You may have noticed your dog has started marking in the house. Now obviously, you are going to want to get to the route of the problem – and quick. This is not a behavior you want to continue for very long. But why do dogs suddenly start marking? And what are some appropriate and effective responses to it? Well, here’s all you are going to want to know.
So, why has my dog started marking in the house? A dog may start marking the house to claim his territory and send a signal to others that he’s the leader of the pack and that your house is his domain. This is especially common in dogs who haven’t been spayed or neutered. Dogs can also start marking in the house out of boredom or to express anxiety.
A lot will have to do with your dog’s age, and how long you have had them.
But you may need to consider other factors too – such as if you’ve just moved home or if something has drastically changed in your dog’s environment.
Nevertheless, let us delve deeper into the potential causes before looking at practical ways to stop them from doing this!
Why Do Dogs Mark In The House?
Dogs may mark in the house to claim territory, in response to new people/objects, to establish themselves as the pack leader, as a consequence of boredom/stress/anxiety or it could be the unfortunate consequence of a medical issue.
It is however more common in dogs that have not been neutered or spayed…
They Haven’t Been Neutered Or Spayed
Dogs are much more likely to mark their territory if they haven’t been neutered or spayed.
Usually, male dogs are more prone to urine marking, although some females will do this too. Female dogs who mark often do so just before or while they’re in heat.
Sometimes dogs who have become accustomed to marking around the house may continue to do so even after surgery. So, it’s best to do what you can to stop it before it becomes a habit (see below).
There Are New People Or Objects In The Home
If your dog encounters something new in your home, he may want to mark it to show that it’s now part of his domain.
A new item of furniture, a brand new carpet, or even a visitor’s coat or bag can trigger your dog’s need to mark.
If the item carries the scent of another animal, your dog will be even more tempted to mark it with his own scent.
Likewise, if your dog sees that there are new people in his home, he may wish to mark your home. This is your dog’s way of informing your visitors that the house is his, not theirs!
Your Dog Wants To Establish Himself As Pack Leader
Dogs are pack animals, and they have a natural hierarchy with one dog being the leader.
Having a leader in a pack gives the other dogs confidence: they feel more secure when they know what’s expected of them.
Your dog may be marking your home as a way to try to establish himself as ‘top dog’ over others in your home.
Whether it’s another dog, a cat, or a different kind of pet, your dog may wish to send a message that says, ‘I’m in charge here.’
Your dog can even mark his home after coming home from a walk when he’s encountered other animals. Some dogs mark their homes when they see other animals through the window! This is usually because they sense a rival.
Your Dog Is Bored Or Anxious
Bored dogs who don’t get enough mental or physical stimulation may mark their homes as a way of expressing their unhappiness or annoyance.
The same goes for anxiety: anxious dogs don’t have a way of telling you their troubles, so they can express their discomfort by marking.
For example, some dogs may mark out of distress when someone they love leaves the house, particularly if they suffer from separation anxiety.
Your Dog Has A Medical Condition
Sometimes a medical condition can cause excess urination:
- Incontinence. Some dogs may experience incontinence, either because of age or an illness. They may even urinate while they’re sleeping without being aware of it.
- Genitalia abnormalities. Although not very common, a dog with genital abnormalities may experience incontinence.
- Urinary tract infection. Dogs who suffer from a urinary tract infection may urinate in small amounts and frequently.
How To Stop Your Dog from Marking In The House
On the plus side, there are many things you can do to stop your dog from marking in the house.
Get Your Dog Neutered Or Spayed
Spaying or neutering can greatly reduce the amount of marking dogs do in your home. According to WebMD, most of the time up to 50 to 60% of dogs will stop marking altogether once they’ve been neutered.
If, however, the neutering doesn’t affect your dog’s behavior, other issues may be to blame.
Introduce New People Gradually
If your dog marks when there are new people or animals around, there are several things you can do to ease this process of socialization:
- Have the new person make friends with your dog by feeding him or playing with him. If the new person is a very young child or a baby, give your dog extra attention when the baby is around. Your dog will then start to associate the baby with good times.
- Move anything he has marked out of his reach. If people come with belongings, keep those belongings in an area where your dog can’t get at them.
- When introducing new animals to your dog, do this on neutral territory such as a public park. Allow the animals to get accustomed to each other slowly and take things at their pace.
Give Your Dog More Exercise And Stimulation
Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise. If you have a highly intelligent and energetic dog, he’ll need lots of walking, running, and games to burn off his energy.
If your dog is already getting walks and he’s still marking in the house, try taking him for a run or playing longer games with him.
Let Your Dog Know You’re The Alpha
Teach your dog who’s the pack leader (you) by having him obey a sit or lie down command. Give your dog one of these commands before he goes for a walk or before he eats.
Use Treats Or Food
If you catch your dog while he’s marking, you don’t want to yell at him. You can, however, clap loudly to discourage him from peeing. Then take him outside right away.
Once you’ve thoroughly cleaned the spot, you can put a treat on it to help discourage him from wanting to mark there again.
You could even put his food dish there if you wish. Most dogs won’t want to mark in the spot where they eat.
Of course, this may mean your dog is likely to simply choose another spot. If he pees elsewhere, repeat the process with his food bowl.
Eventually, he’ll learn that he can’t pee anywhere in the house!
Take Your Dog For A Checkup
You may wish to make sure there are no medical issues behind your dog’s marking.
You can keep a record of when he does it to bring to your vet in order to assess his behavior and habits.
Use An Enzymatic Cleaner
When cleaning up after your dog has marked, it’s essential to use an enzymatic cleaner to eliminate odors effectively.
Some products may say they are ‘peeing deterrents,’ but there is no such thing.
The best way to stop your dog from peeing again in the same spot is by removing the odors completely.
The benefit of enzyme cleaners is that they absorb the bacteria that are responsible for the odor.
If your dog smells his urine in the spot where he’s made a mess previously, he’s likely to do it again in the same place.
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If you are working urine that has soaked all the way through on an item a little more challenging, like a mattress, you may need to use a slightly different strategy.
Treat Your Dog’s Anxiety
If you believe your dog’s marking is caused by anxiety, you’ll want to help your dog as soon as possible. The older your dog gets, the worse the anxiety is likely to become.
There are several ways to help your dog with his anxiety:
- Give him more exercise to help boost his endorphin levels and calm him down afterward.
- Give your dog extra cuddles and other forms of physical contact, such as a doggie massage.
- Try music therapy: this has been proven to be highly effective for many dogs.
- Make sure your dog has a safe place to go when he needs to relax. Some people use ZenCrates which provide noise cancellation and sensory isolation for highly sensitive dogs.
- Try calming coats or t-shirts that swaddle your dog and offer comfort.
- Consult your vet for possible alternative therapies such as Rescue Remedy or herbal supplements.
- Seek help from a dog behaviorist if you’re having trouble. You can find a veterinary behaviorist in your area who specializes in treating dogs with all types of behavior problems.
Note: Don’t ever yell at or otherwise punish your dog for marking, as this will make the anxiety worse. Your dog will be confused, as he won’t understand why he is being punished. It’s best to reward the behavior you want to see rather than use punishment.
Marking is just one of those things that many owners go through.
While it may be a little frustrating, or even upsetting to see your dog behaving like this, thankfully there is a solution to this problem.
The troubling and challenging part is, identifying the underlying cause (or causes) in the first place.
Having read this article here today, it now may be entirely obvious.
Or it may require a little further investigation on your part.
But this skill will serve you well. It will help you understand behaviors that may develop, like pooping in the house at night.
Ultimately, with a little bit of time, patience, and with the right approach, you can successfully stop your dog from marking your home.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.