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Help! My boy puppy is lifting his leg on everything!

Posted by k.mcclean on October 25, 2018 at 3:40 PM

Leg lifting and marking is an normal / instinctive male dog behaviour. Some boys are more likely to develop the habit of doing this indoors than others and this is a frequent reason why people resort to early neutering.  If you have a young male puppy here are some things you can do to minimize the likelihood that your puppy will become an indoor marker.

1. Close supervision - while your puppy is growing up you will want to keep him under close observation - crating, Xpens and umbilical training are all strategies you can use to help prevent your puppy from relieving himself and marking in the house.

2. Belly bands - for boys that have already started marking indoors a belly band can protect your furniture. Most boys will continue to mark despite the belly band and you need to be careful to make sure he does not develop skin irritation from wet bands. Some boys will still be able to direct urine out from under the belly band so these are not great solutions but they can help.

3. Discouraging the development of a marking habit -

  • Start by putting peeing on cue. Start this even before your puppy starts to pee lifting his leg. As soon as you see him squat (or if he is already lifting his leg to pee, as soon as he siddles up to something to lift his leg) say the cue "go potty".  Repeat this every time you see him start to pee. Reward him for peeing on cue.
  • When you walk your dog, allow him one or two pees to make sure he has a chance to empty his bladder. Take him over to something appropriate to lift his leg on and give your 'go potty' cue.  After that, do not allow him to lift his leg on anything.  If he starts to lift his leg, use a positive interrupter and an upbeat 'let's go' to encourage him to move on.  You may want to allow one more pee before he goes indoors.  While you are on your walk, do not avoid objects he may want to lift his leg on, but always be ready to gently and positively redirect.
  • Be sure to clean thoroughly any urine marked areas indoors - use an enxymatic cleaner such as Nature's Miracle or 50:50 vinegar : water solution.  You can purchase a special flashlight at pet stores that will help you locate areas where marking has occured and dried.  These old spots need to be thoroughly cleaned too.
  • Be especially vigilant if a new dog enters the household as marking is a way of establishing territory and introduction a new dog often trigger increased marking.
  • Castration will  reduce the frequency of urine marking in most dogs but it will not completely eliminate it. ~80% of dogs are reported to decrease urine marking with up to 40% of dogs showing significant improvement.  This potential benefit needs to be considered against the risks associated with neutering prior to sexual maturity.
4. If you are already past prevention...
  • If your dog is habitually marking in a particular spot - do a thorough clean with an enzymatic cleaner intended for removing urine.  If the area is carpetted, you may need to wet down to the underlay to thoroughly get rid of any residual odour.  Do not allow your dog access to the area until complete drying has occured. After the area is dry try moving your dog's bed to the area.
  • Teach your dog the 'go potty' and 'no marking' under #3 even if he is well into a habit of marking indoors.
  • Use a positive interrupter if you catch your dog in the act, then take him outdoors immediately, praise him and reinforce heavily when he pees outdoors.
  • Some trainers recommend putting a couple of drops of your dog's urine on a bandana and having him wear it whenever he is indoors. The theory is that he now carries his smell with him and this reduces his need to mark.  I cannot vouche for the success or this method.
  • Do not punish your dog for failures - this will only encourage him to do it behind your back and won't stop the behaviour.

Categories: Survival skills - dealing with canine behaviour

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