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He asks to go out. He may have a dog door and use it religiously when he has to "go" but still he leaves his calling card on every upright surface, sometimes in the middle of your bed!



Marking is not a housetraining issue.

He just "went" outside - why is he lifting his leg on my chair leg??


It's not about emptying his bladder, it's a communication tool. A dog can mark again and again and again and again, sometimes leaving a tangible stream, other times a mere drop or two. While primarily seen as a male dog issue - girls mark, too. Some girls even lift their legs! Most commonly urine, but it can also be feces strategically placed to define a perimeter boundary.

Submissive and excitement urination is not marking.



                   SPOT WAS HERE!



Urine marking is communication.  For the average dog, it's like leaving an editorial comment in the neighborhood news - leaving his signature on the wall for the next dog to read. It's his own personal Facebook post.  Indoors it could be a "post-it" note to a housemate or a way to make his residence known to visitors who drop by.  It is very common in newly-adopted dogs (male and female) as they become accustomed to a new environment.  


Urine marking is often regarded as a "dominant" gesture;  a gang-tag message to the world that this is "my turf."  But it's actually more likely be an insecurity issue; fear of losing a valued resource so the dog needs to mark it as his own. Many small dogs will stand way up on tip-toe to aim as high on the pole as possible to overmark a bigger dog's signature.


What prompts a dog to urine mark inside his own house?

"Typically, it is related to some perceived threat, such as an unfamiliar person or dog in the home, or the introduction of something new—anything from a new pet or baby to a new couch, suitcases and grocery bags. Sometimes even the odor of other animals on the owner’s shoes will spark marking. Conflict between pets within the home can also lead to urine marking. On rare occasions, a dog who marks frequently during walks may become highly aroused and continue the behavior upon returning home. Some dogs never mark in their own home, but will mark when they visit others’ homes." - ASPCA


What do do?

If he's not neutered, do it yesterday! Neuter and spay! This can be the single most important "fix" for frustrated, urgent male marking. Females often mark to advertise that they are available to males: "For a good time, call Buffy!" Spaying will eliminate this issue. Neutering male dogs successfully eliminates or greatly reduces household urine marking in about 59% percent of cases according to a study by Scott & Fuller.


Address the source.

Anxiety and stress are often the culprit. Is the leg-lifting dog new to the environment?  It may resolve itself when the dog adjusts to his new home.  Is there an intruder in the house? A new pet? A new baby? Your mother-in-law has come to visit? Take steps to help your dog adjust to the newcomer. Create positive associations so the dog doesn't see them as a threat. If your previous dog has started marking because you've added a new dog to the family, pay more attention to your resident dog in the presence of the newcomer, not less. If the source is serious conflict between pets, you may need professional help.


Clean well!

Previous urine marks that draw them back again and again. It's imperative to effectively remove the odors by using biological odor neutralizers. Use an enzymatic or bacterial product that will destroy the odors at the source. Some trade names of appropriate products are Anti-Icky Poo® (AIP), Nil-Odor®, Nature's Miracle®, etc.


Super VISION - you must prevent rehearsal.  Practice becomes habit and habits are hard to break!


MICRO-Manage so there is zero chance for accidents.

Crate when you can't watch. There must be no possibility of a drive-by marking when you aren't there to immediately interrupt it. The dog must not have free access to places you aren't in. Confine when you can't supervise!


Prevent access to trouble spots - put up baby gates, surround that attractive corner with vinyl carpet runner placed upside down (prickly side up) to make it less attractive.


Umbilical cording - clip the dog's leash to your waist - where you go, he goes. He can't be out of your sight. If he sidles up to anything (including your leg) you will be right on top of things and ready to respond.


Belly bands - Belly Bands wrap around your dog's belly to absorb wetting accidents. This prevents the need to clean - and he has to "wear" his message instead of leaving it behind. Most dogs find this unpleasant and give up when marking isn't working. You must use the band consistently for a period of time so not marking becomes the instilled habit.


Be a good parent.

You own the house, you provide security. There is no need for him to tag things that belong to you. You own the doorway, it's not "his" to hang signs on. You decide who is admitted, not the dog. With no say and less stress of being responsible, there is less need to leave his opinion on the door jam. 


Use his desire to leave "pee mail" as a teachable moment - if he wants to mark every tree and post on your daily walk, teach him to earn it - teach him to "ask" to get to.  Ask for several steps of nice attention heeling when you see a likely pee post coming up.  Stop near it, ask for a nice sit, and give permission to go pee as a reward.  Get in the habit of making sure he has emptied his bladder in his own yard before the walk. This is a perfect opportunity for you to explain to your dog that you don't want him leaving you to go do "THAT" particular behavior. Attach a cue like "AH-AH!! and take off running each time he heads for the next fence post. After many repetitions on the road and association is made - he feels the urge, hears the interruption phrase and the opportunity is lost. Follow every "AH-AH!" with a tasty treat and he will respond to the cue by running to you.



Be alert to the sequence:

Sniff, cheek, sidle, shoulder, hip, lift, mark.

Note the sniff, beware the cheek, interrupt at sidle!


This handout may be reprinted in its entirety for distribution free of charge and with full credit given:

© CAROL A. BYRNES "DIAMONDS IN THE RUFF" Training for Dogs & Their People

ditr_training @ -

belly band

Now when you use the same phrase at home to interrupt a potential marking incident, there will be a connection between his behavior and your predictable response, expectation and consequence.  When he runs to you, REWARD don't scold!  He did what you wanted - he didn't mark!  Now, take him outside to an appropriate place.

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