HOW TO STOP OR PREVENT YOUR MALE DOG FROM MARKING (MICTURITION)
If your dog is toileting or marking inside your home, I don’t need to tell you how difficult and frustrating this behaviour can be. It can result in many hours spent cleaning up messes and a rather unpleasant smell lingering in your home!
Why does this happen?
My dog Tommy is a Jack Russell who came to me at 3 years of age. Tommy was a breeding dog, who was shut up in a kennel for the first three years of his life without any exposure to many “real world” experiences. Tommy had never never been inside a house, so of course, he was not house trained. As an adult dog, this then becomes a challenging behaviour to stop.
As well as standard defecation, Tommy also leg raised and marked (micturition) around the house, a common behaviour for entire males and especially breeding males like Tommy was. It’s their way of establishing their territory. Once this behaviour is established, it becomes a habit and places like the edges of couches and curtains can become favourite targets. In the wild, wolves engage in marking behaviour to show other wolves what is their territory – it is done on prominent trees, rocks and the likes that other wolves might pass.
Leg raising and marking (micturition) occurs mainly in males and mainly (at least to start) It is in entire males, who have not been desexed. It often starts in early puberty.
Now, for the important bit – how to solve the problem…
When an adult dog is toileting inside, we need to go back to basics and start from the beginning – I call it taking the dog “back to the den”. It’s the equivalent of teaching an adult human to read if they never learned how to at school, you need to start from the beginning with the alphabet. With dogs it’s the same, go right back to the basic puppy house training and complete it as if your dog were still 8 weeks old, when this learning should take place. Start working on the problem immediately, the longer the habit goes on for, the more challenging it will be to change.
Remember though, that your adult dog has spent months or years building a habit of toileting inside, so they may not be as quick to learn as a young puppy whose behaviours we are just beginning to shape. You may need to restrict your dog’s free access to the house for a bit of time before they are trustworthy with their toileting.
We have a blog on toilet training a puppy here which you can use as a guide to get started.
Clean the marking sites
With marking, the most important thing to do first is to clean the site very thoroughly. I recommend using a mixture of 25% white vinegar in water, as the vinegar neutralises the smell of the urine. If the smell remains, your dog will be attracted back to that same spot to mark again and again, so this is a really important first step.
Make marking sites sleeping sites
Once the site is clean and dry, clip your dog to it with a dog bed (we call this a clip station, and if your dog is not used to a clip station or being tied up, you will need to train him to accept this first). This will help to establish the marking site as a sleeping site, which discourages your dog from marking there in future. Putting water and food bowls close to or on marking sites also helps to deter this behaviour – even dogs don’t like to toilet where they eat!
If you have an entire male, it will help greatly to desex him and the sooner the better so that the marking habit doesn’t become firmly established. Puberty happens around 8 – 12 months for dogs, which is when males may start marking. It’s often made worse if there are other males around or bitches in heat, so try to neuter before puberty to significantly decrease the chance that your dog will mark. Desexing earlier can be a complex decision as there can be positive physical benefits with waiting a bit longer (especially for some breeds), but there can also be significant behavioural issues attached with remaining entire for too long. However, it’s worth remembering that an American study has showed that 80% of euthanasias in the first 3 years of a dog’s life were because of behavioural problems, not physical or disease causes, so in my mind the behavioural risks tend to outweigh the potential health benefits. But discuss it with your vet on a case-by-case and dog-by-dog basis.
Use Clip Stations
Additionally, I find in the early stages that it helps to keep your dog on ‘clip stations’ while they are in the house (and definitely while they’re unsupervised). With Tommy, I had a series of clip stations set up in all the main social areas where we spend our time – the kitchen/dining area, lounge and bedroom. Especially focus on getting clip stations set up in the areas where your dog is inclined to toilet inside (they usually have a few favourite spots to go). A clip station replicates a crate or den type environment, so your dog won’t want to toilet while on it. Then take your dog outside as soon as you let them off the clip station to encourage them to toilet there. Here’s a blog about what a clip station is, how to set one up and why they are such a valuable training tool.
Kim wanted to keep Tommy close and have him sleeping in the bedroom, so we set up a crate in the room at first to prevent him toileting inside then moved to a clip lead. A word of warning though – if you make the choice to have your dog sleeping in your bedroom, it’s tough to change, so think hard about it! He now is very clean in the bedroom, thankfully.
I hope this helps you get on top of your dog’s toileting behaviours. I know how challenging it can be!
If you want to teach your dog all the most important commands, if your dog has persistent behavioural issues, or if you simply want your dog to listen to you more, my interactive Dog Zen Virtual Dog School covers how to train your dog and solve common behavioural issues. Find out more here.