Male Dog Marking
Male dog marking is definitely annoying, especially if it is in the house or on something that you did not want peed on.
So WHAT is male dog marking and WHY does your potty trained dog do it?
First, it is important to understand that your dog is NOT peeing because he needs to empty his bladder. In fact, he is not peeing. He is marking and there is a big difference.
When a male dog kicks his leg up and aims at furniture, a corner of the wall, a mail post or anything (including you) that attracts his attention, your male dog is marking his territory.
Again, it is important that you understand he is not peeing. His instinct is to mark his territory to let other dogs know that this area is his. Many times the dog will sniff the item (lke a fence post) before he kicks up his leg to mark.
A female dog will also mark an area especially if she is not spayed. My female Bassett Hound named Molly thought it was a good idea to pee on the carpet outside my bathroom door. She was letting me and everyone else know that she was the alpha in the house.
Since I am the leader and not Molly, I had to discipline her by telling her No! and making her go to her time out spot. (Yes, my dogs are trained like my day care kids with a "time out zone.")
Neutered males and spayed females do tend to mark territories less than unaltered dogs.
You marked your territory too when you moved into your apartment or house and hung your favorite pictures and placed your furniture. Your dog thinks he is doing a good thing by offering to defend you against others.
In the House - Male Dog Marking
Be sure to have your dog checked by a veterinarian and verify there are no indications of an urinary tract disease or prostrate problems.Tell your vet that you are dealing with male dog marking.
My Peanut would mark the corner of the doorway that led from the dining room to the kitchen. I think he knew I was in the kitchen a lot and he wanted other dogs and people to know that he would protect me to the bitter end. It didn't matter that there were no other dogs nor any other people around to challenge him.
He was marking it "just in case". I found that by saying his name and a stern "No mark!" that he broke the habit. It worked better if I caught him just before he did it. I got so I could read his mind and see the wheels turning... "I think I might like to mark Mommies' ..."
Male dog marking takes time and patience to correct. Getting the dog neutered before 9 months old will help. Once the intact male dog has started to mark it is harder to correct but not impossible.
Other dog owners complain of their dog marking chair legs and even their owner's bed!
Why Do They Do This? - Male Dog Marking
Dogs live by hierarchy. That means they establish a "pecking order" and they are constantly trying to reestablish that order and reaffirm it. That is what male dog marking does for them.. establishes a sign that says, "I am top dog and here is my scent to prove it!"
They want to be at the top of the pack in dominance. They may feel stress due to any changes in the family dynamics and this stress causes them to re mark.
Understanding a dog's territorial behavior is key to figuring out how to stop male dog marking behavior.
Possible Causes of Male Dog Marking
A change in your schedule or work.
Stress - Yours! Your stress can convey to your dog. He is really good at picking up on your stress but he translates it to needing to protect you and his territory.
Illness - Either your dog's illness or your own can trigger a feeling of stress in your dog.
Other visitors - Either human visitors visiting you and/or other dogs visiting your house can distress your dog into marking his territory.
Over stimulation - This can be a case of friends visiting you for a holiday or your dog can be over stimulated by you during a play time.
Anxious dogs - The addition of new objects in the house, furniture or luggage, a family member leaving the household (child going to college), a new person moving into the home (Grandma) and, one of the most common triggers, a new baby!
PLEASE don't be one of those people who have a baby and get rid of the dog due to issues.. even male dog marking.. this can be corrected!!
Outside Male Dog Marking
It is very interesting to study dogs' behavior when they are outside. My little 5 pound Chihuahua, Peanut, will mark a fence post. Now he isn't very tall so his marking is not very high on the post... maybe 2 inches.
Bear lives next door and he is a huge Labrador Retriever. Bear and Peanut are friends but when Bear kicks his leg up and marks the post higher up (and sometimes pees on Peanut's head) it is really funny. Peanut then comes back and strains to reach as high as he can to be the last one to pee but, alas, it is much lower than Bear's. Peanut always reminds me of the little locomotive, "I think I can, I think I can!"
Dogs seem to give more points to the one who is highest on the post. If only we could get inside their heads to see what they are thinking!!
I've seen my little Peanut mark so many different posts on our walk that he keeps trying to mark and nothing comes out. It is comical to see him trying and trying to get a little more pee out but it is all gone! My research showed me that this is actually bad for your dog to do this... it hurts him to keep straining like that.
See below for a change in MY behavior that helped prevent male dog marking by Peanut.
I took my new dog, Stubs, a Boxer mix, to visit my dad one summer. Poor Stubs was running around and trying to figure out why we were there. He was an abused dog whom I rescued. We went to my dad's house to sit outside and eat steamed crabs.
The next thing I knew Stubs went up to my dad's chair, kicked his leg up, and peed on the chair AND my dad! My dad was not happy!
Stubs was just confused about who and what was his territory. He liked my dad a lot so Stubs decided he would let everyone know that he would include my dad and protect him too!
What to Do About Male Dog Marking
To change your male dog markings behavior you need to FIRST change YOUR behavior.
Yes, that is what I said.. change your own behavior.
If you are sure there is no medical reason behind your male dog markings then there is a high probability that part (not all since he is following his instincts) of the problem is based on your behavior.
1. Just as you gave your new puppy your undivided (I hope) attention when you got him by watching his body posture to see when he was going to pee, now you need to watch to see when he is getting ready to mark.
2. Do not go ballistic and yell and scream at him. A firm "No" preceded by his name will let him know that, as leader of the pack, you do not want him to do that. When he puts his leg down and walks away say "Good Boy" but not with too much emphasis. Do not pet him or over do the praise part or else he will do it to get the "over the top" attention.
3. Some owners use "belly bands" found at your local pet store and online. These should be used only for short periods of time such as while you are fixing dinner and it is hard for you to watch your dog every minute.
These bands are like head bands except they cover the dog's penis and actually help him to feel more secure. This is beneficial if the cause is some sort of stress. Leaving them on for hours at a time can lead to an infection.
4. Any spots that your dog has marked in the house should be cleaned thoroughly. If not, your dog will be drawn to mark that spot again. If it is fresh use non diluted vinegar. The vinegar smell will go away when it dries.
If it is not fresh you will need to buy an enzyme product at the pet store. They are expensive but very much worth the price.
Remember: Unless you remove all the smell (per your dog's nose, not yours) then your dog will keep coming back to that spot.
5. An ounce of prevention is worth.. you know how it goes..Remember how I used to take Peanut on a walk and he would mark everything in the neighborhood? I changed MY BEHAVIOR. First, before our walk, I take him out into his own back yard and let him potty really well.
Then we go for our walk. However, this is a WALK. Not a sniffing, stop every 2 minutes and anoint a bush or weed or mailbox jaunt. This a walk and that is all we do.. briskly. Peanuts gets more enjoyment out of it.
When we get home I let him mark his favorite bush near the door and then take him back out in the back yard for another potty break BEFORE he goes in the house.
Now he is ready to lay down and be a good doggie.
6. Marking in Your Bed - Consider if the dog is stressed by other dogs and/or your responses to other dogs or cats in the household. Be sure to give the offending dog individual attention well in advance of any offense. Consider using a belly band for short periods of time.(1 hour on and then off for a couple of hours)
Before letting your male dog near your bed be sure to take him and any other dogs outside for a good potty break. If your dog pees on your bed try to notice if you were distracted by something which might have prompted the behavior.. talking on the phone, working on the computer, etc.
Dogs who mark in your bed are probably sleeping in your bed at night. (Gee, how did I guess that?) Many dog behaviorists recommend that you change his sleeping accommodations to a crate for at least 4 weeks after the offending behavior.
Oh! No! You say! 4 weeks!!!!
The reason for this is that when you let a dog sleep in your bed (and I do) then you are elevating the dog's status to be your equal. This can be the root of many problems.
It takes 4 weeks behaviorists say to have your dog understand that YOU are boss and he is a notch below that.
Yes, I do let my small dogs sleep in bed with me. However they know I am alpha and that I am boss while they are dog. Not the other way around. Once in a while one of my dogs sleeps in his crate to emphasis the point. It is important that you realize THIS IS NOT PUNISHMENT. It is simply reestablishing the proper pecking order.
7 Keep a diary of what is going on in the household for a few days noting when your dog marks and be sure to note what you were doing when it occurred.
8. Limit visitors, both human and animal, to your household until you can get a handle on what is causing the behavior. Then slowly introduce visitors while limiting the stress. Be sure to keep your diary, studying and noting your dog's body language.
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