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Modifying Marking Behavior

You can modify marking behaviors in dogs but it does require a high level of consistency, patience and structure.

When introducing the dog to your house, be prepared. Follow these steps to help prevent or eliminate marking behavior from the start.

  • Before you enter the house take your dog outside to go to the bathroom.  Be sure that they have the opportunity to sniff, explore and mark on as many things as they would like to outside of your house.  Each time that they go to the bathroom outside praise them and give them a treat.  Until your dog is consistent about going outdoors only they should be taken out a minimum of once an hour unless confined.  
  • When you are unable to directly supervise your dog they should be placed in a dog safe space, ideally a large, comfortable crate.  This can also be a small room without absorbent surfaces, like a bathroom.  
  • When you enter the house keep your dog on a leash.  Let them explore but hold onto their leash.  If they begin to sniff intently (or otherwise look like they may be about to mark) rush them outside while using a bright, happy voice to encourage them to follow you quickly. If they then urinate outside praise and treat them. 
  • While you are inside, if your dog settles down and begins to play with a toy, settles on a bed or begins to chew on an appropriate item you can drop their leash.  Stay in the room with them and watch them, however, so that if they begin to show signs that they may lift their leg you can immediately take them outside.  Baby gates can be a helpful tool to prevent your dog from going around a corner to lift their leg out of sight. 
  • Plan to provide your dog with items to keep them busy in the house.  Filled, frozen Kongs, puzzle toys, marrow bones, bully sticks, Nylabones, novel plush toys, and many other similar items are great examples of items to keep your pup engaged.  If your dog is playing with a toy or chewing they cannot simultaneously be marking in your house.  
  • If your dog does mark in the house pick up their leash and quickly take them outside.  Do not yell at them, scold them, jerk on their leash or otherwise attempt to correct the behavior.  Instead, quickly and calmly take them to a space where marking is appropriate and acceptable (the outdoors).  If the accident does not happen in front of you and you find it later on the only thing that you can do is clean it well and commit to a better management plan going forward.  
  • Be sure to clean all accidents with an enzymatic cleaner specifically designed for cleaning up dog urine.  It is important that no trace of the scent of their urine remains as it will encourage future marking.  
  • Belly bands can also be used with dogs that mark regularly.  Keep in mind that these do not teach dogs not to mark, it merely prevents the urine from reaching its intended target.  If belly bands are used they need to be checked at least once an hour and if they are wet, replaced with a new one.  Belly bands should not be left on dogs when you are not home.  Remove the belly band before placing them in their crate or dog safe room.  Be sure to remove the belly band before going outside as well.  
  • Once you start to see a higher level of consistency with your dog’s behavior you can slowly start to wait longer in between trips outdoors, take off the leash that they are dragging and give them more freedom.  If at any point your dog’s behavior backslides go back a step and increase the amount of structure that you are providing.  


If you would like to work with a Wisconsin Humane Society behaviorist one-on-one regarding this behavior topic, please call 414-431-6173 or email to schedule a consultation.