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

ribbon-method-1
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.
Recommend training method?

The Eliminate Markers Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
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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.
Recommend training method?

The Beef Up Training Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
0 Votes
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
Willie
Terrier mix
2 Years
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Question
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Willie
Terrier mix
2 Years

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?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1115 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

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Question
SKY
Siberian Husky
5 Years
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Question
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SKY
Siberian Husky
5 Years

When on bike ride, or a run having to hit the breaks suddenly and often becouse sky needs to sniff and mark on every thing we pass.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1115 Dog owners recommended

Hello Eric, I would start by teaching pup the Leave It command and a structured heel command. Practice while walking, not letting pup stop to sniff at all unless given a release command, like "Go Potty". If pup is really really persistent, you might need to use a no-pull device like a property fitted prong collar to keep pup moving with you while walking (don't use this for running, just for the initial training while walking to instill the new expectations of continuing the walk). Reward pup when they look at you, turn well with you, and generally do a really great job heeling. Keep the treats hidden when not delivering one though so pup isn't dependent on knowing they are there to obey. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Once pup is great at walking without stopping unless released, then start picking up speed on your walk, turning the walk into a fast walk, then jog, then run. I would transition to the bike last. Once you are running, it's time to loose the prong collar again and if needed you can use a padded front clip harness to direct pup at that speed, or go back to your previous setup, for the bike I would use a back clip harness for safety reasons though. You may even want to have pup wear their previous setup with the prong in addition to your previous harness or collar setup you are transitioning back to when you get to a slow jog before dropping the prong completely so pup doesn't notice the transition back to old equipment as abruptly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23zEy-e6Khg During this training, I would find other outlets to exercise pup and not run or bike with pup so pup stopping behavior isn't being allowed still before they are trained. You could even add a weighted backpacking harness to walks during training if pup really needs the extra work, just work up to weight gradually if they aren't used to it, and make sure the backpacking harness isn't rubbing. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Max
Pomeranian
5 Years
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Question
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Max
Pomeranian
5 Years

Neutered male started to mark inside home

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1115 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sue, Was pup previously consistent with potty training or is pup also not potty trained yet? If pup isn't potty trained this will involve addressing the potty training and the marking - which are similar but still two things. You will need to crate train him for potty training. Check out the Crate Training method from the article linked below. Make sure that the crate doesn't have anything absorbent in it - including a soft bed or towel. Check out www.primopads.com if you need a non-absorbent bed for him. Make sure the crate is only big enough for him to turn around, lie down and stand up, and not so big that he can potty in one end and stand in the opposite end to avoid it. Dogs have a natural desire to keep a confined space clean so it needs to be the right size to encourage that natural desire. Use a cleaner that contains enzymes to clean any previous or current accidents - only enzymes will remove the small and remaining smells encourage the dog to potty in the same location again later. The method I have linked below was written for younger puppies, since your dog is older you can adjust the times and take him potty less frequently than the method suggests. I suggest taking him potty every 3-4 hours when you are home. After 2 hours (or less if he has an accident sooner) of freedom out of the crate, return him to the crate while his bladder is filling back up again until it has been 3 hours since his last potty trip - at which time you will take him outside to go potty again. When you have to go off he should be able to hold his bladder in the crate for 5-8 hours - less at first while he is getting used to it and longer once he is accustomed to the crate. Only have him wait that long when you are not home though, take him out about every 3 hours while home. You want him to get into the habit of holding his bladder between trips and not just eliminating whenever he feels the urge, and you want to encourage that desire for cleanliness in your home - which the crate is helpful for. Less freedom now means more freedom later in life. Crate Training method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside Because of the marking, the crate will only be half the battle and may not apply at all if pup was previously consistently potty trained and the marking is only due to pup wanting to spread scent. During the 2 hours he is out of the crate between potty trips he will probably still try to pee to mark his scent - since the issue isn't needing to pee but wanting to "claim" things by peeing on them with marking often. To deal with that behavior, use the crate training method, 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. Sometimes addressing an underlying respect issue can also help. If pup seems to have issues with respect also, check out the article linked below for some general ways to build respect without too much confrontation. If pup has ever shown any form of aggression toward you, work with a trainer on these behaviors instead of doing it on your own, for safety and training reasons. Working method especially: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Toby
Shih Tzu
6 Years
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Question
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Toby
Shih Tzu
6 Years

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.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1115 Dog owners recommended

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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Question
Charlie
miniature poodle
11 Years
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Question
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Charlie
miniature poodle
11 Years

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.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1115 Dog owners recommended

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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