Why Do Dogs Mark Territory?

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Dog lifting leg up peeingWithin the first few hours of bringing our newly adopted dog home, he had marked in the same room three different times. We had never experienced this with other dogs, so this was a new avenue for my husband and I. How do we stop his marking so we can trust him in the house?

A little background information, our dog, Kopa, is a treeing walker coonhound. He’s estimated to be just over one-year-old and got neutered a little over a month before we adopted him. He was used to being an outside dog, so when he had free roam of the house, he was ready to declare everything his own by lifting his leg. To say we were frustrated with his marking was an understatement. We knew that this was a natural instinct for him, but for us, cleaning up the messes was a nightmare.

When I saw this article subject on Canine Journal’s content calendar, I quickly mentioned my interest in it because it was something I was currently facing with my dog. Below is my experience with dogs marking their territory and some tips on how to stop it.

Why Dogs Mark Their Territory

Dogs use their urine (and sometimes feces) to mark areas they consider to be theirs. Marking their territory lets other dogs know that they are present. Urine also signifies the reproductive status of the dog and their ranking. Dogs who aren’t fixed (spayed or neutered) are more likely to mark than those who are fixed.

Medical Issues

Before determining if your dog is genuinely marking, you’ll want to rule out some medical issues.

  1. The first possible medical condition is incontinence, which is when a dog “leaks” or completely releases the bladder without meaning to. Most dogs who are incontinent don’t realize they’ve soiled.
  2. The second possible medical issue is your dog could have a urinary tract infection (UTI), which can cause a dog to release small amounts of urine frequently. Another sign of UTIs is if your dog is licking his genitalia excessively.
  3. The third possibility is that your dog has a disease or is on a medication that causes frequent urination.

Uncontrollable Urination

There are three types of urination that are considered “uncontrollable,” — submissive, excitement and anxiety.

  • Submissive urination is when your dog urinates during greetings, play, physical contact or punishment. If this is your dog’s problem, then he may display submissive postures during interactions.
  • Urination out of excitement is pretty self-explanatory, your dog gets over-excited and he urinates.
  • Urination from anxiety is due to your dog being overwhelmed with anxiousness.

New Element in the Environment

Is your dog marking in house suddenly? If there’s a new addition to the home or something else new in their environment, your dog may start marking his territory more. This can include more than just your home. It can also include the yard, the park you visit, the trail you walk or other locations he frequents. New elements in the environment could include people, animals, furniture or other objects.

How to Stop a Dog From Marking Outside

Is your dog marking territory on walks? If so, you may want to shorten your dog’s leash. Dogs are actually meant to walk beside us, not ahead of us pulling us along. By shortening the leash and walking with a purpose, your dog isn’t given free reign of marking wherever he pleases. Stop along your walk every now and then and say “go potty” repeatedly with your feet planted in one spot. Allow your dog to walk around you and sniff to find the perfect spot to potty in and praise him after he’s gone potty. (This won’t happen on the first try, so continued practice of this is important.) By saying the command “go potty” and choosing the place for him to do his business at, you are showing dominance and permitting him to go potty. I have used this tactic with my dog, Kopa, and he has responded great.

Female Dog Marking on Walks

When I first got my dog, Sally, she would mark continually on our walks. At the time, I didn’t realize she was marking, and she was stopping every few minutes to go potty. After taking her to an obedience class, we realized how to stop this (see the previous paragraph), and now she goes potty on command.

Dog Marking Territory in House

It is so frustrating when your dog pees in the house, I’ve experienced this with Kopa as I mentioned. The day we brought him home he marked three times in the same room within a couple of hours. We quickly realized this was a problem we needed to fix, so the leash went on him and stayed on him until we felt we could trust him.

How to Stop a Dog From Peeing in the House

We started with taking Kopa out for regular potty breaks every one to two hours to make sure he was potty trained. It was tedious, but as we got a better idea of how long he could last without going potty inside, we extended this time further to once in the morning, at lunchtime, in the afternoon, around dinner time and right before bedtime.

As I stated earlier, we also kept him on a leash for two weeks in the house. He could only go to areas of the house we took him to. Part of this was because of the obedience training we were doing at the same time, but another reason was because we didn’t want our dog peeing in the house without us even realizing it.

After two weeks of being on leash in the house, we gradually exposed him to areas of the home without him being on leash. As we built trust with him, we felt more comfortable allowing him to roam freely throughout the house. Our dog trainer told us that if he goes two weeks without any accidents or marking in the house, it is safe to say he is trained appropriately. Her rule of thumb is that it takes two weeks of consistency to train a dog for a specific task.

Is Your Dog Marking or Peeing?

Watch the video below to determine if your dog is marking or peeing.

Nature’s Miracle No More Marking Spray

Nature's Miracle No More Marking sprayView on Amazon

Nature’s Miracle No More Marking spray is a stain and odor eliminator as well as a marking deterrent. It is guaranteed to work, or you get your money back. How does it work as a dog marking deterrent spray? The spray leaves a lemongrass and cinnamon scent that discourages dogs from marking the same spot again.

Price

The No-No’s of Dog Marking

We know how frustrating it can be if your dog is marking in your home (trust me, I’ve been there). The important thing to remember is never to punish your dog. If you return home and find that your dog has marked in areas of your home, you should simply clean up the mess (with the spray above) and move on. A delayed punishment is unclear to a dog, and he won’t understand what he’s being punished for. If you catch your dog in the act of marking, that’s another story.

What If You Catch Your Dog Marking?

If we caught our dog marking, we quickly said, “No Kopa” with a loud voice and brought him outside to finish his business (although, he didn’t always go potty once outside). I’ve seen tips online of filling a jar with change and shaking it if the dog marks or clapping loudly. These noises will startle the dog and potentially stop him. I haven’t personally tried these tactics, so I cannot speak to them. The only thing that stopped Kopa was leading him by the collar outside.

Should You Get Your Dog Diapers?

If you’ve tried behavioral training and you’re still at a total loss, you may want to consider doggie diapers. There are different types from reusable to disposable and male to female, so make sure you read carefully to pick the right diaper for your pup.

What issues are you facing with your dog marking? Ask us, and we’ll try to help.

About The Author:

Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. She has been writing about dogs since 2014, covering subjects such as dog insurance, training, health, accessories and more. Her natural curiosity helps her research as she seeks the truth when learning about, comparing and personally testing canine products and services. With every piece she writes, her goal is to help our readers find the best fit for their unique needs.

Kimberly grew up in a family that loved Labrador Retrievers and remembers running and playing in the yard with them as a child. In 2017, she and her husband adopted their Coonhound mix, Sally, from a local shelter. Kimberly's research was put to good use since Sally faced some aggression issues with other dogs and needed some training to be an inside dog. She worked daily with Sally and sought help from professionals to help Sally become the happy pup she is today.

One of Kimberly's favorite pastimes is spoiling Sally with new toys, comfy beds and yummy treats (she even makes homemade goodies for her). She tries to purchase the safest products for Sally and knows that each canine has their own specific likes and dislikes. Kimberly is passionate about dogs, and knows the bond between humans and canines is like no other.

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D Mac
Kimberley, I am in desperate need of advice. My dog, Sam, is having some issues. I’ve had him since he day he was born (owned his mom and dad who have since passed away – each of my two daughters has one of his siblings). I’ve had very serious health issues over the past several years – I was basically stuck in bed for a long time (diagnosed myself – long story so I won’t go into it but I want to stress that people need to be their own health advocate- or find someone who can do it for you. If I hadn’t spent so much time researching/studying medical articles, I’d still be bedridden and developing more idiopathic diseases – I knew that there had to be an underlying condition – i have a type of mast cell disease). Due to my health issues, Sam has been with me almost all of the time. I did not crate train him – to be honest, having him near me has been comforting and has stopped me from going completely crazy. The problem is that I am now gaining more and more control over my life – and Sam is not very happy about it. He is a wonderful dog – but has separation issues.

Sam does not like when I leave the house. Obviously, that’s not something unique to him vs. other dogs. However, Sam is increasingly making his feelings VERY apparent. Examples:

1. He and Ella (my 3 yr old Maltese/Yorkie – with prob a little Bichon mixed in also) are confined to the laundry room whenever humans are absent. Sam was used to me leaving for doctor appts, and while he wasn’t happy about it, he did okay. When I began leaving more often, he decided to express his feelings by marking a particular place in the room. It doesn’t matter if he’s just gone outside or not – or if I’m only absent for 30 mins – he marks.

2. Sam decided to escalate his behavior by marking when I use a hair dryer. The hair dryer provides a clear indication that I’m going to leave the house (I let my hair air dry if I’m not leaving). The first time I noticed it, he had marked basically around my entire bed (a lot for a 7 lbs dog!). The next time, my daughter was home so I didn’t confine him while drying my hair – but sometime while I was doing so, he snuck up and left a puddle right behind me (which, of course, I stepped into after I finished my hair). Last night, I left to go out with my sisters. As expected, my fiancé had to clean up the spot in the laundry room when he came over to my house. However, last night, Sam decided to mark some of my clothes (which were in my unpacked suitcase on my bedroom floor – I went to visit my daughter for a week and have been back for only a few days) after being let out of laundry room (and had a trip outside). He hasn’t done that before.

3. Today I was playing with my sister’s dog. While I was lying on floor playing, I suddenly felt something warm. Sam had his leg hiked and had just finished marking down the side of my yoga pants. PERFECT!

He just turned 10 a couple weeks ago. He’s my baby and I am more attached to him than any other dog I’ve ever had (and I’ve really loved my other dogs). I don’t know what to do. FYI – he marked in the laundry room only twice while I was on vacation and my other daughter was watching him.

Karen Sabol
Hello, I have five dogs, 4 are toy poodles and one is a Yorkipoo. Ages 12,9,6,6,1. Three are females and 2 males. All are fixed. My 6 yr.old male Scotty marks everything in my house and especially all doggie beds,toys. I have 2 doggie doors in which he does use. I have purchased every kind of urine cleaner out there with little success. I have fenced off an area in my kitchen area that includes a doggie door and several beds/toys for when I leave the house. I have a security camera inside where I can see what the dogs do. I have witnessed Scotty raise his leg on dog toys, beds, corners of cabinets and on the fence enclosing them. I had the vet check him for medical issues. No problem. Vet had no answer to solve. Contacted trainers and read numerous articles online with no success. I have used a wrap and he still raises his leg. I felt like I was constantly changing diapers. He would even cooperate in letting me put the wrap on. I have thrown out several area rugs destroyed by him and have new rugs that I have yet to use. I am so frustrated like many of the other dog owners. In reading the other dog owner’s marking issues, I don’t feel good that there is an answer to this problem. When we visit memory care facilities I have to put his wrap on there as he raises his leg there also. Sadly, I also have several friends who are dealing with this dilemma. I think we can all use a miracle.
Jeanine Bishop
Do you have an email we can chat on? We just adopted a Treeing Walker Coonhound this past weekend and her name’s Lady. Im at a loss. She keeps peeing and marking in the house EVERYTIME she comes in. I don’t know what else to do.
Robert
I have a female pug she is 8 yrs old she has a problem of marking her spot in the house. She even does it right after being outside. I seen article of leashing a dog in the house for a period of 2 weeks and only letting her go where we let her while taking her outside to do her duties. Is this something you think that would break her from marking inside the house? Thanks
June
Hi. Ive got two male dogs. One is fixed and the other isnt. They both hike on everything in my house. They’re 5 years old. My house smells so bad , I’ve tried everything to get the smell out and make them stop. Its driving me insane. I’m embarrassed for people to come visit because I’m afraid my home smells of dog pee. HELP
Trish
Hi, I’ve recently rescued a 12yr old male shitzu who was never neutered or crate trained. He’s been marking his territory all over the house. My question is Can I still crate train him or is it too late? The first night we tried the crate, he cried so much I felt like I was doing more harm then good so I took him out. He sleeps in his doggie bed in the living room. I need to do something to stop this marking of my house behavior.
P.S. I just bought a black light to find the spots he’s marked on the carpet almost had a heart attack. What’s your fav cleaner?
Sandy
Have a 3 yr old Sheltie that pees in the house in one area 2-3 times a week. It’s not a big pee spot, but enough to leave about a 4 inch ring. We have a doogie door so she can go outside anytime she needs to. HELP??? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Leah
My CockaPoo Franklin, is 8 yrs old he has compulsive obsessive disorder with marking it’s completely bonkers! He marks absolutely everything, always has! Our car tires, if I set grocery bag down, towels hanging down from a bed post, jacket arms on a banister, Legos on my son’s floor…this a.m. a chunk of ice I kicked walking down my driveway! He i swear is part blood hound, his nose is always going, and he just cant help himself, he has to mark any/everything that has a different scent. I don’t think there is any training for this obsessive compulsive behavior. Is there?
Rebecca
I’ve always wondered about this, makes total sense now, thank you!