My two-year-old neutered male dog just started marking his territory recently. I can't take him anywhere (that's not my house) now without him doing it. Any way to stop this?
- Kara and Kneph (the culprit)
Marking is not only annoying to us as parents, but it can be embarrassing! It’s important to first establish why Kneph is marking. Marking can happen for many reasons—anxiety, dominance, social triggers, or medical. Before diagnosing Kneph’s marking as a behavior issue, first take him to the vet to rule out a urinary tract infection, or other medical reason for the marking.
If a medical cause has been ruled out, behavior modification exercises can now be done. If Kneph only marks when visiting other people’s homes, I would say it’s one of two things. Kneph is either feeling the need to be dominant and mark everything as “his,” or he’s feeling anxious being in a new environment. To curb the dominance issue, there are a couple of simple exercises to try. Making a loud noise such as a clap or stomp as soon as he starts to urinate may startle him out of the behavior. The moment he stops, praise him, and take him outside to finish. You can also try using a shaky can or squirt bottle to startle him. This will eventually teach Kneph.
If dominance does not seem to be the issue, Kneph may be suffering from anxiety. Has anything recently changed in your home? Has someone started a new job? Did you recently move? Change can be extremely unsettling for dogs, and can cause anxiety. Marking things is the one thing Kneph can control, and makes him feel more in charge. Visiting new places can also be a source of anxiety for some dogs. To help him feel more at ease, try taking him on a long walk before visiting. Make sure he walks at your side, and add some structure in, like making him sit at every corner. This will mentally stimulate him, and help him feel more confident. You can also try putting a backpack on him during walks. A backpack will give Kneph a job to do, which will boost his confidence levels.
Creating a more confident Kneph should help his marking. Hope this helps! WOOF!
Alexandra (Alex) Macias has been a certified Dog Trainer and Behavior Specialist since 2008, and is the owner of Alex Macias Dog training, a Long Beach-based dog training company. To ask Alexandra questions for a future article, leave them in the comments below, or email her at email@example.com.