Dogs mark their scent for a variety of reasons. Most commonly it’s a territorial act, but it can also be driven by reproductive instincts, anxiety or as a response to a new stimuli, such as a new pet or visitor. However, if your otherwise well-trained dog sees fit to mark when visiting the house of a lady dog, it’s probable he’s doing so out of excitement. Excitement notwithstanding, this is bad manners. Fortunately, you can correct this socially disastrous behavior quickly, using kind, positive techniques.
Step 1 - Make a list of the objects Lucky typically marks when he’s visiting female dogs’ houses. If necessary, speak to their owners to find out.
Step 2 - Take Lucky for a big walk to wear him out. It’s so much easier to get cooperation from a dog when he's not a tightly wound bundle of energy.
Step 3 - Call the owners of the female dog and explain that you want to break Lucky’s marking behavior. Ask them to put the commonly marked objects in an obvious place. This way, you’ll be able to see if Lucky is showing an interest in them.
Step 4 - Take Lucky over to the house of the female dog. Put him on a long leash before you enter.
Step 5 - Observe Lucky as he mingles with the other dog. Look out for signs he’s about to mark, such as sniffing target objects, pacing around a certain spot and leg lifting. If he lifts his leg, it means he’s about to mark.
Step 6 - Disrupt Lucky’s behavior. Gently tug the leash, call his name and, if necessary, guide him outside for a time-out.
Step 7 - Take the target objects home with you. It’s highly likely that Lucky marks these objects due to the excitement he gets from the scent of the other dog. In taking them home, you can recreate the environment of the female dog’s house, but under controlled conditions.
Step 8 - Put the target objects in an obvious place so Lucky can see them. Put Lucky on a leash and walk him around your house.
Step 9 - Praise Lucky for as long as he doesn’t appear to be thinking about marking. Observe his body language and use what you learned about his marking behavior to anticipate his marking. As soon as you spot the signs that he’s about to mark, cease all praise and distract him with noise and a gentle tug on the leash. The trick here is to make Lucky learn that the positive stimulus of praise is replaced with the negative stimulus of noise and physical restraint when he goes to mark on these objects. With sufficient, he’ll develop an aversion to the objects and, by extension, the act of scent marking.
Step 10 - Return the objects to the owner and let Lucky off leash in the female’s house. Praise him for as long as he ignores the target objects. Only let him explore for two minutes before taking him home. Gradually increase the time you give on each visit so he can learn handle the excitement of visiting a female without marking.
By Simon Foden
About the Author
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.