Your housebroken dog is unexpectedly acting as though he was never trained. You see him marking on the furniture inside the house, lifting his leg, or squatting in areas where she knows she’s not supposed to be doing that. If you wonder why he does this, you’re not alone.
Because humans tend to anthropomorphize their pets, we often attribute animal behavior to an act that has some thought behind it. We think they are “acting out” because we have disciplined them or because we have had to leave them for a length of time (vacation or business trip) or to “be mean” or showing us an attitude.
Nothing could be further from the truth. All animals, especially our domesticated pets, act only on instinct and do not think. Their thinking and instinctive brains are similar, so they cannot reason out as we do.
2Most of their actions respond to external stimuli from their environment, so if your dog has begun to act inappropriately inside the house, your first step will be to look to the environment to see if there have been any changes that could elicit this response from your pet.
Environmental factors can influence dog behavior.
Here are a few changes in the dog’s environment that might elicit the marking behavior:
- A new baby is brought home.
- A new boy or girlfriend’s belongings are brought into the home
- Another pet has been adopted
- There are loose dogs outside that are invading his territory
- A female dog is in heat and is in the neighborhood (only affects un-neutered males)
Your dog is marking items inside the house because they are new to him, and he needs to make sure that everyone knows that they now belong to him since they are now in his territory.
When you don’t introduce a new pet to your dog correctly, she will mark the territory to make sure the new pet knows that they are in her territory. All animal behaviorists recommend specific guidelines for adding new pets to a home where established pets live, designed to reduce territorial conflicts and anxiety between them.
Outside dogs are perceived as a threat to him, and marking the territory is his message that they are entering territory that belongs to him. And un-neutered males mark to attract the attention of the female for mating purposes.
As you can see, none of these reasons have anything to do with human-like emotions, like jealousy or anger. It is the instinctive response to a change in your dog’s environment.
Medical problems can also induce unacceptable behavior
If you’ve checked and nothing has changed in your dog’s environment, then you need to determine if there is a medical problem. You can observe your dog and see if she has a pattern for the misbehavior, such as:
- Does she only do it at night?
- Does he do it after eating or drinking?
- Does she run through the house before doing it?
- How much time passes between the occurrences?
- Does he act like he’s scared to death?
A medical problem usually leads to a different type of misbehavior, called “house soiling,” which is not an instinctive response to the world, such as the “marking” behavior. A quick trip to the vet will solve most problems that arise from disturbances in your dog’s internal environment and return your dog to its normal behavior.
Once you know why the behavior is happening, you can train your dog to prevent recurrences.
Several websites discuss your options for controlling your dog’s behavior. This one is from the Humane Society.
We want to have an open dialogue to spread information to all dog lovers. Do you have any experiences with this type of misbehavior? And if so, what did you do to solve them?