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

Effective
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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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Frankie
Golden Retriever mix
1 Year
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Question
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Frankie
Golden Retriever mix
1 Year

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?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
329 Dog owners recommended

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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Question
Titus
English Setter
2 Years
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Question
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Titus
English Setter
2 Years

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?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
329 Dog owners recommended

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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Question
Bender
Jack Russell Terrier
3 Years
2 found helpful
Question
2 found helpful
Bender
Jack Russell Terrier
3 Years

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 :((

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
329 Dog owners recommended

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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