What Is Canine Urine Marking?
Canine urine marking is a natural, instinctive behavior in dogs, but it is not appropriate inside the house. Dogs, especially sexually intact male dogs, urinate on objects to mark their territory or to leave a message for other dogs. Urine marking behavior usually begins when the dog reaches sexual maturity.
What Causes Canine Urine Marking?
An intact male dog is most likely to mark when there is a female dog in heat nearby. Intact female dogs are also prone to marking when they are in heat. However, any dog may mark if another dog has urinated anywhere in the house. By urinating on the previous site of urination, the dog essentially “remarks” that location as its own territory. Unless the scent of the urine is completely removed, the dog is likely to keep urinating there.
In multi-dog households, dogs, especially of the same sex, may compete for dominance, which can result in urine marking. This same behavior can occur in a confident dog that feels dominant to the owner.
Any anxiety-producing situation can trigger urine marking as well. Workmen in the house, the arrival of a new baby, or visiting relatives can all produce anxiety in a dog. Even the addition of a new TV or a new computer may threaten a dog so that it feels compelled to mark the packing boxes. Rest assured, your dog is not trying to get back at you. It’s just doing what comes naturally.
How Is Canine Urine Marking Diagnosed?
Your veterinarian will start by discussing when, where, and how often the behavior occurs. A workup should be conducted to rule out medical disorders that may be causing the problem. If there are no medical causes, your veterinarian will need to determine if incomplete house training or other behavioral conditions are causing the problem.
How Can It Be Treated?
In most cases, overcoming urine marking requires multiple steps:
Neutering. If the dog is sexually intact, neutering is the first step. In many cases, male dogs that are neutered stop urine marking within weeks to months of the procedure. Female dogs that are spayed almost always stop the behavior. However, behavior modification is often needed as well.
Scent elimination. It is important to remove the scent of previous urine marks with a good enzymatic cleaner. Camouflaging the odor with another scent is not effective. An enzymatic cleaner can help neutralize the scent to prevent recurrences of the behavior. Many dogs won’t urinate where they eat, so you can also try feeding your dog in the location it used to mark.
Positive reinforcement. Never punish a dog for urine marking. Punishment can create more anxiety, which may only exacerbate the problem. Instead, you need to supervise your pet closely. If you see the dog starting to eliminate inside, interrupt him or her with a firm “No,” and bring the pet outside. When the dog urinates outside, reward him or her with praise and treats. Make sure to bring your dog outside frequently, always providing rewards for appropriate urination outdoors.
Confinement. During retraining, it helps to limit your dog’s access to frequently marked areas. You may need to confine your dog to a room or small area by shutting doors or by using baby gates or a crate. As your dog’s behavior improves, you can gradually increase his or her freedom in the house. Be careful to frequently exercise your dog outside, so your dog does not become agitated with long periods of confinement.
Minimize anxieties. If you can identify the factors that are causing your dog anxiety, remove them or minimize their importance. With a new baby, for example, you can desensitize your dog by gradually increasing the amount of time your dog is exposed to the new baby. At the same time, use counterconditioning tactics, such as praising, petting, and rewarding your pet for calm behaviors around the baby, so it has positive associations with the child.
You may also consult your veterinarian about a D.A.P. Dog Appeasing Pheromone diffuser. By mimicking the pheromones produced by a mother dog to give her puppies a sense of calm and well-being, this product can help ease anxieties in dogs.
Establish dominance. Some dogs need to be gently reminded that you are the boss and that they need to work for rewards. Ask your dog to sit or lay down, then provide a reward such as a treat or a walk and TLC!
Medications. As a last resort, you can consult your veterinarian for medications. In most cases, dogs are given a type of antidepressant. These drugs often take 4 to 6 weeks to make a difference. However, behavior modification is always the first choice and should continue, even with medications.
Dog agility training is a great form of exercise for dogs and handlers, can harness a dog’s energy and boost his or her confidence, and can help improve the human–animal bond.
There are many kinds of organized sports and activities that you can do with your dog.
Dog agility is a competitive sport in which a person (handler) directs a dog through a timed obstacle course. Handlers and dogs race against the clock as the dogs jump hurdles, climb ramps, run through tunnels, cross a see-saw, and weave through a line of poles. Scoring is based on faults, similar to equestrian show jumping. Dog agility competition has become an exciting spectator event, and training for it is a great form of exercise for dogs and handlers, can harness a dog’s energy and boost his or her confidence, and can help improve the human–animal bond.
Dog agility is frequently referred to as a sport for all dogs because any type of dog, purebred or mixed breed, can compete. More than 150 dog breeds (including mixed breeds as a single group) have performed well in this sport. Dogs with high energy and good agility make good competitors.
Dog agility training is physically and mentally demanding for dogs. Your veterinarian can help you determine whether your dog is a good candidate for dog agility training. Always put your dog’s health and safety first during exercise. Never force your dog to perform a task that makes him or her anxious or scared. If your dog does not appear comfortable with an obstacle, he or she should be taken to another obstacle. A dog may need time to work up to a large or complicated obstacle.
Completion of an obedience class is required for enrollment in most dog agility training classes.
An average dog agility class may meet for about 1 hour weekly for 6 weeks. Classes often begin with playtime and warmups to accustom the dogs to their surroundings. Classes tend to be enjoyable for dogs, and they give handlers the opportunity to meet other dog owners in their community.
The United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) has four basic height divisions within its two competitive programs (performance and championship). The jump heights have proven to be safe for properly trained dogs. Developed for recreational competition, the performance program involves lower jump heights and more generous time limits. As with any sport, considerable training time is required to be highly competitive. Dogs must be registered with the USDAA to compete in its events and are eligible to compete beginning at 18 months of age.
USDAA also promotes dog agility as a community sport, offering people a fun alternative for spending quality time with their dogs. Handlers and dogs can do reasonably well and have fun without the training time required in other competitive canine activities. USDAA has developed a junior handler program for school-age children and their pets to encourage their participation and teach responsible pet ownership.
To get involved in dog agility, locate a group and/or attend an agility test or demonstration in your area. For more information, visit the USDAA Website: www.usdaa.com.
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