Urine marking is a common behavior, particularly in male dogs. Dogs mark with their urine to assert ownership of objects and areas, leaving a scent message for other dogs. Female dogs mark with their urine too, especially during their heat cycle. This natural behavior is a way for dogs to communicate and establish social hierarchy.
What’s the Difference Between Peeing and Marking?
Your dog may pee inside if they haven’t been let out enough, if they have a small bladder, or for many other reasons. But the peeing will result in a full puddle of urine.
Whereas, in marking, you’ll only find a small amount of urine, and it’s often found on the same spot or object.
It’s considered natural behavior when dogs mark a certain spot, but it’s certainly not acceptable in the house. Furniture, floors, walls, and other items are ruined or damaged when your dog decides to claim them as his own.
Urine marking is not the result of faulty housebreaking. In fact, most of the time, urine marking can be curbed with behavior modification.
Why Is Your Dog Marking in Your House?
One of the most common reasons dogs start urine marking inside your home is the addition of anything or anyone new, be it a new dog or cat, a baby, a new partner, or even new furniture. This behavior can be particularly prevalent in multi-dog households where there’s competition for resources, attention, or status. By territory marking, a dog is basically saying, “This is my space. Keep out.”
Other triggers may be stress, like moving to a new home or even a change in your and your pup’s routine. Certain forms of anxiety, like separation anxiety, can also cause this behavior. Dogs urine mark as a coping mechanism, providing them with a sense of security and familiarity in response to perceived threats or changes.
If your dog urinates more frequently in your home, this may also indicate underlying health issues. Certain diseases may result in increased urination, which can be misconstrued as marking behavior.
How to Stop Dog Marking in the House
Spay or Neuter Your Dog
For both female dogs and male dogs, spaying or neutering will reduce or stop marking behavior. According to the North American Veterinary Community, as many as 50% of male dogs stop scent marking, or at least do it significantly less often, after being neutered.
Intact male dogs usually begin marking when they start to reach sexual maturity.
If you have a puppy, neutering him as soon as he’s old enough is one of the best ways to stop indoor marking from starting in the first place.
However, it may be days or even weeks for the urine marking behavior to stop after your dog is altered since hormones gradually decline rather than come to a screeching halt.
And it will likely also take some additional house training on your part to change the marking behavior if it has become a deeply ingrained habit.
If your male dog is peeing in the house weeks or months after he’s altered and after you’ve taken the steps below, there could be other behavioral or physical issues that need to be addressed.
Address Your Dog’s Anxiety
If your dog’s marking is caused by something like separation anxiety, you’ll want to address it sooner than later, especially since anxiety can escalate as your dog ages.
This is one reason why it’s important not to yell at your dog when he marks. If he’s doing it out of anxiety, yelling may make it much worse.
Some dogs experience noise anxiety, social anxiety, or separation anxiety. These fears can make a dog react with unwanted behaviors, like urine marking.
There are several OTC (over-the-counter) anxiety tools that can help alleviate your pup’s anxiety. I love this pheromone collar from Adaptil.
My dog, Chilly, had severe anxieties, especially around loud noises, and this collar was a very effective tool we used to manage it. The pheromones have a calming effect on some dogs and can reduce the urge to mark. There is also a room diffuser if you prefer that.
Ultimately, if your dog has anxiety, you may need to enlist the help of a veterinary behaviorist to work through it. You can find a behaviorist in your area using this page on the dacvb.org site.
You can also check out my pet anxiety resource page for more information about anxiety signs and solutions.
Eliminate the Odor
As long as the odor from your dog’s urine is still there, he’ll likely continue to mark the same spot. So it’s important to clean it up correctly, with a bio-enzymatic cleaner designed to eliminate biological waste, like urine.
An enzyme cleaner works by eating the bacteria that’s causing odor and stains. Ordinary household cleaners will do little to eliminate the mess. If you’re in doubt, take a black light to any mess you’ve cleaned without using a bio-enzymatic cleaner, and you’ll be convinced!
Kinderbean No-Stress Mess Eraser is, paws-down, the best cleaner for pet mess, in my opinion. I’ve tested a lot of cleaners, and most have come up short in one way or another.
Whichever cleaner you choose, make sure it is:
- Safe for pets (both in chemical composition and odor)
- Doesn’t contain harsh dyes that could discolor surfaces
- Contains natural ingredients
- Has a durable dispenser (many have cheap spray tops that break in shipping)
Once you have your cleaner, you need to use it properly to make sure it eliminates the odor.
- Soak up as much urine as possible with a paper towel.
- Saturate the spot with the cleaner. This is important so it can make contact with the urine and eat the bacteria.
- If the spot is horizontal, lay a clean cloth over the top and allow it to set overnight or 12–24 hours. If the spot is vertical, allow the cleaner to air dry.
- Retreat if necessary.
It’s a very simple process, but it’s so important not to simply “spray and wipe away.”
- Enzyme-Powered Cleaner: Simple ingredients, powered by plants. Powerful, bio-enzymatic formula biodegrades odor and stain molecules leaving nothing behind.
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- Created by a Pet Expert: Pet industry veteran and lifelong pet parent Kristen Levine created Kinderbean to make loving pets easier, messes and all.
Fight Urine Marking with Treats
Most dogs won’t pee where they eat. Change the meaning of the place he has marked by leaving treats directly on the spot after cleaning it.
Consistency is key here because as soon as you’ve banished one area as a pee spot, your dog may choose a new area. It may take weeks before your dog realizes the entire house is off-limits to territory marking. But this solution is usually permanent, so it’s worth the wait.
I like to use these treats because they’re low in calories and all-natural. When you’re dog training, you’ll go through a lot of treats, so you don’t want to give them full-size bones or cookies that will pack on unhealthy pounds.
Get Plenty of Exercise
Breeds known for their high energy or above-normal intelligence are in special need of exercise. Getting out that pent-up physical or mental energy can help calm your dog and avoid behavioral issues, such as marking.
If you’re already walking your dog and he’s still peeing indoors, you may need to step up your game and either walk him longer or take him for a run.
If running doesn’t get you paws-itively excited, try taking your dog to the park for a game of high-intensity fetch. One of my favorite fetch toys is the ChuckIt! Ring Chaser. It allows you to throw a ring-like toy long distances without tiring out your arm. Plus, it bounces and rolls in ways that are really enticing to our energetic pooches!
Exercise may seem like a very simple step, but it’s probably one of the most important!
Limit Opportunities to Mark
If your dog is a stubborn marker, you may need to take stricter measures to curb the behavior.
Some experts recommend the umbilical cord method. When your dog is inside, he’ll remain leashed to you so you can closely monitor him. As his behavior improves, you can gradually give him more freedom to explore the house.
I’ve tried this method to housebreak my dog, Tulip, and it works fantastically. I’ll caution, though, that you do need a lot of patience and consistency to see results.
When to See Your Veterinarian
In most cases, behavior modification is enough to curb your dog’s urine marking. However, in some cases, urine marking can be caused by medical issues.
Your dog may have begun marking because of a urinary tract infection, and the only way to know for sure is to visit your veterinarian.
If your dog has begun marking and there doesn’t seem to be any apparent trigger, it’s time to visit your veterinarian to rule out anything that needs treatment.
Additionally, if your dog has extreme anxiety that’s causing the urine marking, you may need to seek help from a veterinary behaviorist. They can help get your dog the relief he needs and recommend more ways and methods on how to stop a dog from marking in the house.
When Is Urine Marking Acceptable?
When you’re walking your pup, urine marking outdoors should be all right. If you’re in an area where marking would not be acceptable, perhaps like your neighbor’s beloved garden or flower bed, take note of any tell-tale signs that your dog is about to mark, like prolonged sniffing. Lead your pup away from the area by encouraging them to move along (use the voice that you know gets lots of wags) and offer treats if you have any on you.
The Tail End
If your dog is urine marking in the house, rest assured it’s not because he wasn’t house trained enough. Urine marking is a behavior, and with behavioral modification along with neutering your dog, you can stop marking for good.