Urine Marking (Part 1)
Dogs mark to communicate with each other, and also when they’re anxious. Learn why your dog is marking and what you can do about it.
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Marking When a New Dog Arrives
While we’re on the subject of adoption: bringing a new dog home may set off marking in the resident dog. We could interpret this as territorial – the dog who lived there first communicating something like “This is my place, Bud.” But if marking was an ordinary territorial behavior in this context, then we ought to see it happening routinely. And though it isn’t exactly uncommon, routine it ain’t. My own sense is that most often, the resident dog who starts marking is not super comfortable socially with other dogs to begin with. So getting a housemate stresses him out – especially if he didn’t even get a chance to meet and greet the new dog in advance.
There’s also the factor that Alexandra Horowitz mentions, that isolated dogs mark much less than dogs kenneled together do. If the resident dog doesn’t have much contact with other dogs, then maybe the new arrival is bringing out a social behavior that wasn’t being expressed before. I’d also look at stress as a factor if a dog who doesn’t have regular contact with other dogs suddenly has to share his space.
Consider the dogs’ behavioral health and their individual needs. If your resident Zippy is old and frail, or just plain uncomfortable with other dogs, maybe you’re asking for more of an adjustment than he can handle. And it may not be best for Newby to live with a dog who doesn’t want him there. But if Zippy is healthy and usually adept with other dogs, take a look at Newby’s behavior. Is he being intrusive and crowding Zippy?
Marking When Something Happens Outside
Dogs may also mark in response to something going on outside – a particular dog passing by, for example. This starts to look like territoriality. Or is it anxiety? Or is it a combination of the two, or general excitement, or something else entirely? Yes, another example of motivations that seem obvious at first glance, and less obvious the more you think about them.
Fortunately, we don’t need perfect understanding of a behavior in order to change it. Next week, pointers for dealing with any dog who marks. And a few words about the etiquette of marking outdoors.
That’s all for this week. I’m The Dog Trainer on Facebook, and you can also write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I usually can’t reply personally, but check out past articles – I might already have answered your question. Thanks for reading!
Urine Marking image from Shutterstock