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Preventing unneutered dogs from marking their territory

Virginia Chavez is a Phoenix-based freelance writer covering pets and lifestyle in the Southwest. In addition to regular contributions both online and in-print, Virginia locally owns and operates two pet care and supply businesses. For t...

Stop territorial marking

Puppies are the cutest, sweetest little things, until they so kindly begin to mark their territory on your personal belongings. Territorial instincts begin to kick in when it’s time to neuter your pet. Whether you’ve chosen not to neuter or you’ve simply waited too long, a urine-stained home is no treat for you or your guests. Learn how to prevent your unneutered dog from marking your territory.
Guilty puppy

Stop territorial marking

Puppies are the cutest, sweetest little things, until they so kindly begin to mark their territory on your personal belongings. Territorial instincts begin to kick in when it’s time to neuter your pet. Whether you’ve chosen not to neuter or you’ve simply waited too long, a urine-stained home is no treat for you or your guests. Learn how to prevent your un-neutered dog from marking your territory.

Marking versus soiling

First things first: Before you grow frustrated with your pet's accidents, determine if your dog is soiling or marking. Soiling means your pet is emptying his bladder in areas he has not been trained to potty on. Typically, if your pet is soiling, you will see large puddles of urine or feces. If your pet is potty trained and doesn’t experience frequent accidents, your dog is likely soiling and not marking. This could mean your pet is ill, has lost control of bowel movements or has undergone a scary situation.

Marking, on the other hand, can be recognized when your pet frequently deposits small amounts of urine in various areas throughout the home. This could even be as small as a drip of urine — just enough to mark a scent.

Why it happens

There are various circumstantial reasons for territorial behavior in pets. Your pet may start marking due to a new dog or cat in the household, a new baby in the family, a new roommate or simply a new piece of furniture with another dog's scent on it. Unneutered dogs exhibit more assertive behaviors and tend to become more territorial than neutered dogs. For best preventive results, it is always recommended to neuter your dog before they are six months of age; however, always consult with a trusted veterinarian prior to making any medical decisions for your pet.

What you should know

Marking does not mean your pet dislikes something or someone. It does not mean your dog is taking revenge because of an unpleasant situation. It simply means your pet's natural instincts have kicked in.

Prevention tips

If your pet has already begun marking, here are some tips to help deter the habit:

1

Deep-clean

Clean any previously soiled areas thoroughly using cleaners that are free from ammonia or vinegar. These ingredients won't effectively cover up scents and could possibly make it more attractive for your pet to mark.

2

Tidy up

Remove any personal items and guest items from the floor. Anything your pet may want to claim as his property is up for grabs, such as purses, diaper bags, suitcases etc. Do a quick scan of the house and make sure all items are in a safe place away from your pet.

3

Keep a close eye

Always watch your pet around the house to correct the behavior as it is happening. In instances when you are unable to watch your pet, confine your pet to an area and make it his home. Put his dog bed, toys and treats in the confined area so he knows it is not a punishment but rather a safe place for him to rest. Your pooch will feel at ease and your belongings will remain urine-free.

What won’t work

Do not take action by punishing your pet after the accident has happened. Coming home to a marked household is never pleasant, but your pet will not know what the punishment is for. Be patient with your pet and practice praising good behavior rather than punishing behavior he’s already forgotten about.

More on training your pet

11 Unusual tricks to teach Fido
DIY dog training: The best YouTube videos around
Top 10 tips from the world's best dog trainers

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