Marking territory is a way for your dog to leave his calling card by depositing a small amount of urine in a particular spot, marking it as his territory.
The frequency with which dogs can accomplish this never ceases to amaze us. Male dogs invariably prefer vertical surfaces, hence the fire hydrant. Males tend to engage in this behavior with more determination than females.
Behaviorists explain that marking is a dog’s way of establishing his territory and provides a means to find his way back home. They also claim that dogs are able to tell the rank order, sex, and age – puppy or adult dog – by smelling the urine of another dog.
Those who take their dogs for regular walks through the neighborhood quickly discover that marking is a ritual, with favorite spots that have to be watered. It is a way for the dog to maintain his rank in the order of the pack, which consists of all the other dogs in the neighborhood or territory that come across his route.
Adult male dogs lift a leg, as do some females. For the male dog, the object is to leave his calling card higher than the previous calling card. This can lead to some comical results, as when a Dachshund or a Yorkshire Terrier tries to cover the calling card of an Irish Wolfhound or Great Dane. It is a contest.
Annoying as this behavior can be, it is perfectly natural and normal. At times, it can also be embarrassing, such as when Sparky lifts his leg on a person’s leg, a not-uncommon occurrence.
When this behavior is expressed inside the house, it becomes a problem. Fortunately, this is rare, but it does happen.
Here are the circumstances requiring special vigilance:
- Taking Buddy to a friend’s or relative’s house for a visit, especially if that individual also has a dog or a cat.
- When there is more than one animal in the house, another dog, or dogs, or a cat.
- When you have redecorated the house with new furniture and/or curtains.
- When you have moved to a new house.
Distract your dog if you see that he is about to mark in an inappropriate spot. Call his name, and take him to a place where he can eliminate.
When you take Sparky to someone else’s home, keep an eye on him. At the slightest sign that he is even thinking about it, interrupt his thought by clapping your hands and calling him to you. Take him outside and wait until he has had a chance to relieve himself.
Should it happen in your house, and you catch your dog in the act, you already know what to do. If it persists, you need to go back to basic housetraining principles, such as the crate until you can trust him again.