Dog Health & More
Thursday March 4th, 2010
It's true that canines communicate very differently from humans, and marking--intentional urination--may be the most blatant example. Though it looks (and smells) identical, marking is not at all the same thing as elimination. If your dog has an accident indoors because he simply can't hold it or because he's still working on housetraining, he's communicating nothing more than that he needs to relieve himself. Marking, on the other hand, can mean anything from, "Hey, you're standing on my property" to "My rank is higher than your rank" to "Wanna mate?"
Most often, marking is an instinctual behavior. (It's more common to males than females, and almost always involves urination; dogs rarely mark with feces.) Your dog uses this tactic to say, "This is my turf." The trigger can be anything from the arrival of a baby to the acquisition of a new vacuum cleaner. Sometimes, simply noticing a squirrel zip through the backyard is enough to prompt marking behavior. While excitement or fear can also stimulate your dog to deliberately urinate, the most common explanation is that he's just identifying his territory.
Excited or submissive urination
All of these techniques will help prevent marking behavior as well as treat it. Start when your dog is a puppy: spay or neuter him as early as possible. Make sure that he's completely housetrained and knows where it is--and isn't--appropriate to urinate. Pair the arrival of unfamiliar people, animals, and objects with treats and praise to create positive associations with new things.
Bottom line: Marking is instinctual in canines and is primarily used to communicate ownership or assertiveness. The best way to curb the behavior is to ensure that your dog is properly housetrained and feels safe and comfortable in his home.