Dog Protocol, Marking and Spraying

Identify territorial marking

Dogs mark their scent by urinating usually small amounts on vertical surfaces, typically while raising a leg. Dogs will mark in many situations, including while on walks, when in their own spaces of homes and yards, and during trips to other locations. Both male and female dogs will urine mark.

"Watch your dog when he is indoors for signs that he is thinking about urinating. When he begins to urinate, interrupt him with a loud noise and take him outside. If he urinates outside, praise him and give him a treat." from Humane Society, Urine-Marking Behavior: How to Prevent It


​Detailed protocol for dog marking from the ASCPA:

Assess Why

​Reproductively Intact Dog

Dogs who are reproductively intact (unspayed females and unneutered males) are more likely to urine mark than spayed or neutered dogs. In unspayed females, urine marking usually happens more frequently just before and while they’re in heat.

Something New in the Environment

Some dogs urine mark when they encounter nonresident dogs in their environments or smell urine left in their environments by other dogs. A dog’s environment may encompass his home, his yard, the route he usually takes when on walks, friends’ homes he regularly visits, and parks or other locations he frequents.

Social Triggers

Exciting social situations can trigger urine marking. Some male dogs only urine mark when in the presence of female dogs (especially if they’re in heat), and some urine mark only when interacting with other male dogs. Some dogs only urine mark when visiting homes where other dogs have urine marked before. Other dogs only urine mark when they become highly aroused and overstimulated in social situations. These dogs often mark nearby objects, people or other dogs.

Anxiety

Some dogs urine mark when they experience anxiety. Anxious dogs might deposit greater amounts of urine than dogs marking for other reasons. They might also urine mark on spots that aren’t vertical surfaces. A number of events can cause anxiety and trigger urine marking, including the presence of new objects, furniture or luggage in a dog’s environment, the departure of a resident from a dog’s home, a new person moving into the home, and conflict between a dog and people or other animals in the home.

Rule out medical issues

Spay/Urinary Incontinence

Some dogs’ house soiling is caused by incontinence, a medical condition in which a dog “leaks” or completely voids the bladder. Dogs with incontinence problems usually seem unaware that they’ve soiled. Sometimes they void urine while asleep.

Urinary Tract Infection

 

A urinary tract infection (UTI) can cause a dog to void small amounts of urine frequently. In addition, a dog who has a UTI might engage in excessive licking of his genitalia.

Miscellaneous Medical Causes

Other medical reasons for house soiling are abnormalities of the genitalia that cause incontinence, diseases that cause frequent urination, and medications that cause frequent urination. These and all other medical causes should be ruled out before evaluating or treating a dog for urine marking problems.


​Treatment for Reproductively Intact Dogs

The easiest solution for urine marking in a reproductively intact dog is to neuter a male dog or spay a female dog. Neutering male dogs successfully eliminates or greatly reduces household urine marking in 50 to 60 percent of cases.

If you plan to breed your dog and you’re resistant to spaying or neutering, you can follow many of the suggestions that follow for dogs who appear to urine mark in response to specific social or environmental triggers. Be aware, however, that the likelihood of successfully eliminating or reducing urine marking is lower if your dog is still intact.

Treatment for New Things in the Environment or Social Triggers

The following tips might help reduce urine marking in your dog if he performs the behavior when encountering new things in his environment or experiencing certain social situations:

  • Restrict your dog’s access to things he’s likely to mark. Don’t allow other dogs to visit your home or yard. You can also try blocking your dog’s visual access to other dogs.

  • If you have a male dog, have him wear a jock strap or bellyband (also known as a male dog wrap) so he can mark but not soil in your home. You can purchase a bellyband made for dogs from a pet supply company. This option is especially appropriate if your dog only urine marks when visiting others’ homes.

  • If your dog predictably marks certain objects (bags, suitcases or shoes, for example), or if he only marks in certain locations, place treats around those objects or in those areas. Your dog might start to regard objects he used to mark and places where he used to mark as sources of food rather than triggers for marking.

  • Clean previously marked locations with an enzymatic cleaner, such as Nature’s Miracle® Stain and Odor Remover, to minimize smells that can attract your dog and cause him to mark again. You can find cleaners made for eliminating pet odors at most pet supply stores and some grocery stores.

  • Try to make marked areas unpleasant to discourage your dog from returning. Try using double-sided sticky tape, vinyl carpet runner turned upside-down to expose the knobby surface, or other types of humane, harmless booby traps. Keep in mind, however, that your dog might simply select another place to urine mark.

  • Provide your dog with an acceptable target for marking, such as a tree trunk or artificial fire hydrant. Expose him to something that prompts his marking, such as the urine of another dog, and then immediately take him to your chosen target. Wait until he marks, and then reward him with praise and a few tasty treats for marking in the correct place.

  • Scolding or physically punishing your dog probably won’t work, but it’s possible that a remotely delivered punishment will interrupt or discourage marking. When you see your dog start to mark, you can try clapping loudly, spraying him with water, or tossing a noisy chain on the floor next to him. It’s very important to deliver these punishments while your dog is caught in the act of urine marking. (If you don’t make your startling noise right when your dog starts to mark, he won’t understand why you’re punishing him.) Keep in mind that your dog might be very strongly motivated by the urge to urine mark—so much so that he might not even be aware of what he’s doing. If this is the case, punishing or startling him won’t work. Another reason that using punishment to discourage urine marking might not work well is that your dog might simply learn that your presence is linked with punishment. If he does, he’ll continue to mark, but only when out of your sight.

  • Try using a synthetic hormone diffuser (DAP™; Dog Appeasement Pheromone). In some cases, it can have a calming effect on dogs.

  • As a last resort, consult with your veterinarian about using medication in addition to behavior training. Scientific studies show that some medications can help reduce urine marking.

Dog Resources

Stop Urine Marking in the House from Whole Dog Journal

Urine Marking Behavior: How to Prevent It from Humane Society

How to Prevent Urine-marking Behavior from Sequoia Humane Society​

Urine Marking in Dogs by SPCA of Texas

References used on this page

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