How to Train Your Dog to Not Mark His Territory in the House

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Hard
1-6 Months
Behavior

Introduction

You first realized there was a problem when you returned from a two-week vacation. During this time the house had been shut up, and the weather was warm. Unlocking the front door you stepped into the hallway, and your nose was assaulted by the strong and unmistakable smell of dog pee. 

You'd known for a while the dog was scent marking, but you didn't realize things had got to this stage. It seems you had gone nose-blind to the background smell of pee. It was only when the house was shut up and the stale air built up, that you were awoken to the awful truth... your house smells. 

What to do about it? 

Defining Tasks

Territory marking is not about being aggressive or trying to dominant you. A dog scent marks, most usually in order to make himself feel secure and to ward off those who would intrude on his patch. Think of territory marking at putting up a big poster, saying "Hands off, this is mine". 

However, certain factors, such as being an intact male dog, will ramp up the provocation to scent mark. Indeed, reducing stress as a whole, along with desexing the dog are both constructive ways to reduce the problem.

Any crucial eliminate is taking down those 'posters' with effective cleaning, so that the dog isn't tempted to go back and reinforce the message. 

Getting Started

Training a dog not to territory mark involves a multi-factorial approach and will require the help of an understanding vet. You'll also need:

  • A collar and leash: To keep him tethered to your wrist
  • Treats: For when he toilets in the right place
  • A crate
  • A urine specimen pot
  • A surgical or medical means of desexing the dog
  • Cleaning equipment including a household cleaner that does not contain bleach. 

The Reducing the Urge Method

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Step
1
Understand the idea
A male dog's hormones are a powerful motivator. Intact male dogs have high levels of the male hormone testosterone, which can get him into all sorts of trouble. From running after female dogs to territory marking, much of this behavior is driven by hormones. With the best will in the world, you can retrain all you like, but if you are taking on the might of Mother Nature you are less likely to succeed. Instead, get things going in your favor by reducing his drive to mark.
Step
2
Consider surgery
Removing a male dog's testicles won't change his personality, but it will make him easier to live with. However, don't expect an instantly reformed character. It takes a few weeks for the existing testosterone to work its way through his system. But no doubt about it, surgery is a good 'fix' for territory marking.
Step
3
Be realistic about surgery
If your young dog has only marked his territory once or twice, then prompt surgery should nip things in the bud. However, the more times the dog marks, the more this becomes a habit. The older dog who has been marking for years, may not be totally reformed after the op, as much of his behavior is learned and well-established. When deciding for or against surgery, take this into account and adjust your expectations accordingly.
Step
4
The six-month solution
If you are uneasy about surgery, then consider a slow-release implant that cancels out the effect of testosterone. These implants are about the size of an ID chip and injected under the skin in a similar way. It takes two weeks to take effect, but after that it works for six months. This can be a useful way of buying yourself time to think about surgery.
Step
5
The injectable option
Hormone injections are available which help reduce the effects of testosterone. It requires an initial dose of two treatments, and then a monthly follow up injection. The jab has to be given into the muscle and can be sore, so this is best as a temporary solution while you weigh things up.
Recommend training method?

The Stamp Out Scents Method

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Step
1
Understand the idea
When a dog marks his territory, he is doing just that, using chemicals in his urine that act like a poster telling other dogs this is his patch. Unfortunately, those same scents will draw him back to commit the crime again, as the area is now labelled as a communication point. Key to stopping this behavior is to thoroughly clean up after any marking, so that he isn't drawn back to reoffend.
Step
2
Mop up wet patches
If you catch him in the act, mop up the wet patch with absorbent kitchen paper and throw this away. This is a better option than towels or cloths, which can carry some of the scent even after washing.
Step
3
Avoid bleach or ammonia
You must thoroughly deoderize the area, but do not use a household cleaner that contains bleach or ammonia, since these are components of urine. Using these will unintentionally amplify his scent signal, rather than obliterate it.
Step
4
Effective deoderization
Use a three step method, but always test the surface first to make sure it is colorfast. Wash the area well using a solution of biological washing powder or liquid. Rinse well. Now wash the area with a dilute solution of sodium bicarbonate. Rinse well. If the surface is non-absorbent, wipe it over with rubbing alcohol. Leave to dry.
Step
5
Repeat daily for 2 - 3 weeks
The bad news is that behaviorists tell us it's crucial to clean in this way, not just once, but every day for 2 to 3 weeks. Only then can you be sure of removing all lingering odors.
Recommend training method?

The Refresh Potty Training Method

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Step
1
Vet check
If the dog has been clean inside for ages, and suddenly starts soiling in the house, then a vet check is a good idea. It might be the dog has a medical problem which is causing him to wet in the house. Get an answer more quickly by taking a urine sample along to the appointment for the vet to analyze.
Step
2
Crate train
Eliminate the option for the dog to scent mark, by keeping him supervised at all times. For those moments when you need a break and can't watch over him, then crate train the dog. Then you can pop him out of temptation's way while you leave the room.
Step
3
Leash indoors
When indoors, keep the dog tethered to your wrist by a leash. Watch him closely, and at the first sign of sniffing to scent mark, whisk him outdoors to toilet.
Step
4
Regular toilet breaks
Although scent marking is not about a full bladder, when the dog gets ample opportunity to relieve himself outdoors, this reduces the stimulus for him scent marking indoors. Be sure to give him lots of praise when he pees in the right place, so that he starts saving up his bodily functions in order to spend them for rewards.
Step
5
Increase exercise
Make sure the dog gets plenty of exercise, appropriate for his age and breed. When the dog is pleasantly tired, he's less likely to look for ways to amuse himself by signing his signature around the house.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
cc
Jack Russell Terrier
7 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
cc
Jack Russell Terrier
7 Years

We have been finding urine in CC's crate almost everyday when we leave. It does not matter if she is walked immediately before we leave and we return an hour or two hours later- we find urine in her cage. I once left her there 30 minutes and returned and she'd peed in her cage. All of these times, she had gone outside already. She has been examined by the doctor and they did not find anything wrong with her. She has separation anxiety and when we leave her in her cage, if there is anything in there she will tear it to pieces. She is becoming a very difficult dog to deal with and I can not be cleaning up urine and bathing her every day.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
30 Dog owners recommended

Hello Laura, In order to stop the peeing you will need to deal with the Separation Anxiety. If you are able hire a local trainer with experience with Separation Anxiety, this is an issue that would be easier to address with the help of a trainer. If you tackle the issue on your own, then here are a few things that you can do. First, most Separation Anxiety actually begins before you leave the home, as soon as the dog detects that you are leaving when you start your leaving routine. This routine might include grabbing your purse or keys, fixing your lunch for work, putting your shoes on, and anything else you do habitually when you get ready to leave. As the dog watches you prepare to leave, that dog's anxiety level begins to climb, and by the time you are actually gone that level is so high that it is very hard for the dog to calm back down on her own. This leads to destructive behavior, barking, crying, peeing, and other symptoms of anxiety. The first step is to start changing the order of your leaving routine and to pretend that you are leaving and then not leave. This will help the dog not to view that routine as an indication that you will always leave, and to prevent her from becoming as anxious. Practice your routine when you do not have to go anywhere, and leave but then come right back inside, or do your routine but never leave, or do your routine out of order or very gradually over a long period of time. Make things unpredictable for your dog. The second step is to set up a video camera, where you can spy on your dog from outside. A Gopro and an app on your smart phone for viewing will work, as well as two smart devices with Skype or Facetime on mute transmitting to one another, or a video baby monitor and receiver or video security camera with a viewing app on your smart phone. Once you have your camera setup, place her into the crate and give her a Kong chew toy stuffed with food, and then go outside where your dog cannot see or hear you. You might even want to start the car and drive away a couple of houses, and then walk back over, so that your pup thinks you really left, if the car is a trigger for her. Watch her on the video and as soon as she shows signs of being relaxed, like laying his head down, becoming quiet if she normally barks, chewing on the toy, going to sleep, or ceasing trying to escape the crate if she normally does so, then go back in when she is calm, go over to the crate and silently drop a few treats inside, then ignore her while she is in the crate for ten minutes. When it is time to let her out, slowly open the door, and if she tries to rush out, quickly close it again. Repeat this until you can have the door open and she will wait inside the crate. When she is waiting, then tell her "OK" and encourage her to come out. When she comes out keep everything boring and do not pay attention to her for awhile. You are trying to make the crate as unemotional as possible, which means avoiding excitement too in this case. General obedience training with a lot of emphasis on independence, structure, rules, and distance commands can also help because that will address the insecurity behind the Separation Anxiety. When you interact with CC be matter of fact and calm to address her general anxious and excited state. Also make sure that you clean up any accidents she has with a pet safe cleaner that contains enzymes because only the enzymes will break down the poop and pee enough to eliminate the smell, and if the smell remains that will encourage her to eliminate in that same spot again. You can also do this training in an Exercise Pen if the pen will contain her in her anxious state. Using an Exercise Pen while also doing this training can help to break the negative association she has with the crate, and might yield quicker results. The first time that you leave her in the Exercise Pen, do it with the camera watching her during a training sessions. Only use the Exercise Pen during training sessions to prevent the negative association she has with the crate from occurring. Do this until she has learned to view the Pen as a relaxing place. At which time you can leave her in it with a food stuffed Kong toy for longer periods of time. During this training period, before she is ready to be left in the Exercise Pen for longer periods of time, when you have to go off for longer periods use the crate still and expect to have to clean up an accident when you return. It is inconvenient but waiting until she is ready in the Exercise Pen will hopefully prevent long term accidents there, which will be worth the inconvenience of temporary ones. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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