What is Marking?
It is very frustrating to find out that your trusted companion is urinating on your belongings. The little dribbles of urine you are finding are not the same as house soiling. House soiling is usually due to the dog not being housebroken, he is excited, he may be having a submissive reaction, medications are causing excessive urination, or the pet is not being taken out enough. Marking inside the home is noted by small amounts of urine found on furniture, walls, cabinets and other objects. Dogs are territorial animals and marking can be caused by:
- Your dog is not spayed or neutered
- Conflict with other household pets
- New person, animal or baby has come into the home
- Things brought into the house that carry another animal’s scent
- Seeing a neighbor’s pet walk by through a door or window
- Medical reason such as infection or incontinence
Marking inside the house can become a serious behavioral issue. The longer it goes on the more likely it becomes a learned behavior, which is a behavior harder to break. Some instances of marking may be due to medical reasons at first, but if the condition is not treated in a timely manner, even once cured, the marking may continue.
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Why Marking Occurs in Dogs
Marking is usually done by male dogs but it can also occur in females. Marking may be caused by:
Dog is not Spayed or Neutered
Dogs that are not spayed or neutered are prone to mark. Intact males tend to want to show their dominance and try to attract a mate. Un-spayed females can also want to attract a mate and females with higher levels of testosterone may show more territorial dominance.
Conflict with Other Household Pets
If there are other dogs in the house that are not fixed, it may cause marking. Aggression and territorial issues among the household dogs may also trigger marking. The dog that is marking is placing territorial boundaries.
New Person, Animal or Baby
A new person animal or baby coming into the house may cause your dog to start marking. In his mind he is letting the new “intruder” know that this is his territory. It is neither a spite issue nor a dislike, it is simply territorial.
Objects with Animal Scents
A friend comes to visit and has a very nice purse, which happens to smell like her dog. Your dog gets a whiff of the scent and marks on the purse. It’s his way to say this is my territory. Canines have an intense sense of smell.
Dog in Proximity
Your dog sees the neighbor’s dog walking by “his” territory; this viewing will trigger him to mark. Again, because of the strong sense of smell, male dogs can also perceive the odor of a female dog in estrus; this will definitely cause him to mark.
Pain due to a bladder infection or dribbling from an incontinence problem can evolve into a marking issue if not treated. Many pets will stop the behavior once a medical issue is solved; however, others may prove harder to break of the habit.
What to do if your Dog is Marking
If your dog is unaltered, he may need to be spayed or neutered. 60% of male dogs that are fixed will stop marking within months of being neutered. Female dogs, once spayed, will rarely mark. Not only will spaying or neutering your pet help with the marking problem, it can help prevent uterine infections and breast tumors in females, and testicular cancer in male dogs.
When you schedule an appointment for your dog, the veterinarian’s office will advise you not to give any water or food to your dog after midnight the night before the procedure. After the surgery, you will receive post-operative instructions and your dog may be given pain medication. It will be important to keep an E-collar on your dog so that he does not lick or bite at the incision. Your pet should not be given a bath nor should he be allowed to jump or run until his sutures are removed.
A dog that has already been spayed or neutered and is marking has developed a behavior problem. He/she will need monitored supervision and a lot of patience. In some cases, a professional behaviorist may be required.
Please note that if the frequent urination is not from marking, it may be a symptom of a medical condition such as bladder infection, liver disease, kidney infection and pancreatitis. Timely treatment is needed in order to cure the illness and break a marking habit that may be forming.
Prevention of Marking
Early spaying and neutering may prevent your dog from developing a behavior marking issue.
To help prevent marking, the dog will need to be monitored. Areas or objects he has “marked” should be cleaned of his scent. There are commercial sprays that can help prevent future markings by removing residues and odors. If there is a certain “spot” where he likes to mark, the area should be made inaccessible.
A child gate blocking the area may help him with his marking addiction. Objects he tends to mark such as purses, toys or shoes should be put out of his reach. If the neighbor’s dog walking by sets him off, close the blinds. Your dog may need to be crated when you are not home. If you catch your dog marking you should interrupt him and take him immediately outside. Praise him when he urinates outside. The whole idea is to break the marking pattern. You must be consistent and patient with the dog.
Cost of Marking
Behavior therapy for aggression for example, will vary; it depends on how many sessions are needed. The average cost for this type of treatment for marking is $500. Typically, whether the reason for marking is medical (such as a bladder infection) or behavioral, the average expense for treatment is $1500.