How to Stop the Dog’s Marking Behavior in the House

How to Stop the Dog’s Marking Behavior in the House

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Maryanne understands the value of handing out business cards. In a tiny space, she communicates her organization, her status, products and services, and more. Her dog, Freddie, similarly communicates with other dogs in the area with his version of a business card—dog marking. He leaves a few drops of urine on a tree trunk, a fire hydrant, the side of a building, or other vertical surface providing a bold message for other dogs—”MINE!”

Unfortunately, he also started leaving his marketing brochure inside Maryanne’s home. She wants to learn how to stop dog marking in the house as soon as possible. This unpleasantness can’t go away soon enough!

So here’s a brief look into dog marking and ways to keep it out of your home.

What Is Dog Marking About?

Marking uses a routine bodily function as a complex communication device within the dog community. While most dogs participate in this networking activity, male dogs are much more invested in it than females.

As Maryanne walks Freddie, he does not urinate all in one place. He’s not just relieving himself; he is making a statement in multiple spots. Should Freddie ever wander, picking several places to mark can help him find his way home. Marking gives other dogs information about Freddie’s age, rank order, and gender. Most importantly, it tells other dogs that Freddie has claimed the area as his territory. 

However, the problem is that other dogs are not necessarily buying Freddie’s territorial claim. So they mark, too. Now it’s a contest. The goal is to be the one to mark higher on the object than any other dog. The one with the highest mark is the king of the castle! If you’ve ever walked a small dog, you’ve probably seen them almost knock themselves over in a futile attempt to get their mark higher than the big dogs’ marks. 

Marking is serious business. Maryanne notices during their walks that Freddie sometimes lingers in one spot, inspecting it with meaningful sniffs before adding his two cents. He is getting an update on the recent activity there. It’s how he maintains his rank in the broader neighborhood pack.

Why Does the Dog Marking Happen in the House? 

Maryanne is beside herself. Freddie is housetrained, but so far, he has marked in two rooms. The neighborhood dogs will not be in her house, so there’s no reason to try to communicate with them there. What is going on? 

Marking in the house often means that something has changed in the household:

  • A baby or other new family member
  • Another dog, cat, or animal
  • Redecoration, new furniture, or drapes
  • Visiting someone else’s home
  • Moving into a new home

When a new person or animal is added, the rankings of the pack members have to be reestablished. Likewise, the territory needs to be reinstated when the environment has been changed.

How to Stop Dog Marking in the House

Check for Medical Problems

Marking in the house may not be a behavioral issue. If it’s new for a previously housetrained dog, check them for any medical issues. Common possibilities include:

  • Urinary incontinence
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Urinary or bladder stones
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Cushing’s disease

Treatment for the causal condition may solve the problem completely. 

Thoroughly Clean the Soiled Area

It’s important to give the area a good cleaning so that the smell—the “business card”—is no longer there. Freddie shouldn’t be thinking, “I smell it. I think I’ll go there again.” Products such as white vinegar, enzymatic cleaners, and spot carpet shampooers with cleaning fluid for pet stains will remove both the stain and the odor from carpets, fabric, and other surfaces.


If you catch your dog right before they start to mark inside, distract them by calling their name and clapping your hands. Then grab them and take them outside to an appropriate area. Unfortunately, if you find evidence after the fact, you can’t effectively address the issue with your dog. They won’t make the connection between your scolding and the mess on the floor. It’s too far in the past for them. 

Back to Training

After ruling out health problems and giving her house a thorough cleaning, Maryanne found that Freddie continued marking in the house. So it was time to go back to housetraining. 

Housetraining 2.0 to Stop Dog Marking in the House

Using a Crate

Your dog’s natural desire is to keep their den clean. A crate is a simulated den that confines the dog in a small, comfortable space. The crate should be big enough for the dog to stand and turn, and their head should not touch the ceiling. This space is not associated with punishment; rather, it is the dog’s special place where they can relax, eat peacefully, and feel safe. And they won’t be able to wander around the house, leaving business cards in strategic locations when you’re not there to stop them.

House Training

Revisit house training to remind the dog that urination belongs outside and that going outside is the only acceptable option. We recommend keeping them attached to the leash for reestablishing good habits. With the leash, you’ll know when they need to go. Once the dog understands, the leash can come out of the training. For detailed information on house training, we recommend our book, Dog Training for Dummies, by Jack and Wendy Volhard.

Establish a Strict Routine

If you feed and exercise your dog at about the exact times every day, they will need to relieve themselves about the same time, too. This way, you will both have a better idea of when the dog needs to go out.

Professional Trainers

If you’re having a hard time changing your dog’s behavior, you can always call on a professional trainer. They will have the techniques and expertise to get your dog back on the right track. To find a trainer, ask your veterinarian or other dog parents for recommendations.

A Parting Reminder

Marking is not bad behavior; it’s a perfectly natural communication method among dogs. But it doesn’t belong in your house. By understanding where the behavior comes from, you can take the proper steps to eliminate the in-house version. 

With some time, effort, and understanding on her part, Maryanne finally got Freddie to keep his business card distribution outside of their home. You can do it, too!