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Urine Marking in Dogs

What to Do About Urine Marking continued...

Many dogs will urine mark during walks but never mark inside their homes. What prompts a dog to urine mark in the home? It might be a territorial response, especially if the marking occurs when a dog encounters a nonresident dog or smells another dog’s urine on his property or in his house. For example, a dog might mark on his pet parent’s shoes, presumably because the person walked through and picked up the odor of urine from another dog.

Other causes for urine marking involve exposure to social triggers, such as encountering a female dog in estrous (in heat). In this kind of situation, a male dog might be prompted to mark to impress the female, while a female dog might be prompted to mark as a form of competition. Male dogs might also urine mark when they find themselves in the presence of rival males. Some dogs never mark in their own homes but will mark when they visit others’ homes. A dog is especially likely to urine mark when visiting a home if another dog has previously marked in that home. Dogs who become highly aroused and stimulated in the presence of other dogs, especially in large, gregarious groups, sometimes “zone out” and urine mark any object in the area, including other dogs and people’s legs. On rare occasions, dogs who mark frequently during walks become highly aroused and continue marking when they return to their homes.

Treatment for Reproductively Intact Dogs

The easiest solution for urine marking in a reproductively intact dog is to neuter a male dog or spay a female dog. Neutering male dogs successfully eliminates or greatly reduces household urine marking in 50 to 60 percent of cases.

If you plan to breed your dog and you’re resistant to spaying or neutering, you can follow many of the suggestions that follow for dogs who appear to urine mark in response to specific social or environmental triggers. Be aware, however, that the likelihood of successfully eliminating or reducing urine marking is lower if your dog is still intact.

Treatment for New Things in the Environment or Social Triggers

The following tips might help reduce urine marking in your dog if he performs the behavior when encountering new things in his environment or experiencing certain social situations:

  • Restrict your dog’s access to things he’s likely to mark. Don’t allow other dogs to visit your home or yard. You can also try blocking your dog’s visual access to other dogs.
  • If you have a male dog, have him wear a jock strap or bellyband (also known as a male dog wrap). You can purchase a bellyband made for dogs from a pet supply company. This option is especially appropriate if your dog only urine marks when visiting others’ homes.
  • If your dog predictably marks certain objects (bags, suitcases or shoes, for example), or if he only marks in certain locations, place treats around those objects or in those areas. Your dog might start to regard objects he used to mark and places where he used to mark as sources of food rather than triggers for marking.
  • Clean previously marked locations with an enzymatic cleaner, such as Nature’s Miracle® Stain and Odor Remover, to minimize smells that can attract your dog and cause him to mark again. You can find cleaners made for eliminating pet odors at most pet supply stores and some grocery stores.
  • Try to make marked areas unpleasant to discourage your dog from returning. Try using double-sided sticky tape, vinyl carpet runner turned upside-down to expose the knobby surface, or other types of humane, harmless booby traps. Keep in mind, however, that your dog might simply select another place to urine mark.
  • Provide your dog with an acceptable target for marking, such as a tree trunk or artificial fire hydrant. Expose him to something that prompts his marking, such as the urine of another dog, and then immediately take him to your chosen target. Wait until he marks, and then reward him with praise and a few tasty treats for marking in the correct place.
  • Scolding or physically punishing your dog probably won’t work, but it’s possible that a remotely delivered punishment will interrupt or discourage marking. When you see your dog start to mark, you can try clapping loudly, spraying him with water, or tossing a noisy chain on the floor next to him. It’s very important to deliver these punishments while your dog is caught in the act of urine marking. (If you don’t make your startling noise right when your dog starts to mark, he won’t understand why you’re punishing him.) Keep in mind that your dog might be very strongly motivated by the urge to urine mark—so much so that he might not even be aware of what he’s doing. If this is the case, punishing or startling him won’t work. Another reason that using punishment to discourage urine marking might not work well is that your dog might simply learn that your presence is linked with punishment. If he does, he’ll continue to mark, but only when out of your sight.
  • Try using a synthetic hormone diffuser (DAP™; Dog Appeasement Pheromone). In some cases, it can have a calming effect on dogs.
  • As a last resort, consult with your veterinarian about using medication in addition to behavior training. Scientific studies show that some medications can help reduce urine marking.

 

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