potty training
when dealing with marking. Even potty-trained males and females
mark because it is a means to communicate what belongs to them or
that he or she is in charge. When training a dog to stop marking,
create regular routines. Regular walks, feeding time, playtime, and
marking time help establish order in your dog’s mind.
Become keenly aware of what your dog does at home to see if
there are regular spots he wants to mark. When he marks a proper
place, give him positive reinforcement (love, a treat, or toy) and
redirect him when you see that he is about to mark something he
shouldn’t. You may need to block or remove certain things your
dog has access to where he is prone to mark until he learns what is
2. Avoid Punishment
If you punish your dog when you catch him marking, you could be
doing more harm than good. Your dog might start to hide his marking
and you’ll be left guessing as to where he is doing it. Punishing
him hours later does no good since your dog won’t know why he is
being punished. This could lead to submissive urination issues
because he is afraid of you.
Instead, be patient with your dog use positive reinforcement
with proper marking spots outside. Even when outside, be specific
of certain places that are acceptable to mark such as the fire
hydrant even giving him a treat when he marks that instead of the
3. Leash Your Dog Up and Walk Him
The canine natural instinct is to mark territory to let other
dogs know who is the top dog, literally. This is why dogs love to
mark vertical things like fire hydrants. The dog that marks the
highest level is considered the alpha. Other dogs coming around
will recognize the hierarchy based on smell. Leash training on
walks helps your dog learn where it is acceptable to mark and helps
to curb the problem.
Keeping a shorter leash helps to control your dog and prevents
him from marking every few feet as you can gently guide him away
and reward him for following your commands. Give your dog ample
chances to mark the neighborhood by taking him on walks where he is
allowed to mark and let other dogs in the neighborhood know who he
is and where he belongs in the community pack.
4. Limit Home Access
If you are not home for an extended period of time, the best
solution might be to crate your puppy or limit
free access to the house. Use a baby gate or other barrier to
keep him in the kitchen or one room. Dogs are less likely to mark
small areas where they sleep. When you return, leash him up and
walk him to let him relieve himself and mark the designated
Just like potty training a puppy, limiting your dog’s access
to the house reduces his desire to mark. A dog generally won’t go
potty in his bed. The crate becomes akin to his bed when being
5. Spaying Females and Neutering Males
Spaying and neutering dogs help reduce shelter overcrowding and
animal euthanasia rates but will also help reduce
urine-marking issues in many dogs. Approximately 50% to 60% of
all dogs spayed and neutered stop marking after the procedure is
completed. Part of the pack hierarchy is to get the top dogs to
have the top mating picks. Neutered males and spayed females are no
longer looking to mate.
Talk to your veterinarian about spaying
and neutering your puppy or older dog. If you are unable to
afford the procedure, there may be low-cost clinics that will do it
for free or at a deep discount. Animal behaviorists agree that the
benefits of spaying and neutering helps keep pets out of shelters
because owners are less likely to get frustrated with a dog’s
urine spots around the house.
6. Use a Belly Band
Some pet owners find that using a
belly band helps reduce or eliminate marking especially
resulting from frequent urination needs in a puppy or elder dog.
Belly bands wrap around your dog’s stomach region with an
absorbent maxi pad positioned to catch any urine. Not only does the
pad collect urine happening from multiple issues (submissive
urination, separation anxiety, excitement urination) it will
collect any attempt your dog makes to mark. It is designed to keep
home areas clean and is a great housebreaking tool.
By eliminating any areas from being urinated on, your dog’s
odor is not left behind. This reduces his urge to go back to the
area to mark it. Remember that marking is a behavioral habit,
meaning dogs will return to marked areas to re-mark consistently.
Belly bands reduce marking because there are fewer spots for your
dog to get drawn back to based on his scent. Even if he does try to
mark something, the urine is collected in the maxi pad positioned
in the belly band preventing the mark.
7. Using Enzymatic Cleaners for Urine
Cleaning up after your dog when he has urinated is an important
step to prevent future marking. However, just cleaning up after
your dog might not be enough because his scent might remain. While
humans might not smell anything and think that everything is clean,
your dog (and visiting dogs) will still return to the same spots to
urinate or mark.
Use an enzymatic cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle to not just
disinfect an area where your dog urinates, but to break down the
urine’s odor and eliminate it. Remember that masking a scent does
no good. Your dog doesn’t smell a pizza; he smells the 20
ingredients used in making the pizza. Putting a deodorizer over his
mark will only draw him back to the spot to make his scent stronger
over it. Enzymatic cleaners remove the odor.
8. Address Separation Anxiety
If you have a dog that experiences extreme
separation anxiety, he may not be marking at first. He could be
so upset when separated from you that he is unable to hold his
bladder while you are away. On the flip side, he can become overly
excited when you return and dribble down his leg. This could later
lead to marking because your dog will still catch his scent in the
areas where he had an accident.
Work with dogs that are experiencing separation anxiety through
positive reinforcement training that starts with short time periods
away from the house and slowly increase the time as your dog
develops confidence that he can be alone. Make sure you are calm
and the reunion is uneventful when you walk in the door to prevent
getting him overly excited.
Be sure to clean up all accidents with an enzymatic cleaner to
eliminate his odor and prevent marking habits from developing.
Training dog owners to be consistent goes a long way to having
9. Keep Other Animals Out of Yard
Your dog may be marking various areas of the yard that you
don’t want him to because he smells other animals. If dogs or
coyotes have access to your yard, your dog is trying to set his
perimeter to establish his territory. Other animal scents such as
raccoons might prompt dog marking as well.
Look out for what animals may be frequenting your yard and then
set deterrents to keep them out. Keep in mind that while you want
to deter other animals, poisons can harm animals, your dogs, and
the environment. Talk to an animal behaviorist or even an
exterminator to appropriately resolve problems such as deer or
rodents respectively. Reducing the urine smell of other animals can
reduce your dog marking occurrences.
10. Neutral Territory Doggie Playdates
Socialization is great for dogs in so many ways. It provides
mental stimulation, reduces separation anxiety, and builds
confidence for dogs. However, if you have a doggie playdate at your
home, a new dog will want to explore and potentially mark this new
territory. Your dog may later start marking over his buddy’s
Instead, have dogs meet on neutral ground like a park or beach.
This way both dogs are not on their own turf trying to maintain
their territory while another dog is trying to expand his. Meet and
greets on neutral territory don’t just help reduce dog marking
but will also reduce incidents of dog fights and aggression.
11. Calling in the Dog Trainer for Assistance
A professional dog trainer can assist with behavioral training
to reduce dog marking. If you find that you aren’t making any
progress with supervision and your own training regimen, a
professional coming in to review what you are doing helps. A dog
trainer will review the problem, your dog’s personality, what you
are doing, and make any corrections to the training plan. While dog
marking might not be completely eliminated in every dog, most pet
owners see the frequency greatly reduced with the development of
the right habits.
12. Go to The Vet: Urinary Tract Infection
Some dogs aren’t marking but instead may have a urinary tract
infection or other
medical condition leading to bladder and urination issues.
While a urinary tract infection is easy to treat with a round of
antibiotics, you need to address the issue sooner than later to
prevent marking from happening later. Your dog may have an accident
while sick and later catch his scent and start marking long after
he is back to his healthy self.
Your veterinarian will determine if a urinary tract infection is
the culprit and prescribe the right medication. He will also rule
out all other potential medical issues that could lead to a
weakened bladder such as Cushing’s Disease that may lead to
incontinence in older dogs. Work with your veterinarian to develop
the right course of action if your dog has a medical condition
leading to unwanted urination accidents.
13. Patience! Patience! Patience!
Because marking is a natural canine instinct, it is normal and
natural for any dog to start the bad habit. No dog owner is exempt
from working with their dog on housebreaking that includes
potential marking. It’s important to be prepared not only with
the training tools that can curb marking but to have the right
products to eliminate the odor from your home.
When in doubt, contact your veterinarian to rule out medical
issues and call a professional dog trainer to help develop a custom
training program that works for both the dog owner and dog. Avoid
all negative punishment so your dog doesn’t feel that he needs to
hide it from you. With patience, every dog owner can find success
with eliminating unwanted marking in the home and areas of the
Source: FS – TheDogTrainingSecret
13 Tips to Reduce Dog Marking