If you’ve ever had a dog who marks inside your house, you know how frustrating this problem can be. You might feel embarrassed, and you’re probably grossed out.
In today’s Ask a Behavior Consultant, we’re tackling the problem of a dog who won’t stop marking in the bedrooms of the home. He lifts his leg and pees whenever he enters the bedroom! Here’s how I’d tackle this problem.
“Our big guy keep marking the foot of everyone’s bed. With the exception of one time (a box) it’s always ours or kids beds but it’s mainly our room. He raises his leg every single time he comes in. This started at 3 years old and he’s 5 now.”
– Kodie the Bedwetter
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Yikes! Three years is a long time to deal with a dog who marks indoors. So far, the owners have tried a lot of things. His owners wrote on their intake form,
“He’s been to the vet to rule out any medical conditions and he is healthy with the exception of pannus. We have tried feeding him in the area, crating him in the area, moving his dog bed to the area, soaking a bandana in his urine & placing that around his neck to discourage territory marking (gross btw) and finally we are keeping him from the area by shutting doors (out using gates) but now he’s barking and huffing at the kids when they leave their rooms.”
This problem, so far, far sounds more like marking behavior than medical-based problems.
If it was medical, I’d expect to see the problem continuing outside of the bedrooms when the bedrooms are closed off. But the Pannus diagnosis could still be in play – talk to your vet.
I also think that the dog barking and huffing at the children is concerning. I won’t address that here, but I urged these readers to talk to a trainer in their area and to try some treat-and-retreat with the dog.
I’d also like the dog to learn a “go to bed” behavior that the kids (or anyone) can use to send the dog away if he’s nervous about anything.
I don’t like seeing large dogs huffing and puffing at kids! Not good. This dog is also reactive to other dogs, so I’m seeing a lot of signs of stress and jumpiness or insecurity in this dog.
Part of our treatment plan needs to include building up this dog’s comfort level in his own home.
I also don’t like the advice of tying a pee-soaked rag on the dog. Like the owner said, gross! I’m sure these owners were following advice of experts they trusted for a dog who marks in the house, but this sounds like outdated advice at best. Skip this treatment idea. We can do better.
How to Stop Your Dog From Marking in the House
Let’s talk about this dog’s habit of marking in the house (specifically, peeing in the bedroom). Here’s how I’d treat it:
- Manage the problem. Close the bedroom doors and/or put a belly band on the dog.
- If the dog isn’t neutered, neuter him.
- Increase the dog’s mental and physical well-being with some nosework, puzzle toys, and SMART x 50 training. I suspect some of this behavior problem is stress-related.
- Do short training sessions where you open the door to the bedroom and lead the dog in on a leash. Take 1 step in, step out before he can lift his leg, reward. Pause. Repeat. Gradually increase the number of steps you take into the bedroom.
- If you’re not training the dog as described above, the dog is not to be allowed in the bedroom.
- Gradually increase the amount of time you spend in the bedroom with the dog on a leash. As long as he’s not lifting his leg, he’s being fed. Decrease his meal size accordingly so he doesn’t get fat.
- Start to fade out the leash by dropping it. Don’t do this until you can be in the room with Kodie for at least a few minutes successfully. It might be days, weeks, or even months before Kodie is really trustworthy in the bedroom. If Kodie makes a mistake, take that as information: he wasn’t ready for that amount of time in the bedroom yet.
- Don’t punish Kodie for lifting his leg or peeing in the bedroom. If he does, call him away and use gentle leash pressure to remove him. Reward him for finishing up outdoors.
- In fact, if you’re currently scolding your dog for other mistakes in the home, try to focus on rewarding good behaviors and preventing bad ones instead. I can’t ask Kodie, but my guess is that this marking is due to insecurity (not dominance). He’s a nervous, sensitive guy from what I can tell. Punishing him for peeing or other misdemeanors will just make him more stressed, which won’t help our ultimate goal.
Really, we’re focusing on the basics of potty training here with a twist. We’re rewarding Kodie for every behavior in the bedroom that isn’t peeing. He can’t be sitting at your feet and lifting his leg to pee at the same time!
We’re also focusing on the dog’s behavioral wellness so that stress levels don’t make the problem worse.
Kayla is from Ashland, Wisconsin but lives in Missoula Montana. She holds a degree in biology from Colorado College and has spent years working in zoos, animal shelters, and as a private dog trainer. When not working on Journey Dog Training, Kayla works at Working Dogs for Conservation. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. She shares her life with her dog Barley.