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Dogs that mark are placing scent in areas that outline what they believe to be their territory. Sometimes it is due to other males, sometimes it is just to tag new things and people into their world. This is natural, but unacceptable in the house.

Despite what some believe, ALL male dogs will mark. If you don't believe that your male dog marks, purchase a black light and shine it in all the areas that your dog hangs out. You will be surprised to find a suspicious glow that indicates your dog has, at some time, marked his territory in your house.

How can you tell if your dog is marking or just relieving themselves? Typically, when marking, the dog will leave small amounts of urine. Most often it is on vertical surfaces such as walls, doors, furniture legs or curtains. They will mark near views to the outside, important areas that represent their favorite places to rest or play; and often they will mark new packages, bags, purses or boxes that are brought into their domain.

If they don't recognize the scent, or smell another dog's scent, they will attempt to mark it as their own. Keep in mind that "marking" is NOT a house training problem. An animal (not exclusive to dogs) will mark to assert their dominance, as they feel their territory is being threatened. Generally speaking, males mark. However, it is possible that a female that is more dominant in the house, will also mark.

One of the first things that causes a dog to mark is having another animal or dog in the house that is not altered. In fact, if you spay/neuter your dog, they are less likely to be driven by the testosterone that drives the territorial need into high gear.

If the dog has conflicts with another animal in the house, they may mark, regardless to being spayed/neutered. And, they may mark windows and doors or curtains, if they have contact with other animals outside; be it face to face or just in view.

So, how to you deal with this lovely bad habit? First, if your dog is not neutered, this needs to be done. If your dog has been allowed to mark for a long period of time, this will not eliminate the problem, but it will help lessen it a great deal.

  • Clean all areas that have been marked with an enzymatic cleaner which is specifically designed to eliminate pet odors. DO NOT use ammonia-based cleaners, vinegar or other products that do not break down the urine enzymes. These products will clean the visible signs, but will not remove the base odor, and your dog will likely remark the area, as it is no different than another animal leaving an unfamiliar scent over theirs.
  • Place sticky tape in front of the area, making it unpleasant for your dog to walk on. Or, re-establish the significance of the room for your dog by playing with them or feeding them in that area. Remember dogs don't usually relieve themselves in their beds or where they eat.
  • Restrict access to windows or doors where your dog might see other animals that cause them to mark.
  • Resolve any conflicts between other animals in the home.
  • Keep unfamiliar objects out of reach, off the floor or where they can get to them to mark.
  • If your dog is marking a specific person's belongings, like a new person or a new baby, start having the new person interact more with the dog in positive ways; be it petting, playing, feeding or training your dog.
  • Place a 4-6' leash on your dog and when you catch them marking, interrupt with a command, like "leave it" and give a gentle tug on the leash. If you cannot watch them, confine them in their crate.
  • Reaffirm your position as the "leader" by working with your dog on command training. Consistent training goes a long way in helping your dog accept and respect you as their leader. Make them do something before they receive treats, toys, or even before you give them affection, like petting and belly rubs.

Some signs to watch for, are your dog shifting from one side to the other, while sniffing a particular spot on your couch, chair, door or even your leg. This is when you interrupt them with a loud noise or quick squirt of a water bottle.

While we don't necessarily like using the water bottle, most dogs are just as incensed about being peed on, as we are. ;O) For this, use vinegar in the water, as it has a scent and drives home the idea of your not wanting them marking what is yours, which is EVERYTHING and EVERYONE in the house.

If you find a spot that your dog has marked, DO NOT punish after the fact. They will not associate your anger with the act, unless you catch them in the act.

Invest in a belly band for your male dog. While this does not eliminate the urge to mark their territory, it will prevent the follow-through. If you line them with a pad that swells when it gets wet, this will add a bit of discomfort that will be directly associated with the act of marking.

When you are outside, it's entirely up to you as to how much is "markable territory" for your dog. If you don't want your patio furniture marked, then you need to apply the same rules outside, as you do inside.

Try making marking posts for your dog. When you come across a great little log that is easily stood up, set this on your patio. Then when your dog marks it, don't say anything, but don't interrupt as you would when they wiggle-sniff your favorite patio chair, table or plant.

And, yes, it is possible to train your dog not to mark anything, it just takes time and consistent affirmation that the entire world is YOUR territory and not theirs.