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A TRUE STORY ABOUT ALEX:

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My husband and I love dogs. That’s why we have more than one.

 

Two of our male dogs (both loveable mutts) have been castrated. But we purposely left our purebred border collie intact for breeding with our purebred female Great Pyrenees. Having operated a large exotic animal farm, we knew how invaluable a well-bred farm dog was in protecting livestock. What would be more perfect than a border-pyr? He or she would have the guardian instincts of the Great Pyr and the herding skills of the border collie.

 

Alex the border collie showed excellent natural house manners and with very little actual house-training as a puppy. He spent most of his puppyhood outside with the sheep, goats, poultry and waterfowl, learning how to interact with them. As it turned out, his herding skills were non-existent, but he was liberally endowed with the loveable and loyal traits of the collie.

 

In the fall of 2011 we sold our farm and moved to a new home on two acres. Our farming days were temporarily over. Alex along with the other three dogs spent most of their time either outside in a pen with their covered shelter or in the house.

 

Suddenly, usually at night, small puddles of urine (usually against a particular corner of the wall or side of the counter or a box sitting on the floor) began to appear. And always in the kitchen or dining room. It didn’t take long to track this behavior to Alex, who had been such a good boy up until that point.

 

What had happened?

 

For dogs, urine marking is as natural as eating and sleeping, and this is especially true of intact males. Usually it is a way for them to mark their territory, to stake their claim. Unfortunately marking by one dog often triggers another dog to mark the same spot. Dogs are competitive, and marking is one of their favorite ways to show their superiority. Females mark as well but mainly when they are in heat in order to let males know that they are available.

 

Sometimes dogs will mark when they feel insecure and need to build up their confidence. Alex, for example, is definitely not the dominant dog in our pack. He is the clingiest, the one who craves our attention the most. Interestingly smaller dogs often mark more than larger dogs. For them it is a way to feel bigger and stronger. The move to a new home may have stirred up some of his insecurities, or he may have detected odors from a past canine resident in the new house.

 

Dogs may mark a new item entering the house to prove they own it. Little is more irritating than setting down a plastic bag of Christmas gifts for a moment only to come back and find it dripping.

 

While marking is usually behavioral, there are medical conditions that may be behind it. For example, a dog with a urinary tract infection may void small amounts of urine here and there.  

 

Dogs who are marking are usually consistent in marking one particular area or item. A popular deterrent is a dog wrap or belly band that is wrapped around the male’s torso while he is in the house (and especially when in a friend’s house!). The wrap can be made easily by the owner with materials such as bandanas and incontinence pads, or it can be purchased.      

 

Owners should clean the urine up thoroughly using either an enzymatic cleanser designed for eliminating pet odors (sold in pet stores or available over the Internet) or a mixture of vinegar and water. Ammonia-based cleaning products do not work because dog’s urine contains ammonia.

 

Praise for marking outside is another important part of the program. And careful supervision inside. Many owners startle their dog when caught in the act with a loud noise such as a clap or shaking a jar filled with nails. Most dogs do not like loud noises (as evidenced by their response to a thunder storm) and will do what they can to prevent them.

 

The best solution is to have the dog castrated, as neutered dogs are much less likely to urine mark. But this would not be an option for those who want to breed their dog.

 

If all else fails, keeping the offending dog confined in a smaller area, at least overnight, may be the only solution. Dogs are less likely to contaminate a small area as they consider it to be their den area.

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