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Housetraining a Urine Marking Male Dog
Canine Behavior Series
About the time you have your young male dog or older male pup housetrained, you realize he has started urinating in the house again. What’s wrong with him? Is he doing it because he’s mad that you go out and leave him at home?
You’re pregnant, you have a new baby, someone with a baby in diapers comes for a visit, you get a new cat or dog, a family member moves into or out of the house, you move to a new house, your schedule changes—and just when something major is going on in your life, the dog starts urinating in the house! Is he getting back at you because he wants attention?
Urine marking is a normal, instinctive dog behavior, mostly in males but also sometimes in females. Like a lot of other natural dog behaviors, we need to modify it as one of the fascinating ways that humans and dogs learn to cooperate for rewarding lives together.
We take the ability of dogs to adapt to our lifestyles for granted until a behavior like this one gets our attention. Some dogs are so talented and motivated to figure us humans out that we don’t even notice or give them credit for amazing things they do. If you have a male who doesn’t urine mark in your home, take a moment to thank him! If your male dog needs some help from you, as most of them will in life at least a time or two, read on for how to do it smoothly.
Why It Happens
Dogs do not consider elimination to be an insult. On the contrary, the dog who urine marks may well be stepping up to offer his life if necessary to protect his pack. Instead of saying “Get out of here, new baby,” he may be saying, “This small one, too, is under my protection.”
If you have a male and one or more female dogs, watch how he urinates along the fence, outside the marks of all the girls. Likely you’ll occasionally see him go over and urinate over the spot where she has just urinated—or, oops, hasn’t quite finished! Watch her reaction. She probably feels more secure as a result of this action of his. How confusing it must be for a dog whose owner flies into a hissy fit at the same action!
Dogs don’t actually “understand” housetraining. Dogs with what we consider normal instincts who have been raised properly for the formation of housetraining habits are following instincts when they start to toddle out of the sleeping, eating and playing area to eliminate.
A small dog’s concept of this area may not include the back bedroom or the formal living room. To him, that can seem to be outside the area needed for living space or as the pack’s den headquarters. A larger dog tends to prefer marking outside the house, given your help to get there on a good schedule.
Ironically, people often get small dogs because they want a cleaner house. If easy housetraining and minimal indoor elimination is a priority with you, a tiny male dog is not a good adoption choice.
Dogs get a lot of information from urine scent. Among dogs, it helps to keep the peace. We don’t even know all the things dogs can detect from urine scent, but they certainly can tell a male from a female, a neutered dog from an intact one, a female in heat or coming into heat, and whether the other dog is sick or well. Just as a human reacts to a sight according to past experiences with that sight, a dog’s reaction to a particular scent is heavily influenced by the dog’s experiences. For example, a male dog who has previously mated a female will be far more excited by the scent of a female in heat than a neutered male who never mated. Thus dogs react to a lot of scents we don’t even know are there.
Scents can be overwhelming to dog instincts. A male dog is highly likely to urine mark in the presence of a female dog in heat—possibly even quite a distance away. He’s also highly likely to urine mark where another dog has urinated inside your home, whether that dog is male or female. Two tiny male dogs living together are likely to appear to be in competition to see who can urinate in the house the most. Is this about fighting? Probably not. It may even be their way of presenting a united front in defending what they view as their pack.
Like most dog behavior, urine marking has to be taken in context to get some idea of the cause in any given situation. We never know everything about the cause. Dogs are complex, with some behaviors strongly instinctive and some learned. Like humans, they do things automatically at times, and at other times they have an intention. It’s not useful to think of a dog’s intentions as “spite” or “anger.” Fear, protectiveness, excitement, prey drive, bonding and other survival instincts are much more likely explanations....