Our dog, Thunder, is driving me crazy with his marking inside the house. As soon as he hit 6 months old, he started lifting his leg on everything, inside and outside. And just as I was ready to give him more freedom in the house.
His marking is so frustrating since I know he has been potty trained for months now. It started as soon as he hit “puberty”, so it is definitely hormone related.
To stop our dog from marking inside our house we are using belly bands along with limiting his freedom. Getting him neutered will certainly help, but we want to wait until he was at least 18 months old to have him neutered.
So I reached out to a few vets and dog trainers for their expert opinions on why dogs mark, and how to stop a dog from marking inside.
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Both females and males will mark, although it is most prevalent in unneutered males.
Karen Reese, the animal behavior manager at Operation Kindness explains, “Scent marking is a form of communication used by lots of species. Dogs mark to communicate all sorts of things to other dogs and other animals. Dogs like to sniff things to pick up messages that might have been left before them. Dogs can pick up all kinds of information such as the age of the marking, health of the animal that marked, and tons of other information.”
It is important to realize that the act of marking is different from having a potty accident inside the house. If you see a big puddle of urine in the middle of your carpet, that is most likely a potty accident and not marking.
Read our article: How to Potty Train a Puppy Fast & Easy
Some medical issues, stress, or anxiety can also cause a dog to suddenly start marking inside your house.
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If you think your dog’s marking may be caused by a medical issue, reach out to your vet right away. Or use Ask-a-Vet, an online service making it easy to get vet care in the comfort of your home.
If you recently adopted another dog or cat, had a baby, or moved, then your dog may be stressed about the new situation.
Kristi Benson, a certified dog trainer, says “the best approach to stopping a dog from marking is two-fold: prevent, and train.
Prevention means that dog owners must carefully prevent their dog from lifting a leg inside using crates, leashes, or ex-pens, at all times for up to three weeks. This feels dreary, and in fact, it is dreary, but the end product is so worth it!
A qualified trainer can help come up with great plans and ways to make sure your dog’s exercise and enrichment needs are met during this time of increased constraint.
Training involves re-training the dog that the best, and only, place to do the whole ‘marking’ thing is outside. Even though this behavior is a natural instinct, dogs can and do readily learn to do it elsewhere.
Every time (every single time!) a dog urinates in the right spot (outside!) they must be reinforced immediately afterward with a treat.”
Here are some additional tips on stopping destructive behaviors like marking from Jen Jones with Your Dog Advisor, a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist:
We are currently using a belly band on our dog Thunder. And while it has saved my floors and furniture… it hasn’t stopped him from trying to mark. I am changing the pad in his belly band several times a day. My husband calls them diapers… yeah I guess that’s what it is.
But as Kristi Benson explains: “Belly bands can be a good stop-gap measure, and can protect walls and furniture. But they do not in any way help dogs to learn new behaviors. Training a dog to ‘go’ outside and refrain from marking inside using prevention will still be required.”
Jamie from Motley Zoo Animal Rescue said: “we do like belly bands as an option because they decrease frustration and clean up, but also teach the dog subtle cues. Much like the toddler pull-ups that create a cold, wet feeling that kids don’t feel comfortable sitting in, a belly band does similarly with a dog.”
Our dog, Thunder, doesn’t seem to care he is basically peeing on himself.
So it seems you will have to make your own decision on whether belly bands work or not based on your dog and how he reacts to it.
The majority of the vets and trainers I contacted feel that spaying and neutering is the first thing to do to stop dogs from marking. But of course, there is no guarantee that it will stop the behavior.
Marking over time becomes a learned behavior vs. just hormones. So having your dog neutered before he starts marking would have the best results.
Dr. Gary Richter, an award-winning veterinary health expert with Rover, suggests “spaying/neutering is one easy way to reduce marking and peeing indoors.
Behaviorally, the reduction in testosterone and estrogen after spaying/neutering often makes your dog a better pet in many ways. Behaviors like aggression between animals, urine marking or spraying, and a tendency to ‘roam’ looking for mates are all minimized. This is usually step one for curbing marking indoors.”
I have no intention of breeding our dog, but I do believe waiting to spay/neuter until he is 18-24 months old has many health benefits. Read this from Dogs Naturally about Spay Neuter and Joint Disease. She talks about the side effects including abnormal growth, hip dysplasia, and osteosarcoma.
I am struggling with if we should have our dog neutered early just so he stops marking. He is almost a year old now. And of course, there is no guarantee his neuter will stop him from marking.
I recommend discussing the pros and cons of spaying/neutering your dog with your vet.
If your dog is continually marking the same spot over and over, then an anti-marking spray could work to stop the behavior.
The spray discourages dogs from marking the same place again. So it won’t stop him from marking in another area of your home.
The two best-selling anti-marking sprays are:
At the very least you want to make sure to thoroughly clean any areas your dog has marked.
Most of the experts seem to agree that prevention, neutering, and training are the keys to stopping your dog from marking inside the house.
I am not sure we will neuter our dog before he is 18 months old, but we will do as much prevention as possible. He is either in his ex-pen, crate or someone is watching him very closely. And yes we will continue using the belly band to save our house from his marking.
If you don’t want to use a crate, we’ve used the tethering technique for foster dogs. This is when the dog is on a leash and attach to you. That way the dog has no opportunity to mark.
I would love to hear what you have tried and what works for you and your dog to stop the marking. Leave a comment below to help everyone in our Rescue Dogs 101 community.
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Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, three dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society.