Michigan Humane Society

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Ask the Behaviorist: Unwanted Marking

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Check out the Michigan Humane Society blog on Wednesdays to see common pet behavior questions answered by our Senior Director of Operations and pet behavior expert, CJ Bentley. If you have an immediate behavior concern with your pet, please call a qualified trainer or behaviorist! If you have a non-urgent question you would like answered on the blog, you can comment here or email us at mail(at)michiganhumane.org.

Senior Director of Operations CJ Bentley and her adopted dog, Rogue

Senior Director of Operations CJ Bentley and her adopted dog, Rogue

“I adopted a pup from a rescue/foster. He is a 10 month old neutered male. I have two spayed females in the home that are around 3 yrs old and a 4 year old male cat. The puppy keeps lifting his leg and peeing on things IN the house (walls, dressers, end tables)!! I have caught him and corrected him by putting him outside, even though he may have just been out….but he still keeps doing it at random times.”

Yea…this is probably not a housetraining thing. Like you said, you put him outside and he goes and then comes in and goes again…I’m going to say this is probably more “mental” than physical in nature, don’t you think? And my guess would be he is marking because he’s stressed about something.

It’s important to remember two things…(1) He is not human and what may be stressing him is something we would NEVER guess is stressful for him, and (2) I do not believe in RANDOM. So…let’s journal. Keep track of when he marks. And where. And exactly what’s going on around him when he decides to mark. Remember not to diagnose, but to observe. One journal entry could look like…Noon on Sunday, sunny, living room, cat on right arm of couch, female dogs not present in room, marked end table opposite where cat was sitting. By keeping track like this we can try to determine if there is something specific causing him enough stress to mark.

If we’re able to identify a specific stressor we can try to 1) eliminate the stress, or 2) change his mind about it. We may need to face the fact that eliminating the stress may not be practical. For example, if we discover that one of your girl dogs is sending off bossy dog body language…well, rehoming your girl is not going to happen. If something like that’s the case, we’ll need to focus on option 2 – changing his mind about the stress. If there’s a particular room he does most of his marking in, you may want to try plugging in a diffuser like Comfort Zone which distributes a scent that is calming to some dogs. If it turns out the stress is related to the weather, one of your other pets, people coming to visit…etc…then we’ll need to change how he feels about that particular thing. Making good things happen when he’s near what (or who) ever causes him concern can help.

The most important thing is not to punish him…he’s under enough stress already! And if you need a more immediate fix (please use in conjunction WITH a behavior modification program) you may consider using a Belly Band (http://www.bellybands.net/). Because so much of marking is stress-related, I would never want someone to use just the Belly Band and call it good. Your goal should be using the band to save your furniture and your sanity and to continue to work with your pup to help him feel more relaxed in your home. Then everyone can be happy.

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One thought on “Ask the Behaviorist: Unwanted Marking

  1. my nieces dog will pee outside but will go #2 in house it’s almost everyday was in one spot all the time by dryer but now through out the house. Niece has showed him bad and would put him in cage let him out does it again. Need some ideas on how to get him to go inside and go outside.

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