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.
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.
You will need:
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.
My rescue dog has never peed in my house. However, when I take him out to public places, or to others houses where dogs live or have lived, he is constantly marking his territory indoors. How do I teach him that all indoors, not just our home are not places to pee?
Hello Erin, First, work on his general respect and trust toward you. When he marks around other dogs, he is competing with them. If he is looking to you for leadership, then you telling him not to pee on something will mean more to him. Check out the article that I have linked below for some ways you can build respect without being too confrontational. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Second, when you catch him lifting a leg or starting to, quickly clap your hands loudly and say "Ah-Ah". Your voice does not have to be loud, just firm, but your clap should be loud enough to surprise him and interrupt what he is doing. The goal is to surprise him and get his attention. Having his respect will help. Pay attention to any competing happening between him and another dog there, and interrupt it. You and the other dog's owner are in charge at that house, not the dog that wins the competing and the house rules and your actions with the dogs should reflect that. If either dog has aggression, then hire a professional trainer to help you in person though. If you are taking him places where other dogs have marked - like most large pet stores, then be vigilant and watch him more carefully. Someone's home where there is another dog present but that dog hasn't been marking is more of a competing and respect issue. Marking somewhere that's already been marked - like a pet store piller that another dog peed on is a lot harder for a dog because the store smells like being outside so many male dogs don't realize the difference. When you take him somewhere like that, you can interrupt him if he attempts to pee by clapping, but also teach him to do a sit-stay or down-stay automatically whenever you stop walking, and reward him for doing it, so that he has less opportunities to pee. He should either be heeling by your side, paying attention to you while walking (which also helps with respect) or be sitting or laying down when you stop - removing the opportunity to pee. If you had more control of the situation while at the pet store then the urine smell from the other dogs would be removed with a cleaner that contains enzymes to break down the scent molecularly to fully get it out. Since you cannot control the location's smell, then adding more structure to your visit and generally working on his listening and respect are what I recommend. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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We just got our new guy and he comes from an outside kennel. He had no been fixed and we would rather not fix him at this time. Trying to bring him inside with our female dogs and he is making everything. What can we do to change this behavior?
Hello Denise, First, have him wear a belly band - which is a male diaper that covers just their male parts and catches any urine from marking attempts. You can buy disposable ones or washable ones and put incontinence pads, feminine pads, or belly band pads in them. Introduce the belly band with lots of treats while putting it on and keep a close eye on him the first couple of days he wears it and interrupt him anytime he tries to bite at it or take it off - You need to stop the spreading of his scent as the first step. Every time he marks the marking behavior is rewarded because his scent ends up where he wanted it - you need to stop him from being successful at his attempts with the belly band. Second, clean up any areas you are aware of that he or the other dogs have peed on in the past with a pet cleaner that contains enzymes. Only enzymes remove the smell enough for a dog not to be encourage to simply go potty in that same spot again later due to the smell. Look on the bottle for the word enzyme or enzymatic. Bleach won't work, and avoid ammonia containing products near your dogs in general right now because ammonia actually smells like urine to a dog and can encourage peeing on its own. Third, attach him to yourself with a 6 or 8 foot leash while working on this while you are home. When you are not home or can't do that he needs to be in a crate. Surprise method for crate training if he isn't crate trained already, plus practice the crate manners video linked even further down: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Fourth, whenever he tries to lift his leg or squat to pee, clap your hands loudly two times, then rush him outside. Stay calm and firm when you do this. No shouting or anger, just surprise him, then rush outside. You want to catch him in the act right when he starts to think about peeing. Clapping after you find an accident will do absolutely no good. If he is tethered to you with a leash, he shouldn't be able to sneak off to pee. Fifth, work on commands that increase his respect for you, and help with structure for him around the other dogs, such as the commands below: Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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I rescued my dog two years ago when he was about 10 months old. He was already neutered. He is an extremely good dog and never goes inside (somehow he was already potty trained when I got him). But mu biggest issue is that, although, he is potty trained I have never met a dog who needs to mark as much as he does. It takes him 30 mins to pee everything out. I know this because I watch for how much pee he has left. It is incredibly frustrating especially when I have to leave for work at 5 am so I have to walk him at 4:30am to make sure that he gets everything out. I don't always have time for his long escapades and have to cut his walks short when I have to leave that early in the morning. And when he sees that we're about to walk back inside the house instead of peeing the rest out he'd rather hold it because he needs the "perfect" smell and place to lift his leg :( I would love for him to learn how to pee everything out immediately and as soon as we go outside because then I don't have to worry about him holding it and it'll also save me getting frustrated and angry with him. Please help :((
Hello Valeria, This is a common problem. Many dogs learn that they can lengthen a walk by waiting to pee, or they want to make sure they have enough pee left to mark the entire time. First, place some small tasty treats out of his reach by the door - where you will remember to grab four on your way to take him potty. Second, take him outside to go potty close to your home (no long walk here), tell him to "Go Potty", and if he goes, give him four treats, one at a time. Only give him five minutes to go potty and though (no lingering). Take him back inside right after. Since he probably didn't finish peeing, he will need to be taken outside again sooner (start this when you are off work for a couple of days). When you take him back outside, take him to the same spot and repeat "Go Potty" and reward him if he goes, then back inside if he didn't go potty a lot. If you take him close to your home and he does not go potty there, take him inside, put him in a crate, and try again in an hour. The deal is that that boring spot is his only option but if he goes potty there he gets a treat. Repeat the trips outside and crating him again if he doesn't go potty until he goes, at which time you will give him a treat. When you are ready to take him for a walk, have him go potty close to your home first (he has to earn the walk by peeing FIRST). After he pees, tell him to heel and take him for his walk as a reward but do NOT let him stop to mark while walking (his only pee option right now is close to your home before a walk). Later when he knows "Go Potty" you can let him pee in other locations too but only when he is given permission with "Go Potty" and not because he is choosing to stop all the time. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Dunkin hyperventilates when there is another dog on the TV. He does the same with most animals, horses, cows, etc. If we lift him up to where he is level with the animal on tv he seems to be ok and not anxious. If he is down on the floor however he is hyperventilating so badly I think he’ll have a heart attack!
Except for putting out tv on the floor, what can we do?
Hello Jo, I suggest working on desensitizing him to the TV like you would to other dogs. Practice walking back in and out of the room in a structured heel and rewarding him for focusing on you instead of the TV. Practice a lot of structured obedience and things that he really has to focus on but is also rewarded for obedience for. When he is doing well with more focused activities moving about, then practice things like touch and watch Me - where he is rewarded for prolonged eye contact (which also means he is focused on you and not the TV. Practice all of these things with the TV and animals on in the back ground. At first practice with the TV on mute, then slowly turn the volume up as he improves. The goal is to make the TV more boring and a calmer experience. Adding in pleasant, focused activities helps desensitize him to the TV by letting him be around it while in a calmer mindset and not fixated on it. Interrupt fixation on it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Maschino is the alpha male of his liter. We also have his brother who is more of a runt. Neither is neutered which has made potty training extremely difficult. Maschino is my pup and my roommate claims the other. Lately Im overwhelmed with the potty training. Instinctually for many reasons they mark no matter how we clean up the messes. Lately putting them outside for a while seems to work best hut back inside we're still at the root of the problem. Unfortunately I dont think my roomate has the desire to contribute and acquire the things we need to train and break them of this. Would it be wise for me to individually crate train my pup, limit his free time to roam the home, leash him when he is out of the crate inside with me and take him out for frequent potty breaks?? At this point I'm at a loss because as a small female I can not handle both of them. Lets not even talk about feeding. Maschino is on an all raw food diet that requires lots of time on top of a strict feeding schedule. Other pup is because I had to take over that task or he would not eat appropriately. Both are great pups with tons of potential but at the end of the day I need to know the healthiest way to separate them throughout the day. Without neglecting the other. I dont want the runt to develop issues this young because I want to responsibly train my dog and break him of some bad behaviors. Lets say I get mine on track will this naturally lead the runt to follow suit? Or will Maschino still revert back to what was because the other is not receiving individualized training and ample supervision. Trying not to hurt feelings or create a confrontation out of all this. I believe professional advice will help us create a plan that works for everyone. Please bless me with your knowledge and experiences to help us solve these issues. I just can't deal with the mounting stress of cleaning up poo and pee inside ALL DAY anymore.
Hello! What a cute puppy you have! Your situation sounds like a hand full. And also a little tricky since it seems like you are motivated to correct this and not everyone is on board. I would absolutely start crate training, when you are unable to supervise. I am going to send you some detailed information on potty training and crate training. Maybe you can share this with your roommate as well and hope for the best! Potty training: Know Your Pup. As you spend time with your puppy, learn your puppy’s love language. Just as some people prefer gifts, touch, or time spent together, puppies can be the same way. Some puppies love praise or pets, while others prefer treats. As you get to know your puppy, consider what reward your puppy loves the most. Create a Daily Schedule. It is best to have a routine for your puppy. A schedule helps them understand when to eat, play, and “go to the bathroom.” Your puppy should go out frequently and the routine should be the same every time. When? Start the day by taking your puppy outside, and repeating based on age and ability. They should also go out after napping, chewing, playing, and within 10 to 15 minutes of eating. Although some puppies can sleep for seven hours, it is important to set an alarm and take your pup out during the night. When you do, don’t make a fuss about it. Quietly take them outside with minimal stimulation and light. Praise them if they go to the bathroom and gently return them to their bed or crate. You don’t want them to get stimulated and ready to play in the middle of the night! As you get to know your puppy, you will become aware of their individual habits. Click here to learn more about house training schedules for puppies. Where? Take your puppy to a specific area to urinate or defecate. Be consistent. You can create an area by using urine-soaked paper or bowel movements to help create an aroma to stimulate your puppy. How? Take your puppy out on a leash so they can focus on the desired activity. This will help prevent them from wandering off to play. Once your puppy is in the selected area, use your verbal cue, such as “Hurry Up,” “Poopies,” “Go tinkle,” or any phrase your puppy responds to. What? Know the signs that your puppy has to go to the bathroom. Every animal may have a different “I gotta go” gesture, which often include restlessness, sniffing around, circling, scratching at the door, barking, and, eventually, squatting. At the first sign that your pup has to go, calmly and quickly take them outside to their bathroom spot. Deal with Accidents. Accidents are a normal part of house training a puppy. What to Do If you see your puppy in the process of urinating or defecating inappropriately, calmly and quickly interrupt them in the act. Tell them to stop (either by a jarring sound or command), and immediately take them to an appropriate location for elimination. After your puppy goes to the bathroom, lavishly praise them and offer a treat. Thoroughly clean up accidents, so your puppy is not attracted to this area again. Create a consistent feeding and watering schedule. Depending on the age of your puppy, they will eat three to four times a day. A consistent feeding routine can create a regular bathroom schedule. Take away water about 2 hours before bedtime. Learn more about ideal dog schedules here. What NOT to Do Don’t punish your puppy when they have an accident. At that point, it is too late. When a puppy has an accident in the house and they walk away, within seconds they have already forgotten about what they did. Taking them to the scene of the crime and yelling and/or rubbing their nose in it does not help and, in fact, can harm your puppy! Supervise. The best thing you can do is to prevent accidents and the best way to do this is to supervise your puppy at all times. You can tether your puppy to your waist with a five or six-foot leash and carefully observe them for signs that they need to go to the bathroom. If you can’t supervise, then crate or confine your puppy. The more accidents your puppy has in the house, the more confusing it will be for them and this can delay house training. Reward, Reward, Reward. It is important to give your puppy a reward for their good behavior. This can be for commands such as sitting and coming to you, or for appropriately eliminating outside. In a puppy, a reward can be a couple kibbles of puppy food or a treat, such as a small piece of meat. The treat should be exciting for them and only available as a result of good behavior. Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog's age, temperament and past experiences. It's important to keep two things in mind while crate training: The crate should always be associated with something pleasant and training should take place in a series of small steps. Don't go too fast. Step 1: Introduce your dog to the crate Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Take the door off and let the dog explore the crate at their leisure. Some dogs will be naturally curious and start sleeping in the crate right away. If yours isn't one of them: Bring them over to the crate and talk to them in a happy tone of voice. Make sure the crate door is open and secured so that it won't hit your dog and frighten them. Encourage your dog to enter the crate by dropping some small food treats nearby, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate. If they refuse to go all the way in at first, that's OK; don't force them to enter. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate to get the food. If they aren’t interested in treats, try tossing a favorite toy in the crate. This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days. Step 2: Feed your dog meals in the crate After introducing your dog to the crate, begin feeding them their regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. If your dog is readily entering the crate when you begin Step 2, place the food dish all the way at the back of the crate. If they remain reluctant to enter, put the dish only as far inside as they will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed them, place the dish a little further back in the crate. Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat their meal, you can close the door while they’re eating. The first time you do this, open the door as soon as they finish their meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until they’re staying in the crate for 10 minutes or so after eating. If they begin to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time, try leaving them in the crate for a shorter time period. If they do whine or cry in the crate, don’t let them out until they stop. Otherwise, they'll learn that the way to get out of the crate is to whine, so they'll keep doing it. Step 3: Practice with longer crating periods After your dog is eating their regular meals in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine them there for short time periods while you're home. Call them over to the crate and give them a treat. Give them a command to enter, such as "crate." Encourage them by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand. After your dog enters the crate, praise them, give them the treat and close the door. Sit quietly near the crate for five to 10 minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return, sit quietly again for a short time and then let them out. Repeat this process several times a day, gradually increasing the length of time you leave them in the crate and the length of time you're out of sight. Once your dog will stay quietly in the crate for about 30 minutes with you mostly out of sight, you can begin leaving them crated when you're gone for short time periods and/or letting them sleep there at night. This may take several days or weeks. Step 4, Part A: Crate your dog when you leave After your dog can spend about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving them crated for short periods when you leave the house. Put them in the crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave them with a few safe toys in the crate. Vary the moment during your "getting ready to leave" routine that you put your dog in the crate. Although they shouldn't be crated for a long time before you leave, you can crate them anywhere from five to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Don't make your departures emotional and prolonged—they should be matter-of-fact. Praise your dog briefly, give them a treat for entering the crate and then leave quietly. When you return home, don't reward your dog for excited behavior by responding to them in an enthusiastic way. Keep arrivals low-key to avoid increasing their anxiety over when you will return. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you're home so they don't associate crating with being left alone. Step 4, Part B: Crate your dog at night Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night and you'll want to be able to hear your puppy when they whine to be let outside. Older dogs should also initially be kept nearby so they don't associate the crate with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with the crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer, although time spent with your dog—even sleep time—is a chance to strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Potential problems Whining: If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether they’re whining to be let out of the crate, or whether they need to be let outside to eliminate. If you've followed the training procedures outlined above, then your dog hasn't been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from their crate. If that is the case, try to ignore the whining. If your dog is just testing you, they'll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at them or pounding on the crate will only make things worse. If the whining continues after you've ignored them for several minutes, use the phrase they associate with going outside to eliminate. If they respond and become excited, take them outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you're convinced that your dog doesn't need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore them until they stop whining. Don't give in; if you do, you'll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what they want. If you've progressed gradually through the training steps and haven't done too much too fast, you'll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again. Separation anxiety: Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won't solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but they may get injured in an attempt to escape. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counterconditioning and desensitization procedures.
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We’re fostering to adopt an 11 year old male poodle whose person passed. He was in a shelter for at least 3 weeks. He was neutered only three days ago, and came to us two days ago.
This guy tried to mark at least 20 times in his first 24 hours.I put a belly band on him, so he succeeded only once by the front door, and I cleaned it with Nature’s Miracle immediately. The behavior has been reinforced though, as he’s tried to lift his leg a number of times before I could stop him (with the belly band on so no scent.) He seems pretty well crate trained and I’ve used the crate when he barks and ignored him until he stopped. When he stopped my 10 year old daughter went to scratch his head and ended up sitting with him crawling into her lap and flipping over for a belly rub. He has since tried to mark her when we were outside. He wants to mark all over the backyard - I keep a belly band on him there too, so there’s no scent.
I need to develop trust with him, and assert that I’m the leader, but I’m not sure how. He needs to learn sit, stay, heel. I can’t get him to sit - his head is all over the place. Do I also need to teach him not to mark all through his walks? He scurries quickly on walks, marking even when nothing comes out, And he needs to learn to sit quietly at home when my daughter’s in remote school and I’m working. So much! Is this doable with an 11 year old untrained rescue? What order do I tackle all of this? Help.
Hello Leah, Continue with the enzyme cleaner and belly band, those are great first steps. The crate training is also great. When pup is free in the home, I suggest keeping him tethered to you with a 6-8 foot hands free leash (a regular leash can be made hands free by clipping a carabiner onto the handle). When he lifts his leg to mark, clap your hands three times to interrupt him then take him outside. You don't have to yell or act mad at all, you just want to interrupt him and surprise him a bit and keep him close enough that he isn't getting away with marking at all inside (or attempting to in this case due to the belly band). Reward him for going potty outside with a treat or pieces of kibble, especially when you think he fully emptied his bladder instead of just peeing a little bit to save his urine for marking. In general, work on gentle ways to build pup's respect and establish boundaries in the home, so pup is less inclined to try to claim everything also. Check out the article linked below and practice the working method and consistency method, you can also do at least a bit of the obedience method as well. For the obedience method, I recommend starting with commands that build self-control and respect, like Heel, Place, Down-Stay, Leave It, and Out - which means leave the area and can also be useful for the marking. Marking is partially a potty training issue but often a respect/attempting to claim things issue too, so you want to address both. Working, Consistency, and obedience method for building respect gently: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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My alpha of our pack has had to wear a diaper to keep him from peeing all over the house. When it's not on him, he takes any chance he can to mark any and every where. He is very territorial of my mom and I, and any time he feels like one of his younger siblings is in his way he growls, shows his teeth and lunges at the other dogs. Even though we have a fenced in back yard and he gets to go out all the time,he still can't stop peeing ( marking) on his own. How can I get him to stop causing such disturbances? We've had him his whole life, going on 6-7 years and he is now the eldest of our 3.
Hello Rebecca, I would work on building pup's respect for you through the below methods and commands. If pup has ever shown any form of aggression toward you, I recommend hiring a professional trainer to help you with their training in person, taking extra safety measures, like desensitizing pup to a basket muzzle. All three methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Off- section on The Off command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ I would also tether pup to yourself while they are wearing the diaper. Whenever pup attempts to pee with the diaper on, interrupt pup and quickly take them outside. There are various ways to interrupt pup. One of the simplest things to try is to clap loudly twice just to surprise them, then quickly but quietly lead pup outside. I would hire a professional trainer to help you address pup's overall attitude though, since it sounds like pup's overall attitude may be the main issues leading to the marking and dog aggression. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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