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Why would a dog mark his owner?

Why Do Dogs Need to Pee on Everything?

Do you roll your eyes at your dog’s habit of peeing on every single rock and tree while he walks? Does it frustrate or embarrass you, especially when he marks on something less appropriate? Is there anything you can do about this behavior, also known as dog marking?

What Does Marking Mean?

In your dog’s head, marking his territory with a small amount of urine is likely just a simple way of saying «hello» to other dogs that might be nearby. It’s a totally normal and instinctive way for dogs to communicate, and something they’ve been doing since humans started tracking their behavior. Beyond basic communication, there are several reasons why dogs mark.

  • The dog hasn’t been fixed: Male dogs that have not been neutered are more likely to mark their territory than dogs that have been fixed. One study, published in the journal Animal Behavior, showed «high-status dogs» marked territory more often than lower status dogs. So perhaps your dog is simply king of the hill! While marking is typically an issue with male dogs, unspayed female dogs will sometimes mark territory as well, especially just before and during heat.
  • The dog is overly excited: New and super exciting social situations can make your dog want to mark everything in sight. Reasons for overstimulation include a female dog in heat nearby, or even just a dog visiting a home or park where other dogs have marked before.
  • Someone new has visited: In his head, a dog’s territory might encompass not just his home and yard, but also the route he takes on walks, and other homes or parks he regularly visits. If another dog has been in your dog’s «territory» recently, your dog might feel the need to mark as a way to assert ownership.
  • The dog has medical issue: You might think your dog is marking his territory, but the reason for all that peeing might be due to an underlying medical condition. Some conditions that can cause frequent urination include incontinence, urinary tract infections and reactions to medication. Visit your veterinarian to rule out these issues before attempting to train your dog not to mark.

It’s also worth noting that some dogs pee frequently for reasons other than marking, including conditions like submissive urination and separation anxiety — or simply poor house training. Understanding the reasons for your dog’s behavior is the critical first step in addressing it.

Yellow lab hiking leg to pee on a treeCan You Put a Stop to It?

Despite the fact that dog marking is a natural behavior displayed by your dog’s ancestors long ago, in today’s age it can be embarrassing or annoying to have a dog that frequently feels the urge to mark his territory. So how can you stop, or at least reduce, your dog’s urge? UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine has a few suggestions.

  • Identify why your dog is marking: Knowing your dog always marks when he’s overly excited, for instance, can help you avoid that situation for yourself and your dog. If you avoid the triggers, you can likely avoid the marking.
  • Stop it before it starts: The longer a dog goes before neutering, the more difficult it is to get him to stop marking later on. For most pet owners, it’s a good idea to neuter dogs at a young age. Neutering your dog, especially when he’s a puppy, will most likely reduce marking — and may prevent it altogether.
  • Neuter or spay other animals in the house: If another dog — a female in particular — is experiencing hormonal changes, even a neutered dog might respond by marking more frequently.
  • Create a routine:Establish spots outside the house or on your walking route where marking is acceptable. Train your dog to recognize those spots by rewarding him when he marks there. Leash training can also reduce the number of instances your dog stops to mark. Keeping him on a shorter leash that doesn’t allow him to wander across the sidewalk to every tree and pole in sight can help reduce his urge to mark.

Avoiding bad practices is as important as following good ones. If you yell at your dog or punish him in other ways when he is in the midst of marking, he might begin to hide the behavior, making it even more difficult to stop. You need to remember that marking is a natural instinctive behavior for your dog, and while there are ways to minimize, it is worth remembering that most dog parents experience this behavior. If you want to reduce the amount your dog marks, just be patient with him and carefully train and work with him, and he will start to reward you with better walks.

Contributor Bio

Kara Murphy

Kara Murphy

Kara Murphy is a freelance writer and pet parent who lives in Erie, Pa. She has a goldendoodle named Maddie.

Why Do Dogs Mark Their Territory?

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Dog lifting leg up peeing (caption: Why Do Dogs Mark Territory?)

We adopted our one-year-old dog, Kopa, who was neutered a little over a month before we adopted him. Within the first few hours of bringing him home, he marked in the same room three times. He was used to being an outside dog, so when he had free roam of the house, he was ready to declare everything his own by lifting his leg. To say we were frustrated with his marking was an understatement. We knew that this was an instinct for him, but cleaning up the messes was a nightmare for us. How do we stop his marking so we can trust him in the house? Here are some tips on why dogs mark their territory and how to stop it.

Table Of Contents

  1. Why Dogs Mark Their Territory
  2. How To Stop A Dog From Marking Outside
  3. Dog Marking Territory In House
  4. Is Your Dog Marking or Peeing?
  5. Nature’s Miracle No More Marking Spray
  6. The No-No’s Of Dog Marking
  7. What If You Catch Your Dog Marking?
  8. Should You Get Your Dog Diapers?

Why Dogs Mark Their Territory

Dogs use their urine (and sometimes feces) to mark areas they consider theirs. Marking their territory lets other dogs know that they are present. Urine also signifies the reproductive status of the dog and their ranking.

Does Neutering Stop Marking?

Dogs who aren’t fixed (spayed or neutered) are more likely to mark than those who are fixed.

Medical Issues

Before determining if your dog is genuinely marking, you’ll want to rule out some medical issues.

  1. The first possible medical condition is incontinencewhen a dog “leaks” or completely releases the bladder without meaning to. Most dogs who are incontinent don’t realize they’ve soiled.
  2. The second possible medical issue is your dog could have a urinary tract infection (UTI), which can cause a dog to release small amounts of urine frequently. Another sign of UTIs is if your dog is licking his genitalia excessively.
  3. The third possibility is that your dog has a disease or is on a medication that causes frequent urination.

Uncontrollable Urination

Three types of urination are considered “uncontrollable”: submissive, excitement, and anxiety.

  • Submissive urination is when your dog urinates during greetings, play, physical contact, or punishment. If this is your dog’s problem, he may display submissive postures during interactions.
  • Urination out of excitement is self-explanatory; your dog gets over-excited, and he urinates.
  • Urination from anxiety is due to your dog being overwhelmed with anxiousness.

New Element In The Environment

Is your dog marking in house suddenly? If there’s a new addition to the home or something else new in their environment, your dog may start marking his territory more. This can include more than just your home. It can also include the yard, the park you visit, the trail you walk, or other locations he frequents. New elements in the environment could consist of people, animals, furniture, or other objects.

How To Stop A Dog From Marking Outside

Is your dog marking territory on walks? If so, you may want to shorten your dog’s leash. Dogs are meant to walk beside us, not ahead of us, pulling us along. By shortening the leash and walking with a purpose, your dog isn’t given free rein to mark wherever he pleases. Stop along your walk every now and then and repeatedly say “go potty” with your feet planted in one spot.

Allow your dog to walk around you and sniff to find the perfect spot to potty in, and praise him after he’s gone potty. (This won’t happen on the first try, so the continued practice of this is important.) By saying the command “go potty” and choosing the place for him to do his business, you are showing dominance and permitting him to go potty. I have used this tactic with my dog, Kopa, and he has responded great.

Female Dog Marking On Walks

When I first got my dog, Sally, she would mark continually on our walks. At the time, I didn’t realize she was marking, and she was stopping every few minutes from going potty. After taking her to an obedience class, we learned how to stop this, and now she goes potty on command.

Dog Marking Territory In House

It is so frustrating when your dog pees in the house. Here are some tips to get them to stop.

How To Stop A Dog From Peeing In The House

Start by taking your dog out for regular potty breaks every one to two hours. It can be tedious, but as you get a better idea of how long he could last without going potty inside, you can extend this time further.

Keep your dog on a leash for at least two weeks in the house. After two weeks, gradually expose him to areas of the home without him being on a leash. As you build trust with him, you will feel more comfortable allowing him to roam freely throughout the house. If he goes two weeks without any accidents or marking in the house, it is safe to say he has trained appropriately. A rule of thumb is that it takes two weeks of consistency to train a dog for a specific task.

Is Your Dog Marking or Peeing?

Watch the video below to determine if your dog is marking or peeing.


Nature’s Miracle No More Marking spray is a stain and odor eliminator and a marking deterrent. It is guaranteed to work, or you get your money back. How does it work as a dog marking deterrent spray? The spray leaves a lemongrass and cinnamon scent that discourages dogs from marking the same spot again.


  • Check Amazon for availability

The No-No’s Of Dog Marking

We know how frustrating it can be if your dog is marking in your home. The critical thing to remember is never to punish your dog. If you return home and find that your dog has marked in areas of your home, you should clean up the mess (with the spray above) and move on. A delayed punishment is unclear to a dog, and he won’t understand what he’s being punished for.

What If You Catch Your Dog Marking?

If you catch your dog in the act of marking, you can address the unwanted behavior with a gentle but firm “no” or “bad dog” so they correlate that behavior as undesirable. If there’s time, take your dog outside to finish his business (although he might not always go potty once out). You might clap loudly or fill a jar with change and shake it if the dog marks. These noises will startle the dog and potentially stop him.

Should You Get Your Dog Diapers?

If you’ve tried behavioral training and you’re still at a total loss, you may want to consider doggie diapers. There are different types, from reusable to disposable and male to female, so make sure you research carefully to pick the right diaper for your pup.

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How to Stop a Dog from Marking in the House

If your dog is marking their territory in your house, it can be understandably frustrating. It’s important to narrow down what could be causing the behavior so you can determine the best way to stop your dog from marking or spraying inside.

Sad brown and white border collie lying on floor

What Is Marking?

There’s a difference between marking or spraying and urinating. Marking is deliberate and typically occurs on upright surfaces, like walls and cabinets, or on a specific object; dogs may also mark flat surfaces such as the floor. It usually involves a small amount of urine to mark spaces or objects as the dog’s territory. Urinating occurs when your dog simply can’t hold it in any longer and typically occurs on a flat surface.

Why Do Dogs Mark in the House?

Marking behavior is not unusual and is a way for dogs to assert their dominance. Both male and female dogs mark, and it happens most often in dogs 2 years old or younger. Marking can be related to your dog’s lineage, their upbringing as a puppy and the environment or situation of your household. None of these factors should prevent you from training your dog to stop this behavior.

The following are the most common causes for dogs marking in the house:

A New Family Member

Whether you add a new pet or a new person to the family, such as a significant other or even a baby, your dog could perceive this as a challenge to the family hierarchy. If your dog starts to spray near or on your bed, or near the new person’s clothing, this is a sign your dog is feeling challenged.


Your dog’s stress can be caused by many different reasons — some that might surprise you. This includes adding a new piece of furniture, having a verbal disagreement with another family member or even going to a friend’s house with pets and bringing their smells home with you. Uncertainty and change can cause dogs to become stressed and mark to gain control.

Keep in mind that separation anxiety — a dog urinating when you get home or get ready to leave — is not considered marking and should be dealt with differently. Talk to your vet about treatments for separation anxiety.

Medical Issues

If your dog suddenly changes their behavior and starts marking or spraying without anything else changing in your home, it could be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Additionally, if your dog urinates without realizing it (whether sleeping or awake), this isn’t considered marking. If you suspect a UTI or medical issue, go to your vet ASAP to determine the cause.

7 Ways to Stop Your Dog from Marking in the House

Here are some effective ways to help stop your dog from marking inside. In all approaches, don’t raise your voice or discipline your dog, which could make the incidents occur more often.

1. Clean the Mark

Dogs communicate through scent. If you don’t remove the trace odors of the marking, your dog will likely re-mark the same area. Be sure to avoid harsh chemicals or fragrant cleaners; dogs interpret these odors as “challenger” scents. Instead, use an enzyme-based cleaner that neutralizes the odor to remove all traces of it.

2. Reassociate the “Offending” Object or Space

If your dog seems to be targeting a certain area of your home or objects like shoes or pieces of furniture, try providing a treat or reward when they’re about to mark. If your dog starts to sniff around and circle an area, this usually indicates they’re getting ready for marking. Use a treat to quickly redirect your dog’s attention to associate the area or object with a reward, rather than a territorial reset.

3. Block Off or Remove the Marked Items

In cases where positive reinforcement or treats don’t work, remove all access to the object or area so your dog can’t fixate on it. If it’s a certain area, this will require more patience because your dog will know it’s still there. If blocking off the area isn’t possible, make the area unpleasant for your dog to go near by putting plastic or bubble wrap on the ground around the space. Provide distractions through play or a small treat to help curb their fixation.

4. Resolve “Conflicts” with New Family Members

Use positive reinforcement to help your dog associate good experiences with the new family member. If the person is old enough, have them feed your dog small treats or play with them using a favorite toy.

If you have a new baby, let your dog smell the baby’s blanket and then place the blanket in your dog’s sleeping area for a few days. Reward your dog with a small treat while holding the baby to associate positive experiences with the baby’s scent.

5. Reassert Your Role as Pack Leader

Dogs are pack animals and deferring to the alpha is in their nature, so it’s important for owners to establish themselves as the pack leader. The easiest way to do this is to train your dog to obey a direct command before feeding time or a walk. By consistently doing this, you’ll send the message that you’re in charge and spraying or marking will not help your dog become the pack leader.

6. Interrupt Your Dog in the Act

If you catch your dog in the act of marking, try startling them with a noise (such as clapping your hands or dropping keys on the floor) to disrupt the process.

As with any type of dog training, it may take time to teach your dog not to mark in the house. With a little patience and a lot of love, you can help your dog curb this unpleasant behavior.


  1. “Urine-Marking Behavior: How to Prevent It.” The Humane Society of the United States,
  2. “Urine Marking in Dogs” WebMD, WebMD,
  3. “Curbing the Issue of Dog Marking” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 21 Sept. 2020,
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