Ask Dr. Wan: "Our dog marks the sofa and bed!"

A certified applied animal behaviorist answers a family's question about their dog's marking behavior.

We have a five-year-old pug we adopted two years ago (Angus). He loves to "mark" everything when we take him out for his daily walks. Recently he started marking things in the house like our sofa and our bed. Do you have any tips on how to stop this behavior? -The Mahars

When dogs lift their legs and leave a small amount of urine, we often refer to this behavior as “marking.”   We most commonly see dogs mark outdoors over other dogs’ urine.  Some dogs unfortunately mark indoors, as well.   There are several steps you can take to decrease marking.  Technically speaking, marking is not the same as a housetraining accident, but the treatments are relatively similar.  Be aware that when a dog urinates indoors, this could also be a sign of excitement, fear, or stress, and treatment in those situations would be different and could require the help of an experienced behavior professional.  Also, talk to your vet to rule out possible medical causes for your dog’s marking behavior, particularly if it appeared suddenly. 

  • Make sure your dog has numerous opportunities to do his business outside. Take him out for frequent, long walks so he is empty when indoors.  Provide additional walks after your dog has had a long drink of water or a nap.
  • If your dog is still sniffing areas that he previously marked, use an enzymatic cleaner, such as Nature’s Miracle, to thoroughly clean those areas.  
  • Reduce the size of the area that he has access to (start with an area that he does not mark in), and then gradually increase the size of the area.  Baby gates can be very helpful in this process.
  • Watch your dog closely, especially on the sofa and bed, where he has marked in the past, and around any new objects brought into the home. As soon as he starts sniffing or moving his body as if he is about to mark, interrupt him.  Call his name, and distract him with play or other activities.
  • Give your dog a chew or a Kong toy stuffed with his favorite food to work on as he hangs out with you on the sofa or bed.  If he eats and rests in these areas, he should be less likely to mark there.

Happy training!


Dr. Michele Wan, a certified applied animal behaviorist, provides dog behavior consultations and classes to Fairfield County dog owners and phone consultations to owners from other areas.  She earned her doctorate and researched dog-human communication at Columbia University.

Have a dog training or behavior question?  Post your questions to Dr. Wan below, or e-mail them to AskDrWan@westportdogs.com.  Please read before submitting your question.  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

LaTasha Mahar September 21, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Dr. Wan, Thank you so much for answering our question. We are so thankful for having you as a resource. We will certainly try your behavioral advice and the cleanser that you have suggested. Thanks again! -The Mahars


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