Answers From Experts May 2001 Issue

New Dog Leaves His “Mark”

Management, not training, will mostly “fix” this problem.

My husband and I just adopted a two-year-old Beagle from the Humane Society. He is a wonderful dog, but is still exhibiting some bad habits. He was neutered on Friday and is slowly adjusting to his new environment.

He does great at home (very calm, quiet, fun, doesn’t mark), but when my husband takes him to work with him he marks one to three times in a four-hour period and occasionally tries to “escape” from under the fenced-in alley. Do you feel this warrants obedience school or do we just need some consultation? One trainer told us that his behavior did not warrant school, but that we could use a product called “No Go” to stop his marking.

By the way, he’s great in the car, never tries to bite, and loves all people.

Neutering will help stem the tide of "marking"
ûbehavior within a few weeks.

-Christy Thomason
via email

Pat Miller, WDJ’s Dog Training Editor, answers this question for us. Miller offers private and group dog training classes from her base in Chattanooga, Tennessee. For contact information, click here. Miller responds:

Wild applause to you for adopting a dog from your local shelter. I always love to hear about one more lucky no-longer-homeless dog! It’s great that his behavior at home, in the car and with people is so terrific – many shelter dogs come with lots of behavior challenges. Your dog has only a couple, and they are relatively minor!

It’s interesting that your dog marks only at your husband’s work, not at home. You don’t describe your husband’s work environment, but the presence of other dogs there, either currently or in the past, is more likely to trigger an unneutered (or recently neutered) male dog’s territorial marking behavior. It may even be the presence of dogs outside your husband’s office that triggers the behavior. If your husband gets engrossed in his work, and pays less attention to your dog’s “I’m about to pee” signals than the two of you do at home, this could also be a contributing factor.

The good news is that the neutering is quite likely to reduce the marking behavior within a few weeks after surgery. Meanwhile, be sure to clean up any indoor urine spots with a good enzyme-based cleaner designed for that purpose, such as Nature’s Miracle, available at most pet supply stores. Also, try to get your husband to take the dog out more frequently when he takes him to work, if possible, or leave him at home for a couple of weeks until the male hormones have had a chance to subside.

The answer to the escape attempts is to simply make sure the fence is escape-proof, or not to leave the dog in the fenced area without immediate supervision. (This could be a clue as to how the little guy ended up at the shelter in the first place.) Beagles are bred to follow their noses, so if something is tempting your dog to follow his, he will be persistent in attempting to do so. If there is a female in season somewhere in the area, the behavior will be exceptionally persistent. If this is the case, the neutering will help this immensely. A nearby female in season may also contribute significantly to the marking behavior.

I do agree with your trainer that neither of these behaviors will be helped much by a training class – they need to be managed and modified by changes to the dog’s environment. You’ve already made the most important change by having him neutered (more wild applause). I have not had any personal experience with the product you mention, so I can’t advise you there. Some people have success with eliminating male marking behavior until the neutering takes effect by using a belly band: a piece of cloth fastened securely around the dog’s abdomen with a Velcro strap, removed when the dog is taken outside for bathroom duty.

While I don’t think a training class will help with marking behavior, I do believe that every dog should go to a positive training class to encourage good manners, improve the dog/owner relationship and communication, and to provide an outlet for socialization with other dogs and humans.

Enjoy your new family member!

Also With This Article
Click here to view information on Pat Miller's new book.

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