Understanding Scent Marking in Dogs
What is Scent Marking?
All dogs scent mark.
It is completely natural behaviour, but it can be a real problem when the dog picks up the habit of scent marking inside the home.
It is most often seen in unneutered males. High levels of testosterone make the dog want to advertise his sexual availability. It also means he can claim his territory and possessions as his own. The urine leaves all sorts of information for other dogs including health and gender.
Have you ever walked a dog who insists on sniffing every lamppost?
He is stopping to see which of his canine friends passed by that day. Similarly, a male dog might want to leave a small calling card of his own to show he passed by.
Female dogs who are in season urinate often to inform the local male dogs she is sexually receptive. A male dog will then mark over the spot to mask it. He will then go on a mission to follow the scent.
The frantic foot wiping we often see after urinating is a dogs way of dispersing his scent as far as possible.
Scent marking is most commonly seen in multi-dog households where the dogs compete for attention, toys, beds etc
It can be a dominant behaviour but also signifies anxiety and insecurity.
A dog can follow his own scent and find his way home if he gets lost.
How to stop unwanted scent marking.
Neutering can help stop scent marking. However, if the habit is already practiced it may still continue and be harder to stop.
Walking the dog in different places gives him lots of chances to spread his scent around therefore he may be less inclined to do it in the home.
Remove anything which has become a marking spot in the home.
Keep the dog in an area away from temptation if you cannot be there to supervise.
Never punish scent marking in the home, it seems like the dog is being spiteful to you, however, this is not the case.
If you see the dog scent marking in the home, interrupt him with a short, sharp ‘No’ and take him outside.
The more dominant pack members scent mark the most to signify status. Make sure that the dog knows that you are the pack leader.
A vulnerable dog can urinate on a new visitor or the visitor’s possessions because he feels threatened. Always introduce the visitor to the dog, let him take a small treat or receive a quick tummy rub to relax the dog. This will show that they don’t pose a threat.
Does your dog urinate on your bed?
Dogs feel superior when in an elevated position and are more likely to scent mark on a bed, sofa or chair.
Puppy Farm Dogs
Usually, dogs are clean creatures and would never urinate close to their own bed. In the case of puppy farm pups, they are contained in small crates and have no choice but to urinate and defecate on their sleeping area. In the case of puppy farm dogs, you have to go back to basics and take the pup out hourly.
Removing the scent
If the urine is not effectively cleaned the dog will recognise the scent smell and reinforce it by urinating over it again. Use a special cleaner which will break down the enzymes in the urine.
I use this stain and odour remover to keep my carpets and furniture stain free and smelling fresh. Enzymes and odours are broken down with this product so your dog is less likely to keep returning to the same place to urinate. It can be used on carpets, bedding, upholstery, clothes and toys.
Here is a post about removing pet odours from carpets using baking soda.
My Experience of Unwanted Scent Marking
Darcy came to us at approximately two years of age. We were told he has been used as a stud dog and lived outside. He had been recently neutered by the rescue before we adopted him.
Like lots of new dog owners, I believed that Darcy was scent marking inside to spite me and his behaviour was just naughtiness. If we left him alone with the run of the house he would urinate on my spot on the sofa. On the odd occasion we lifted him on to the bed he would do the same thing. Then he went through a stage of scent marking on his own bed or the other dog’s beds in the household. He was partial to urinating at the bottom of curtains, furniture legs or anything new we bought into the home.
Out of all the unwanted dog behaviours I have come across this has stretched my patience the most. I did everything I could to make Darcy’s life the best possible and how does he repay me? I was convinced the little monkey was being spiteful because I left him alone for a couple of hours.
He has tried to ruin some of my most treasured possessions, turn our home into a smelly mess and refuses to show any sign of stopping.
It was only when I learned the facts about dog scenting that I realised that far from being naughty, he was trying to protect his new family.
Now it was understandable, we did learn some ways of dealing with it. We make sure that when we leave him. he is in an area where his scent marking is contained and easily cleaned. We only allow him on the bed when we are there. He goes on different walking routes to get the need to scent mark out of his system.
Darcy is far from perfect, but knowing that his behaviour comes from anxiousness rather than disobedience puts a whole different spin on how we deal with it. After all, he has been let down by humans in the past and this has made him insecure. Now he wants to hold on to everything he holds dear…..by urinating on it!
When you have tried everything
Sometimes the problem of scent marking just can’t be solved, no matter what you try.
Maybe your dog has a diagnosed urinary problem or dementia, he may be getting older and has trouble with mobility or is recovering from an operation.
Have you considered a belly band?
Belly bands or reusable dog nappies/diapers come in a huge selection of sizes, colours and patterns. They are fully washable and adjustable to get a comfortable fit.
I have a rescue dog who gets beyond excited when visitors call in and to my horror, he urinates on their shoes! Now when visitors are expected I put a belly band on him and everyone enjoys the visit.
I use women sanitary products inside to give extra absorption.