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Marking friend’s house

January 20, 2012

ImageFig is 1 year and his instincts continue to sharpen….frustratingly.

Fig now loves to “overmark” – dribbling over another dog’s urine scent. Even when I try to get him to pee outside, he will refuse to pee until he smells another dogs pee first. I am told this is natural dog behavior and wolves use this instinct to establish a group pee space away from their den.

To be clear, Fig is completely housebroken. I used “praise-based training” to teach this. He was crated unless he was being watched indoors. We made sure he went outside at least every 4 hours (even waking at night). When Fig peed outside, he got a treat and pet. He was trained in less than 6 months and we have never had an accident indoors. Marking is different it is a splash, not a gush.

Fig marked twice in one session indoors at a friend’s home this month. I cleaned up one dribble and then watched him like a hawk (clapped to snap him out of it, when he sniffed). But I yelled “no sniff!” roughly in frustration when he didn’t stop and he responded by dribbling while standing stiff  – with no leg lifted!

Like many schnauzers, Fig is highly sensitive. Yelling scares him and my negative reinforcement plan to stop marking (clapping, yelling, and removing him from party) backfired. What I learned is that dogs also mark to increase security. When I created anxiety, Fig responded by peeing,

Now it is my practice to ask every time I enter a new home whether it has been marked, before deciding to let Fig off leash.  If Fig is excited, I wait until he is calm, because excited greetings are done properly in the dog world with a splash of urine. After greetings, I watch to make sure Fig is never sniffing. If he sniffs, I take him outside immediately.

Experts say sexual and mental maturity happens rapidly between 9mos-2 years in dogs. Perhaps Fig just wants to get the message out that he is not a puppy anymore! Fig is emotionally stable and chill on the whole, so I have fingers crossed his new behavior is just a phase….please God…because watching for marking outside of greetings makes pee patrol exhausting.

I stopped going to the neighborhood pet store because they had a carpet under a display that was marked by every dog entering. Every time I came in Fig was like a robot lifting his leg and I got sick of watching other dog’s hit it. Avoiding your dogs worst triggers is best when training.

I gathered these training ideas to stop marking, but have not tested them personally:

  • Do a couple long sessions at previously marked indoor places that he really wants to hit. Scare him with noise (coins in glass, clap, etc). People say 2-3 sessions will fix marking, but I wonder if this only works for the place you train. I am considering asking one of my friends that clearly has odorous carpets for training grounds. I may carry around a glass jar because I use clapping to call him when he is off leash at the park, so don’t want the sound to be negative. I will hid that I am making the sound.
  • You can buy a collar that squirts water on the face from a remote control button that you hide in your pants. This might be a great training device, but the dog might just learn to worry when the collar is on. That is what happens when my friend puts the anti-bark collar on his dog. They say it will not work if you don’t squirt them 100% of the time, but with a few sessions people say their problem was fixed.  I only worry the water will cause fear, like I did with the yelling because Fig hates water. If her learns to not lift his leg when marking, I’ll never catch him.
  • I could return to training him with praise when he marks outside and give him a treat each time he marks outside in combination with yelling/clapping inside – my likely plan.
  • I probably need to increase fun command training, so he feels more secure and knows his rank, thus reducing the urge to create a virtual piss force field for protection or status.
  • The “belly band” works like a diaper for dogs that can’t control bowels, but dogs don’t like to feel pee on their body. Dogs may stop marking, if you put a band on them when they visit other dogs indoors. This is the 100% method for stopping dribble, but they might not learn to stop and need the band forever.



Fig lifted his leg at a well established friend’s home after an hour of hanging out, but it took me a while to figure out that he was unsettled because he was readjusting after vacation.  We had just returned from a long trip and I had noticed that he was sniffing for a day at home when we got home – but I didn’t put it together.  He might have been marking!  At the time just thought he was checking to see that everything was as he left it. It was strange behavior, but I ignored it.  In retrospect, I can see that he was probably nervous.

It’s easy to forget that your pup doesn’t understand what is going on when your family travels. It can take a while for them to resettle. For Fig it seems to be a few days and until after he sees all his buddies and family. I will work harder to assure him that he is secure with positive training and do friend reintroductions outdoors, so pack structure is reestablished in a place where he can mark freely. I hope others read this and pay attention to their pups after traveling too. Dogs have no voice to express their anxiety following the uprooting of a vacations and probably struggle for longer than human notice on the whole.



From → Training

One Comment
  1. Anonymous permalink

    Dog stopped after a couple days of taking him out and making him pee if he sniffed and clapping – but continues to urges when he enters a house with a new dog that has had accidents before. When I see him too excited I turn around and go back out to make him pee. This seems to work. I am honestly not sure you can ever be a 100% if you go to a new place that has dog urine smells.

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