Dogs also have a novel way of letting others know what belongs to them. To the chagrin of humans, their identification system involves spraying smelly urine on the object in question. Understanding why a dog marks its territory can help you develop strategies to stop or redirect the behavior.
Dogs spray small amounts of urine to mark objects as territory as their own. When other dogs sniff the object, they can determine your dog's sex and whether the animal has been spayed or neutered just by smelling the urine. When your dog detects another dog's odor, he may back off, but more likely, he'll decide to add his own scent to the object by spraying it with urine. The ASPCA notes that males are more likely to mark territory than females, and that unneutered males are more likely to mark than neutered males.
Your dog may mark his territory indoors if a guest brings a dog into your home or your dog smells another dog on your property, particularly if a female dog is in the middle of a heat, or reproductive, cycle. You might unwittingly bring in urine odor from another dog on your shoes or clothing, which might prompt your dog to spray the item. It's not unusual for marking to become a problem if you bring a new dog or other pet into the home. In this case, your dog marks objects in your home to communicate to the newcomer that the territory is taken. Some dogs may mark due to upsetting changes, such as the addition of a new baby or a move to a new house.
It's important to remove the urine odor from your home or your dog might continue to mark. Buy an enzymatic pet odor cleaner at a pet supply store and apply it to all surfaces that your dog marked. Use a black light to find all of the urine spots. If a marked object can be moved, move it out of the dog's reach. If your dog marks on new objects you bring into your home, immediately put these items in a closet as soon as you return home. Place food and water bowls in the spots in the areas your dog likes to spray. He might avoid spraying these areas if food is present.
Stopping the Behavior
If the marking started in response to a new addition to your house, ask the new resident to feed the dog or take him for a walk. If the newcomer is a young child or infant, allow the dog to sniff them while you give him a great. If the dog associates positive things with the person, he might be less likely to mark. If the new addition is another dog or a cat, create positive interactions between the two. Bring both animals together and interact equally with them, speaking to them in an upbeat tone. With dogs, give treats and go for walks to get them accustomed to being together in a positive, non-threatening atmosphere. Cover windows or glass doors if your dog marks in response to seeing another dog outside your home. If your dog appears ready to mark, clap to distract him and immediately take him outside. These methods might not work if your dog marks due to anxiety. If marking continues, see your veterinarian. He might recommend medication or a visit with an animal behaviorist.
By Jill Leviticus
Humane Society of the United States: Urine-Marking Behavior: How to Prevent It
ASPCA: Urine Marking in Dogs
Dumb Friends League: Territorial Marking Behavior in Dogs and Cats
Humane Society of the United States: Introducing a Dog to Other Pets
About the Author
Working at a humane society allowed Jill Leviticus to combine her business management experience with her love of animals. Leviticus has a journalism degree from Lock Haven University, has written for Nonprofit Management Report, Volunteer Management Report and Healthy Pet, and has worked in the healthcare field.