How to Train Your Dog to Not Mark Territory

Hard
1-6 Months
General

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.

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.

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.

The Physical Factors Method

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Physical Factors method for Not Mark Territory
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
4
Treat health problems
Start therapy for any underlying conditions, so the dog is better able to control his bladder.
Step
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.
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The Eliminate Markers Method

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Eliminate Markers method for Not Mark Territory
Step
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.)
Step
2
Check for the presence of pee
Use a black light to locate all urine ‘messages’ left by your dog.
Step
3
Soak up fresh 'spills'
Use disposable paper towel to blot up any urine and get rid of lingering moisture.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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The Beef Up Training Method

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Beef Up Training method for Not Mark Territory
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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