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how to end your dog's urine marking

How to End Your Dog’s Urine Marking for Good

Urine marking is a natural behavior for dogs, especially males that are sexually intact. It’s their way of claiming territory, leaving a message for other dogs that a particular object or area is theirs. Even female dogs, especially when in heat, may urine mark.

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, dogs that urine mark will only squirt out a small amount of urine and will often do it on the same spot or object. 

how to stop your dog from peeing in the house
Peeing and marking are very different. Peeing leaves a full puddle of urine, whereas marking is a quick spray.

Although it’s natural behavior, 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.

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How to Stop Your Dog from Marking in the House

Spay or Neuter Your Dog

Spaying or neutering your dog will reduce or eliminate urine marking in many dogs. According to the North American Veterinary Community, as many as 50% of male dogs stop urine marking, or at least do it significantly less often, after being neutered. 

Dogs usually begin urine 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 prevent urine marking from starting in the first place. 

7 Ways to End Your Dog's Urine Marking.

However, it may be days or even weeks for the urine marking 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 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 urine marking is caused by 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.

Photo of ADAPTIL Dog Calming Pheromone Diffuser

There are several OTC (over-the-counter) anxiety tools that can help alleviate your dog’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.

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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 the right way, with a bio-enzymatic cleaner that’s 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. 

Dog Sniffing carpet with Kinderbean enzyme cleaner in view.

Whichever cleaner you choose, make sure it is: 

  • Bio-enzymatic
  • 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.

Photo of Kinderbean Dog and Cat Urine Stain and Odor Eliminator
  1. Soak up as much of the urine as you can with a paper towel.
  2. Saturate the spot with the cleaner. This is important so it can make contact with the urine and eat the bacteria. 
  3. If the spot is horizontal, lay a clean cloth over the top and allow it to set overnight. If the spot is vertical, allow the cleaner to air dry. 
  4. Retreat if necessary.

It’s a very simple process, but it’s so important not to simply “spray and wipe away.”

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Fight Urine Marking with Treats

Most dogs won’t pee where they eat. You can change the meaning of the place where he has marked by leaving treats directly on the spot after it’s been cleaned.

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 that the entire house is off-limits to peeing. 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 training you’ll go through a lot of treats so you don’t want to give your dog full-size bones or cookies that will pack on unhealthy pounds.

Get Plenty of Exercise

Breeds that are 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 urine 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. 

Photo of a Chuckit! Fetch and Fold Launcher

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! Ball Launcher. It allows you to throw the ball long distances without tiring out your arm.

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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 urine 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.

The Tail End

If your dog is urine marking in the house, rest assured, you’ve done nothing wrong in their housetraining. Urine marking is a behavior and with behavioral modification along with neutering your dog, you can stop marking for good!

Get the free urine marking ebook today!

Kristen Levine is a nationally acclaimed pet expert and influencer with over 30 years of experience in the industry. She's helped millions of pet parents provide the best care at every stage of their pet’s life.

Her blog, Pet Living with Kristen Levine has been featured in Pop Sugar, Good Housekeeping, New York Times, USA Today, and more.

She's also the founder of FWV Fetching, the first marketing agency exclusively serving pet and animal health companies.

Her early work with the SPCA led her to a lifelong career in the pet industry, advocating for pet adoption and rescue as well as for pets and their parents here on her blog and in the media.

She’s frequently booked on satellite media tours and national shows, like FOX & Friends, Good Morning America, and Daytime, to talk about pet trends and new products.

Insanely passionate about pets since she was a little girl, Kristen has had more than 30 pets in her lifetime — including dogs, cats, goats, donkeys, a horse, a gerbil, mice, and chickens!

Today she lives in Florida with her dog Tulip, cat Olivia, and husband Paul.

This Post Has 249 Comments

  1. I have a 10 year old dog who refuses to go pee outside, he can be outside all day and the minute he’s let in he’ll pee on the wall or something and I’ve tried the treat training and nothing seems to work we also have 2 cats and I’m sure that’s why he feels the need to marl all the time so how would I get him to stop. I don’t have the means to get him neutered right now either

  2. Macias, My dog would do the same-pee and poo. We adopted him a year ago and figure he is about 8 and was neutered just before we got him. I am not sure if he was an apartment dog with no yard-we have had success with routine walks around the neighborhood. He has an opportunity to explore new smells and pee on everything. “Accidents” have reduced about 90% and he will occasionally pee in the yard now. Good Luck!!

  3. I have a 1-year-old female golden retriever. We got a male puppy retriever in early May. We thought he was having trouble with training, but I’m starting to think now that it is more about marking. They love each other and get along very well. He does have some resource guarding issues around mealtime with his food, and I understand this might also be contributing to the marking. I don’t really want to neuter him so young, but the constant messes in the house are driving me nuts. Any suggestions?

    1. I know your comment is from last year, but you MUST have dogs neutered young (typically 3 months), definitely before before puberty otherwise you will most likely not get the marking to stop. Yes, the food dish thing is territorial, hence his need to mark. You could try belly band (sold on Amazon, Ebay, etc.) fir your dog to wear around the house. Dog pads are so expensive so we use Always pads.

  4. I just recently adopted a five year old Maltese who was that a puppy mill and bread for five years. He goes to the bathroom outside with no problem of course he doesn’t know the meaning of play or obey any commands. But I’m having a problem with him marking his territory in our house it only started, whenOur grand doggy she is a three year old morkie came over to visit first day OK second day he started urinating in three different places is this going to be an ongoing problem with the other dog coming over or can I prevent this somehow please help.

    1. Your Maltese is definitely trying to tell your grand doggy who’s boss by marking his territory! One thing you can do is to use an enzymatic cleaner like this one https://amzn.to/3xhZFMF, wherever your dog “marks” his territory. Enzyme cleaners eat the bacteria that causes the odor, which discourages your pet from returning to the scene of the crime and repeating the offense.

      Another thing to do is to pay close attention to your dog when he has other canine visitors, especially as he’s getting used to his new relatives. If he starts to wander off and sniff things, that may be a good indicator that he’s about to start marking. Try and have him at your side, playing with his favorite toy or getting love and cuddles from other family members. This will keep him occupied with good things as he gets acclimated and accustomed to other pets that enter the home.

      Kristen

  5. My four year old pitti is marking anywhere he can
    New furniture new boxes old furniture… has been raised with an older shepherd
    We have put cardboard in the windows so he can’t see other dogs.. it’s ridiculous and frustrating. I want new furniture but am hesitant to do so… he gets lots of owe breaks and his health is good help!

    1. Marcia,

      I’m so sorry to hear this. Urine marking is definitely a frustrating problem. The problem could be caused by a host of issues, from anxiety to unfamiliar objects in the house to not being neutered. Understanding why your dog is urine marking can go a long way to stopping the problem. To help identify if his urine marking is a sign of pet anxiety, check out my post here: https://kristenlevine.com/pet-anxiety-awareness-event/. If your pup is in good health, you may want to talk with a Veterinary Behaviorist to resolve his behavior issue. In the meantime, cleaning with an enzyme cleaner can help curb your pup’s desire to mark in the same spot. I really like this one: https://amzn.to/3vNfEmQ

  6. Angry Orange can be very harmful to pets. It works but the fragrance can irritate their nostrils and really cause respiratory problems. Be very careful to rinse and air out completely, anything sprayed with Angry Orange before you let your pet come in contact with it.

  7. I have a 13 year old male chihuahua he has been neutered for for 6 years and has recently started peeing on my table leg. It’s always in the same spot no matter what I use to clean it. In desperate need of a solution.

    1. I’m sorry to hear that! Urine marking can be caused by a variety of things. Since your dog is already neutered, his marking could be a sign of anxiety or an attempt to establish dominance. It could also be a sign of an underlying medical problem. But if your pup has a clean bill of health from his vet, try cleaning the table leg with an enzymatic cleaner like this one: https://amzn.to/31GVVdz. Instead of masking odors, it permanently eliminates them, discouraging your pet from visiting the same spot.

  8. My male dog is peeing on our female dog who is dominate but currently whelping. Prior to this he pulls on her leg in rough play. We correct but whelping makes it a more pressing manner. He is otherwise a great dog with good temperament. However, this is frustrating, although not to her.

    1. Thanks for your question. This is especially concerning considering the circumstances. Although your male dog generally has a good temperament, it’s clear he’s having trouble adjusting to the new situation. First, I’d make sure that mom and her new pups are safe and undisturbed. It’s probably best to minimize his interactions with her as much as possible in the early days. If you have further concerns, I suggest speaking with your veterinarian or a certified veterinary behaviorist.

  9. We have a 5 year old make Chihuahua, we never catch him in the act, but he pee’s on everything!!! We tried belly bands, but he freaks out when we out them on. I feel like he is trying to establish dominance, but how do we stop the behavior if we can’t catch him?

    1. You’ve got a double whammy on your hands – a small dog that marks! I would definitely try putting his food dish wherever he pees. Dogs typically won’t pee in the same spot they eat on. It may require moving his dish around frequently, even to different rooms in the house. You want to establish that the whole house is off limits to peeing.

      Also, is he doing this primarily while you’re not at home? He may be experiencing some separation anxiety. If that’s the case, give this a read: https://kristenlevine.com/dog-separation-anxiety-when-your-dog-cant-live-without-you/

      Lastly, be sure to give him plenty of exercise. Sometimes this alone is enough to make dogs stop marking.

  10. Dominance Theory from the PPG : It is the position of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) that dominance theory is an obsolete and aversive method of interacting with animals that has at its foundation incorrect and misinterpreted data which can result in damage to the animal-human relationship and cause behavioral problems in the animal.

    1. Tadz, thank you for your comment! As it relates to the use of Dominance Theory in animal training, I agree with the position of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG).

      In regards to a dog’s desire to establish dominance among other dogs or pets in the home, research shows that they are highly sensitive to hierarchical social relationships — more so even than wolves! Researchers in the Netherlands carefully observed the interactions of a group of dogs and rated the level of social hierarchy that the canines experienced on a scale from 1 (completely despotic) through 4 (egalitarian). The dogs came in around 2 — a fairly steep social hierarchy, similar to what is found in macaques (a notably contentious animal).

      So due to their innate sensitivity to social hierarchy, if a dog is in conflict with another pet in the home it can result in unwanted behaviors in an attempt to establish their own dominance, such as urine marking.

      Kristen

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