Help! My Dog Is Marking In the House

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Help! My Dog Is Marking In the House
An action plan for stopping indoor marking

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Q: “I recently adopted an adult Basset Hound who seems to have an ingrained marking habit. Though he will occasionally pee in the house (most of the time will ask to be let out) he will mark in the house on a daily basis if not monitored. I have experience housetraining dogs but what do you do about marking?” —Frustrated in Fredricksburg

A: Male dogs lift their legs and urinate to mark territory. This behaviour is ingrained in canine DNA. Pheromones in the urine give other dogs information about the one who left the mark. If you watch closely the next time you’re at a dog park, you will very likely see male dogs trying to out-mark each other by urinating higher and higher on a vertical surface. Understandable though that might be, having a dog leave his mark around your house is a whole different story. But not to worry! There are things you can do to keep your house pee-free.

You didn’t mention whether your Basset boy is neutered. Neutering male dogs sometimes puts a stop to urine marking, although it is not a guaranteed cure. The other thing that must be mentioned is management. You said he marks “if not monitored,” so the easy solution is to make sure he is monitored. Of course, that’s easier said than done. So, during times when you cannot watch him, crate him. If he is not accustomed to a crate, take the time to acclimate him to it gradually by feeding meals and giving treats inside with the door left open, and eventually closing him in for short periods when you are home. Giving him something wonderful to chew on is helpful as well. When you do actually leave him home alone crated, potty him first, and make sure he is not left crated for longer than three to four hours at a time.

I’m curious whether the marking occurs in one particular location or in various areas of the house. Let’s say it happens in one spot—on the side of your couch, for example—and you clean and deodorize it each time. From your dog’s point of view, he’s gone to the trouble of putting his scent there, and for some strange reason it just keeps disappearing! What’s a dog to do but reapply at the first opportunity? If this is the case in your home, the next time you’ve finished cleaning up the actual urine, try this trick: Take a rag and wipe it around your dog’s rear, where the anal glands are located. Then, wipe the rag on the spot where he tends to mark. Nothing offensive to humans will be left, but it will leave the scent of your dog. Therefore, your dog would have no reason to keep marking there. Pretty nifty, eh?

Another consideration is whether you have had dogs in the house previously. Sometimes the odours of other dogs linger in the carpeting, on couch cushions, and in other places. If that is the case, it may be that your dog is trying to mark over that scent. Getting your carpet, cushions, and wherever else your dog is marking professionally cleaned could solve your issue.
  
If, despite your best efforts, you absolutely cannot change your dog’s behaviour and crating is not an option, you could manage the situation by using a belly band. A belly band is a narrow strip of soft, stretchy fabric that Velcros closed. It is placed around a dog’s waist and contains an absorbent material. This, of course, prevents dogs from urinating or marking. We recommend trying the belly bands by Pet Parents (petparentsbrand.com)—they have different sizes and colors to fit your dog and lifestyle. If you do choose to use a belly band, be sure to remove it periodically to take your dog outside to allow him to urinate.

Nicole Wilde is an award-winning author of ten books on canine behaviour. Her books, seminar DVDs, and Wilde About Dogs blog can be found at nicolewilde.com.

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