How to Stop Your Dog From Marking in the House: A Comprehensive Guide

Wlaking 3 dogsYou may have noticed lots of pics with Arrow lately. That’s because we’re keeping him while Cait finishes up a master’s program. And while I love this dog to pieces, going from two to three dogs wasn’t in my plan. It changes the whole dynamics from eating to who gets affection when, to playtime, to walks, to… you get the idea.

And from the title of this post, you should have guessed that having two males with a female, also means marking in the house.  So, as I’m doubling down on getting this under wraps (to be specific, belly wraps—gotta keep my sense of humor), I thought I’d share the protocol for how I handle this. (And this is yet another reason why I recommend keeping dog packs at two rather than three or more.)

If your male dog is turning your home into his personal scent billboard, know that this behavior is natural for dogs.  But there are lots of steps you can take to get it under control. The following will help you with why dogs mark indoors, how to stop it, and common mistakes to avoid. 

Why Do Dogs Mark Inside?

Dogs mark inside houses for various reasons:

  1. Communication and Territory: Dogs use urine marking to label their territory and leave messages for other dogs. This is especially common when there are changes in the environment, like a new dog in the neighborhood or a new person in the home, or a new dog in the home.
  2. Hormonal Influences: Marking can be triggered by hormonal changes, particularly in intact male dogs reaching puberty. (I believe it’s important for the health of the dog to neuter as late as you can comfortably manage, but hopefully, until their long bone growth has finished. Arrow will get snipped next month and that should help.)
  3. Anxiety and Stress: Dogs may mark to communicate anxiety or frustration due to changes in routine, new pets, or unfamiliar people in the home. (In our case, our boys are working out who gets dibs on our girl. Also, Arrow is very much missing Cait.)
  4. Lack of Proper Housetraining: Sometimes, what appears to be marking might actually be a basic housetraining issue. Sometimes, it just takes backing up the bus to the beginning and starting over again.
  5. Medical Issues: Sudden changes in urination habits could be due to health problems. You should check for this even if you think there’s no issue. (Arrow also had some UTI stuff going on.)
  6. Social Changes: New pets, changes in the owner’s schedule, or home renovations can trigger marking.
  7. Scent Marking Over Other Animals: In multi-pet households, dogs may mark to cover the scent left by other animals. 

10 Tips to Stop Indoor Marking

  1. Neuter your dog: This can significantly reduce marking behavior, especially if done before leg lifting starts.
  2. Clean thoroughly: Use an enzymatic cleaner to completely eliminate urine odors to discourage your dog from remarking areas that still smell like urine. This is my favorite brand because it really works: Nature’s Miracle Urine Destroyer.
  3. Limit access: Use baby gates or close doors to restrict your dog’s access to areas where he commonly marks.
  4. Supervise closely: Keep a watchful eye on your dog when indoors. If you catch him in the act, interrupt with a firm “No” and immediately take him outside. Use a crate when you can’t supervise. Dogs are inherently clean animals and won’t typically mark their own spaces. (But DON’T do this as punishment.)
  5. Reward outdoor elimination: Praise and treat your dog lavishly when he urinates outside.
  6. Address anxiety: Identify and mitigate potential anxiety triggers in your dog’s environment.
  7. Use belly bands: These wrap around your dog’s midsection and can prevent marking while you work on training. Also helpful if you can’t watch your dog 24/7. I like this brand: Wegreeco Washable Male Dog Belly Wrap 3-pack
  8. Establish yourself as the pack leader: Consistent training and setting clear boundaries can reduce marking related to dominance.
  9. Increase exercise: A tired dog is not only a good dog but also much less likely to mark.
  10. Consult a professional: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider working with a certified dog behaviorist for personalized strategies.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Inconsistent Training: Maintain a consistent approach when correcting your dog’s marking behavior. Inconsistency here can actually reinforce the unwanted behavior.
  2. Punishing After the Fact: Dogs don’t associate delayed punishment with past actions. So don’t do it. 
  3. Using puppy pads: These can actually teach dogs that it’s okay to go in the house.
  4. Not Cleaning Thoroughly: Inadequate cleaning can draw your dog back to the same spot. See my favorite cleaner above.
  5. Ignoring Underlying Issues: Address potential causes like anxiety or medical issues.
  6. Overreacting: Stay calm and redirect your dog outside instead of yelling, which can increase stress and potentially worsen the behavior.
  7. Lack of Supervision: Close supervision is key to preventing and correcting the behavior. We’re aiming for zero mistakes.
  8. Inconsistent Schedules: Maintain regular outdoor bathroom breaks. Set alarms on your phone to help you remember. I’m a nut, so I try not to let my dogs go longer than 4 hours.
  9. Ignoring Successful Outdoor Elimination: Always reward your dog for eliminating outside.
  10. Allowing Access to Previously Marked Areas: Restrict access until the behavior is under control.
  11. Giving Up Too Soon: Changing behavior takes time and patience. Consistency and persistence are key to success.

Understanding Territorial Marking

Marking inside can indeed be a territory claim for dogs. This behavior is deeply rooted in their instincts and serves to establish ownership over what they perceive as their space. Dogs may increase marking when there are changes in their environment or in multi-pet households.

Final Thoughts

Remember, patience and consistency are key when dealing with indoor marking. With time and effort, you can teach your boy that your home is not his personal potty. If the problem persists despite your best efforts, please consider consulting with a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer. They can provide personalized advice and rule out any underlying medical issues.

By understanding why your dog marks, implementing these tips, and avoiding common mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to a cleaner, fresher-smelling home and a happier relationship with your best bud.

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