How to Train Your Dog to Not Mark Territory

How to Train Your Dog to Not Mark Territory
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon1-6 Months
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

If ever a behavior was misunderstood, it's a dog’s propensity to lift the leg and territory mark. For a pet parent, this is infuriating behavior as it is unhygienic, smelly, and can ruin your best furniture. This frustration often leads to punishment, with the perpetrator being shouted out or smacked. However, when you realize what’s really going through the dog’s mind, things take on a different complexion.

Your dog is not trying to assert himself, dominate, or damage your possessions. No. He’s advertising that he’s prepared to protect his patch…including you. For example, the dog who territory marks in a corridor may be protecting his owners' bedrooms, and in doggy speak saying how he’ll defend you from intruders. Or else, there is the anxious dog that pees on your sports bag because it smells of the outdoors and he wants reassurance.

Of course, none of this is particularly comforting to a pet parent with a pee problem, but when retraining it’s important to understand that protection or anxiety are at the heart of the problem.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Defining Tasks

Breaking a territory marking habit is a complex task. It requires you to remove lingering odors that draw the dog back, prevent boredom, and build the dog’s confidence. And oh yes, did we mention neutering? Desexing is an important part of reducing the hormonal urge to mark.

Retraining is deceptively difficult, as it requires complete consistency of command, plus constant vigilance to prevent marking before it happens. The pet parent needs to stay one step ahead of the dog, by anticipating trigger points and eliminating them.

Also, if your dog used to be well house trained and has recently started territory marking, get him checked by a vet. You should never assume the problem is behavioral until you know for sure he isn't suffering from a urinary infection which catches him short.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Getting Started

You will need:

  • Cleaning equipment: This is to remove any existing urine marks, because the scent will draw the dog back.
  • A collar and leash: Supervision is key and this can mean keeping the dog in sight at all times, such as on a leash attached to your wrist.
  • A crate: For when the dog is alone and unsupervised.
  • Balls and toys: To encourage energetic play.

Training a dog not to scent mark is a lot like potty training a puppy, so be prepared to be proactive and prevents accidents before they happen.

arrow-up-icon

Top

The Physical Factors Method

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon
Physical Factors method for How to Train Your Dog to Not Mark Territory
1

Is your dog intact?

If yes, then speak to your vet about neutering. Adult entire dogs have a stronger hormonal drive to territory mark. Reducing the levels of those hormones puts you back in control. Remember, some behaviors (including marking) can become a habit, so the sooner you act the less ingrained the habit.

2

Watch for changes in behavior

Is your dog drinking more? Health issues such as diabetes or Cushing’s disease can make a dog drink more. This also means they need to pee more often. Get a vet checkup and take along a sample of the dog’s urine. The vet can test it to see if thirst is a factor.

3

Urinary problems

Some dogs get a sense of urgency which makes them toilet in the house because of a medical reason. Again, drop a urine sample into the vet for screening for a urinary tract infection.

4

Treat health problems

Start therapy for any underlying conditions, so the dog is better able to control his bladder.

5

Up his exercise

With a clean bill of health, start a new exercise regime, so the dog is pleasantly tired at the end of each day. Such mental and physical stimulation should take his mind off marking.

The Eliminate Markers Method

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon
Eliminate Markers method for How to Train Your Dog to Not Mark Territory
1

Understand the idea

The dog will return to the scene of the crime, drawn by the tantalizing smell of his own pee. It’s therefore crucial to thoroughly deodorize any previous marking so there is less temptation to return. (Always patch test carpets and soft furnishings for color fastness, before cleaning.)

2

Check for the presence of pee

Use a black light to locate all urine ‘messages’ left by your dog.

3

Soak up fresh 'spills'

Use disposable paper towel to blot up any urine and get rid of lingering moisture.

4

Clean the area effectively

Clean the area thoroughly with a solution of biological washing detergent, rinse, and blot dry Repeat until the rinse water comes away clear. Now clean again, using a solution of bicarbonate of soda. Rinse and blot dry. Now wipe color fast surfaces over with rubbing alcohol.

5

Now for the bad news...

Oh, and experts tell us a dog’s nose is so sensitive, to fully remove the scent, you need to clean this way daily for 2 – 3 weeks.

The Beef Up Training Method

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon
Beef Up Training method for How to Train Your Dog to Not Mark Territory
1

Understand the idea

Beefing up basic potty training reduces the opportunity for the dog to mark in the wrong place. It helps the proverbial penny to drop if the dog understands that outside is his toilet, not indoors.

2

Eliminate opportunities to misbehave

Never leave the dog unattended in a room. It helps to restrict the number of rooms he has access to, so you can find any ‘lapses’ and deodorize. Have him wear a collar and a longline attached to your wrist. In addition, for the times you can't be there, crate train the dog so that he cannot roam the home unsupervised.

3

Take him to the toilet

Watch the dog and at the first sign of sniffing, to sidle alongside furniture and mark, take him outside to toilet. Also, take him out for regular toilet breaks every hour or so, immediately after meals, and when he's just woken up. This increase the chances of catching him with a full bladder and get him out to the correct toilet spot.

4

Praise pees in the toilet spot

When the dog does empty his bladder in the correct place, be sure to praise him and give a treat. This helps to reinforce where the right place to relieve himself is.

5

Understand the difference

Peeing in the wrong place can be due to a lack of potty training or to territorial scent marking. However, the boundaries between the two are blurry, so good toilet training goes a long way to teaching the dog what is desirable and what isn't.

Training Questions

Have a question?

Training Questions and Answers

Dog nametag icon

Thor

Dog breed icon

Labrador

Dog age icon

8 Years

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

User generated photo

Hi, Thor has been marking a lot in the house! He’s not neutered. We do have another small older dog it’s a chihuahua and a cat in the home which have all been with us before him. We’ve had Thor since he was 6 weeks old. I’ve tried so many things not sure what else to do?? Please help with any suggestions

June 23, 2022

Thor's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kristie, First, if you have had pup a long time and the marking is a recent behavior that's out of character for pup, I would speak with your vet to make sure there isn't a reason why pup is needing to pee really often, like incontinence from an infection or something else. I am not a vet so speak with your vet about anything potentially medically related. If the issue is behavioral and pup can hold it but is choosing not to, I would return to crating pup at night and while you are away; the crate will only be half the battle though. I would take pup potty every three hours. When he is out of the crate between potty trips he will probably still try to pee to mark his scent if this isn't just related to pup needing to go potty more frequently but also to pup claiming things. To deal with that behavior, use the crate training and a potty schedule, but also keep him tethered to you while he is out of the crate between potty trips using a 6 or 8 foot leash. Have him wear a belly band - which is a sling/diaper for male dogs that catches urine, and when he tries to lift his leg to mark, clap your hands loudly three times. Use a cleaner than contains enzymes to remove the smell from any new or previous accidents - since lingering scent will only encourage more marking and only enzymes fully remove the smell. Look on the bottle for the word enzyme or enzymatic. Many (but not all) pet cleaners contain enzymes. The belly band will keep marking from being fun and successful for him and stop the spreading of the smell - which encourages more marking (and keep your things clean). Attaching him to yourself with the leash will keep him from sneaking off to pee uninterrupted, and clapping will make peeing unpleasant for him without it being too harsh. Reward him with treats when he potties outside so he understands that pottying outside in front of you is good, it's only inside where he shouldn't do it. This helps to avoid pup thinking they are getting in trouble for going potty in front of you, and to realize it's the location you don't want, since pup is rewarded when going potty in front of you while outside. You will want to practice those extra potty measures long enough for them to become a long term habit and break the cycle of pee smell in your home. How long this takes depends on the dog. For some that's one month, for others that's four months. When you transition pup to more freedom I would use the belly band and crate for a while longer, letting pup off the tether around you, but limiting his ability to go potty when you are not home and to spread scent by preventing that with the belly band. If pup's overall attitude toward you has been less respectful, more pushy, and less listening, building respect can also help with marking. Check out this article for that. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Because of pup's age and breed, I would check with your vet though to make sure the marking it's just pup having to go potty more often due to some incontinence, opposed to behavioral. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 24, 2022

Dog nametag icon

Willie

Dog breed icon

Terrier mix

Dog age icon

2 Years

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

User generated photo

Rescued him a week ago. (His age is unknown) I take him in backyard to go potty, and he always lifts his leg on objects (base of patio chair, bbq, pole, etc) I take him to the lawn and bushes and he won’t do anything. Good news is we’ve had no accidents in the house. How do I get him to understand where I want him to go potty? I read to reward him when he goes, but how do I get him to understand what I want?

May 20, 2022

Willie's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kathi, I would start by purchasing a potty encouraging spray, like Go Here, Hurry!, ect... and spraying that on the tree base or bush base where pup would be sniffing and then lifting a leg toward. I would take pup potty on leash outside - a long leash is pup won't go potty right in front of you, tell pup to "Go Potty", and let him wander near the tree line, directing him away from the outdoor furniture with the long leash, let him sniff and do his business while you pretend to ignore him. After he goes, praise and give five treats, one a time, to help future times go faster. When you are ready to take pup potty go outside first, before pup, and spray the area you want pup to go potty on right beforehand for a while. Once pup is easily going potty in that area, then you can begin spraying the area less often. You will need to take pup on leash to keep him away from the furniture for probably a couple of months though. When pup is going potty well in the right location in front of you and potty training is well established, you can also clap loudly two times anytime pup tries to lift a leg on furniture outside to interrupt, with pup on leash so you are close by. I would wait to do the clapping until potty training in the right spot is established though, or pup might stop wanting to go potty near you at all if done too soon. The clapping is best done when pup has been doing great in the right location for at least a couple of months, hasn't peed on the furniture for at least a month (because they are leashed while outside) and pup is being rewarded for treats for potttying in the right spot. With all of those things in place, its easier for pup to understand that it's the furniture that's off limits and not going potty near you or outside in general. A more difficult option but potentially free one if you have multiple dogs or pup has doggie friends, is to have another male dog who is more submissive than this dog pee in the areas you want pup to go regularly. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 20, 2022


Wag! Specialist
Need training help?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.