Does your dog mark its territory? The majority of dogs do at some time or another. It's just when it happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time it starts to get a little inconvenient. If you've ever taken your dog out for his daily walk and he insisted on stopping every few seconds to leave his mark on practically everything that doesn't move and a few that do, you'll know how frustrating a habit territory marking can become.
Have you ever come home from a day at work or from a spree of shopping, walked into the house and caught a whiff of something unsavory? Yes, it's sad but true, dogs don't just mark their territory outside but can develop a tendency to do it inside too.
But why do dogs mark their territory?
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs love to leave their scent on what they consider belongs solely to them. It's like their own personal and mostly invisible, fingerprint. Every dog has his own unique scent which tells other dogs who he is, where he's been and most importantly to him, what he owns. As dogs don't have any way of corresponding, let's face it, they can't write a letter or send a text or email, he'll want to leave his scent in as many places as possible, strangely enough, including the mailbox. All the territorial marking is his way of saying, I'm just letting you know I'm here.
Every society, whether it's human, feline, or canine, has its boundaries. Those boundaries are never more apparent than when it comes to property. Everyone's estate has its peripheral limit. This is where humans have the advantage over dogs. We can erect a fence or put up a "private, keep out" sign to advise other people they are stepping over the line. Dogs, by a quirk of nature, have never been very adept with a hammer and nails. They rely on marking their territory to let other dogs know they are trespassing.
Dogs marking their territory when out walking in public places where there are a lot of other dogs too can become seriously complicated. So many messages and claims to ownership rights will have been left behind, your dog may feel overwhelmed with the need to respond to them all. This he will do by what is commonly known as overmarking. After having a good sniff around and translating the scent with his nasal senses, your dog may well decide to reply in which case he will remark the spot with his own personal odor. If he's a dog who enjoys canine correspondence, you might find the whole process of marking territory can become very time-consuming.
Encouraging the Behavior
A dog marking his territory is a true canine characteristic and so it's a perfectly natural thing for him to do. It lets other dogs know who he is and how far his territory extends. When you're out, it becomes a problem only when he stops to mark territory every other step as he's interrupting the rhythm of the walk and not getting the desired benefits from the exercise. It can also be a problem if he happens to mistake someone's trouser leg for a tree.
A dog marking territory inside of your house is a major problem, not only for hygiene reasons and the fact that it'll smell pretty obnoxious, but because it may mean your dog is showing signs of insecurity. It may be that there have been some recent changes in the status of your household, a new addition to the family or another pet which has initiated his need to reclaim what he considers his. It could even be the scent of another dog on something as simple as a delivery carton in the hall which will inspire him to start lifting his leg. To prevent him from continuing you'll need to find the cause before you'll be able to put a stop to your dog marking his territory.
Other Solutions and Considerations
While it is normal for dogs to mark their territory while out and around on a walk or run in the park, if he's doing it around the house intermittently, you may want to consider getting him checked over by a vet. Constant marking could be an indication he's suffering from a urine infection or has a problem with his bladder or kidneys. Your vet will also be able to advise you on having your pet neutered or spayed which is reputed to reduce territory marking.
If after a health check and you know all is well, but you still can't discover any reason for a possible bout of insecurity, it'll be worth your while consulting with a professional dog trainer who will be able to advise you on some preventative measures.
If your dog marking his territory everywhere he goes is slowing down your walks and taking up far more time than it normally would because he just can't resist sniffing at all those doggy messages, why not consider sending him on a canine correspondence course in the hope he'll learn to communicate in "shorthound?"