AutoShip and save up to 10% | Find out more

How to stop your dog from marking in the house

Approx. 8 minutes read

Your dog is properly house-trained, yet there’s a urine smell around the bottom of the living room curtains or near the couch. It’s nothing that pet disinfectant and odour control products can’t fix, but the moment you’re done cleaning at one spot, your territorial pup has moved on and marked the next spot. (Take note that when used correctly, enzyme-based cleaners will deter your dog from re-marking in the same place.)

We’ll say it again: scolding, reprimanding or punishing your dog won’t stop him (or her – female dogs do it too) from marking – it’s an instinctive behaviour. Scolding and punishment will only increase your dog’s anxiety, which can worsen their tendency to mark. To stop your dog from marking indoors, it’s impawtant to tackle the why, rather than just try to deter the behaviour itself.

In this article, we’ll address the relevant questions… one mark at a time!

What is marking? Why does your dog pee on things?

Before we get into the specifics, it’s important to point out that marking is very different to urination. If your dog is relieving him/herself indoors, dropping random puddles on your floor and carpets, that’s a house-training issue. Marking, however, is when your dog releases small amounts of pheromones along with a little bit of urine as a way of indicating to others that Fido was here and now this particular area belongs to Fido.

When you’re out walking your dog, they will spend a lot of time sniffing as though following a trail, or stopping at lampposts and certain bushes and gate posts for an extra-long sniff. Let them – that’s just your dog receiving their pee-mail, and they may leave a pee-mail of their own before continuing on their way.

Why does a dog mark in the house?

If marking – depositing pheromones with a bit of urine – is your dog’s way of delivering a territory message to other dogs and animals, then why does a dog mark in the house? This is where things get a little tricky. Aside from marking their territory, dogs also mark as a way of signalling their anxiety or communicating frustration (a side-effect of that anxiety).

If your dog experiences certain changes that are not quickly addressed or which you are unaware of, he can become anxious, especially if he lacks confidence or if you don’t specifically reinforce his self-confidence in a new situation.

These situations could include:

  • moving house (the new house is new territory as well)
  • remodelling or making structural changes in the house
  • family members moving out or moving in
  • any change to your pup’s routine (since routine reinforces self-confidence)
  • a new baby in the house
  • a new pet in the house
  • new furniture or other household objects that are in reach of his leg-lift
  • conflict in the home – dogs are very sensitive to relationship dynamics
  • a neighbour’s dog/cat/child within view – this may be perceived as a threat to your dog’s territory
  • competition and territorial behaviour between pets in the home

Do female dogs mark their territory?

Young male dogs will start marking as they near sexual maturity, while female dogs may start marking after being spayed, especially if they are the dominant dog in the house. Some intact females will mark a certain territory outdoors when they’re in heat, to communicate to the neighbourhood that they’re ready to make some puppies. (And unless you’re involved in a bona fide breeding programme for the benefit of your particular dog’s breed, please spay your female dog to prevent unwanted puppies as well as a range of unwanted behaviours.)

How to get a dog to stop marking indoors

In order to get a dog to stop marking, the reason for the marking needs to be addressed. If you watch your dog like a hawk and then simply interrupt his marking to take him outside, or if you use enzymatic cleaners to prevent him from going back to the same spot, it doesn’t address the root cause of what’s triggering him to mark in the first place. It usually takes a multi-pronged approach to stop a dog from marking indoors, so first identify the possible causes of your dog’s marking, then try one or more of the following:

Interrupt the marking

Dogs will show signs that they’re about to mark, so when you see your dog sniffing around or interested in a certain area of the house and he turns, about to lift his leg, interrupt the process by sharply clapping your hands or jangling a set of keys. This will laser-focus your dog, so continue with the disruption by doing a quick training session or engaging in some playtime to positively reinforce your dog’s behaviour of not marking, but also to reduce his anxiety.

Keep your dog away from the marked area

Some dogs will hyper-fixate on a certain area – such as a leg of the couch or near the front door – so the area needs to be restricted until the marking behaviour can be addressed. Either put up a baby gate or crate your dog for one or two hours of the day so he doesn’t have access to this area he so desperately needs to mark as his own. A dog who is marking indoors should not have unrestricted access to the whole house at all hours of the day – at least not until the marking behaviour is under control. Simply leaving your dog outside will also not address the cause of the behaviour and is likely to make him more anxious and increase his need to mark indoors.

Change his association with the territory

Conversely, your dog is unlikely to play in an area where he’s marked, or mark an area where he plays. Once you have neutralised the marked area by cleaning it with a pet-safe enzymatic cleaner, it’s worth trying a different strategy. When it’s playtime, play with your dog in and around the area where he usually marks. Even though it’s playtime, try to keep as calm as possible, but make this area fun by hiding treats in, around or near it. This will change his association with the marking territory and hopefully end his fixation with it.

There’s a chance he may try to find another area to mark, but use the opportunity to make positive changes and end the indoor marking altogether.

Play outside

Playing vigorous games indoors can over-stimulate your dog, which can also lead to marking behaviour. Playing outside gives your dog more room to express himself and shake off any pent-up energy. Have a ‘cooling off’ period after a brisk walk or vigorous playtime and only let your dog back inside when he’s calm. Tell him to go to his ‘place’ (a designated spot in the house for calm time) and reward him for doing so.

Reinforce your dog’s routine

Dogs thrive on predictability, so having a daily routine ensures that he knows what to expect: he knows he’ll be fed, walked, played with and trained, and when these happy things will happen during the day. The absence of a routine can make your dog anxious and reduce his self-confidence when he’s unsure of what’s expected of him. As with managing most of a dog’s problem behaviours (such as barking, digging, boredom and separation anxiety), having a daily routine in place for when you feed, walk, play with and train your dog will boost his confidence. Plus, it means spending lots of focused, goal-driven time with your furry friend, which strengthens your bond and makes his brain zing with positive experiences.

Positively manage any changes to your dog’s routine

When something interrupts your routine with your dog – such as a new job, a new baby, a new pet, moving house, etc. – it’s super important to positively manage those changes in two ways:

  • maintain as much of your dog’s existing routine as possible (e.g. keep his feeding times at the same time and place every day)
  • instil a new routine as quickly and positively as possible, and stick to it

Remember that your home is also your dog’s home – the place where he needs to feel safe and comfortable. When the new baby arrives or your newly adopted pet comes home, keep the treats nearby and make sure your dog’s experience of all these new and unknown (potentially fearful) things, people and animals coming into his home are positive and yummy. Praise your dog for handling each new situation positively and confidently – this will communicate to him that he has nothing to fear and that these new things are no threat to him. In fact, since these new arrivals, he’s had lots more treats and attention, which associates them with good feelings!

What’s really causing your dog’s anxiety?

Dogs can sense and experience even the subtlest changes in their environment. If you’re experiencing more stress at work, are in conflict with your spouse or children, or there’s any change in the emotional landscape in your home, your dog will pick up on it. He may act out his anxiety in any number of ways – marking indoors being one of those symptoms. Before you scold or try any of the solutions above to eliminate the behaviour, first identify the source of anxiety and resolve it. When the conflict or tension in the household is removed, your dog’s anxiety will be resolved as well.

Will neutering stop my dog from marking?

As male dogs mature, their increased testosterone makes them more aware of and responsive to pheromones in the environment. They are more likely to start marking as they approach sexual maturity and, in most cases, neutering will diminish the desire to mark indoors. Neutered dogs may still mark while out on walks, but it will be less frequently than intact males, and some obedience training can go a long way in preventing marking behaviour altogether.

During the process of training your dog, he may still be driven the mark indoors. You can protect your curtains, furniture and other possessions by temporarily using a belly band or wrap on your dog. However, this is not a long-term solution and the wrap must be removed and cleaned regularly to reduce the risk of infection from any urine in contact with your dog’s skin.

Do dogs poop to mark territory?

It’s quite rare, but some dogs do poop to mark their territory. All dogs’ anal glands release a strongly scented chemical when they poop, which communicates very powerfully with other animals: this is mine, stay away! Some dogs use this method of communication expressly to mark their territory, with the added action of kicking up dirt afterwards to compound their poop scent with the pheromones in their foot glands. Most dogs just poop and are done with it.

If your dog does this in a public place while you’re out on walkies, always, always pick up after him.

  • R289.00 Add to cart
  • R289.00 Read more
  • R155.00 Add to cart
  • R155.00 Read more

Pet Hero’s aim is to turn pet pawrents into pet heroes – one bit of vet-backed knowledge and high-quality product at a time. We address basic and complex pet-related topics in our blog, so don’t miss out on this crucial knowledge that could help to create a better, deeper bond with your pet. Sign up for our newsletter and get all our information, promotion, product and competition content delivered straight to your inbox!

Subscribe to our newsletter
Share this article
Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents
    More like this...
    Humping – How to get your dog to stop doing that

    Is it embarrassing to take your dog to the dog park because he just can’t stop trying to mount other dogs? In this article, Pet Hero explores the many reasons why dogs hump, as well as what you can do to redirect your dog’s humping energy towards something more constructive!

    Which is better: a harness or a collar?

    Should your dog wear a harness or a collar? Which is better for your furry friend? Well… as with the best dog food, the best toys and the best bed – it all depends on the dog. Here’s what you should consider when choosing whether to walk your dog with a harness vs a collar.

    6 Signs your dog is bored (and what to do about it)

    Do dogs get bored? Of course they do… and they make sure we know all about it! Here are 6 common signs your dog is bored as well as some advice on how to reduce or eliminate the instances of your dog’s boredom.

    How to stop your dog from chewing everything

    Chewing may look cute on a puppy, but it becomes destructive in an adult dog. Learn more about why your dog chews and how to redirect his destructive chewing into more positive, stress-relieving behaviour.

    Save with AutoShip

    Sit back and we will place your next order

    100% Secure Checkout

    MasterCard / Visa / America Express

    Pet Hero

    Leaving already?

    Sign up for our newsletter and get R50 off your first purchase.