The problem occurs when he does it in a house – yours or someone else’s – or when he does it on something that belongs to another person, like a suitcase or (nightmare!) a leg.
Dogs gain an incredible amount of information from marking. For instance, just by sniffing a previous dog’s marking, your dog can tell whether the other dog is male or female, whether it’s intact or spayed/neutered, and, if it’s an intact female, whether it’s in heat.
Sometimes dogs mark in an attempt to communicate or just to say, “I was here”…kind of like graffiti. Other dogs “overmark,” – which means urinating on the same spot another dog has previously marked – as a way to assert dominance.
Both male and female dogs urine mark. Females may even lift a hind leg – or both hind legs! Dogs who are intact are more likely to mark than dogs who have been spayed or neutered.
Regardless of why your dog is marking, there are things you can do both to prevent it and to modify your dog’s behavior. Here are some things you can do to deter a problem marker:
First, spay or neuter intact dogs. This can reduce marking by up to 60 percent. Next, limit the scent of other dogs in your home. Leaving your shoes outside the door or putting them otherwise out of reach will prevent your dog from overmarking a rival’s scent. The same is true for visitors’ suitcases, especially if they have dogs at home.
Another option is to train your dog to mark a certain spot. Expose him to a spot another dog has marked; then immediately take him to an acceptable spot, like a tree or mailbox on your own property. If he marks the right spot, praise him and reward him with a treat.