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Canine Behavior/Female Dog Marking Territory?


QUESTION: I have a female Beagle/Labrador Retriever named Kanga who is 6 months old. I rescued her at 9 weeks.  I lived in an apartment alone with her and while potty training was difficult, she seemed to master it at around 4.5 months old.  At 5 months, I had her spayed.  She had a horrible time the first day and regressed back to urinating in the house again.  A week later, we moved to another apartment with my friend and her 3-year-old male Yorkshire Terrier.  Kanga became worse with peeing in the house.  She seems to only pee on my roommate's floor (most often), in the living room and even on the hardwood floor in the kitchen.  She does not pee in my room and is crate trained.  I know she knows that urinating in the house is wrong.  I experimented the other day by not taking her out for 20 minutes after she woke up.  No accidents and she doesn't poop inside, only pees. She even peed on the other dog today!  Help!  How can I make her stop? Do female dogs mark their territory like male dogs?

ANSWER: I think what you're seeing is a highly stressed dog that is not actually house trained.  ALL dogs "mark" (male and female).  Kanga is apparently communicating her distress.  She really should have gone through one estrus cycle before spaying but too late now.  However, there are medications and hormonal therapy that might help.  I'd like you to find a Veterinary Behaviorist (even if you have to travel) from one of the following sites:

Kanga is confused by her new surroundings, the presence of another dog, and is not making the adjustment well.  This CAN be fixed.  See the veterinary behaviorist, then report back using followup feature and tell me what s/he said and if any medication is offered.  Steer clear of SSRIs ("doggy prozac") or any substance in the area of alprazolam and its counterparts.  

Meanwhile: put the dog on long house leash (very lightweight) and keep her in your sight.  If she squats to pee, clap your hands, whistle, do not yell at her, do not say NO (even though the temptation will be enormous lol).  Pick up the house tab, take her outdoors, the moment she is finished urinating praise and pop a treat in her mouth (Iams makes great little treats called "Shakeables", chicken variety is best, easy to carry in your pocket, dogs love them).  Do this consistently.  Take her out at fair intervals (upon awakening in the morning and then four hour intervals, most likely four times daily) and treat her as you would a dog that has no house training skills.

Make it impossible for her to get to your roommate's room; feed her ON THE SPOTS (twice daily) where she has chosen to urinate in living room and kitchen.  Never get angry; never punish; never clean up urine in her sight (and do not use chlorine products since that smells like urine to a dog).

Scent driven, the Beagle aspect of Kanga's genetic makeup is part of the problem.  Do you know for certain the other dog isn't urinating in the house?  To find out, put food coloring (totally harmless) in his food and water, it will show up in the urine mix.

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QUESTION: Thank you for all of your advice and assistance.  I will continue rewarding her when she goes outside and stick to our routine.  The other dog is not urinating in the house and since Kanga only goes in that room, it sounds like you are right about her being in distress.  I did not know that both male AND female dogs mark their territory.  Why is it that I may not clean up urine in her sight?  Usually I want to clean it right away so that it does not soak into the carpet.  Also, why do you say that she should have gone through one estrus cycle prior to spaying?  All veterinarians I have ever spoken to or heard from say that is not good.  However, could this have something to do with her current behavior?  I was just curious...thank you again!

I know that veterinarians are STILL insistent upon spaying a bitch but there is clear evidence to the contrary of their premise: that unspayed bitch is more likely to develop mammary cancer.  Should all female humans have hysterectomies after age 35 to ward off estrogen related breast cancer and ovarian cancer????  I don't think so.  I've had many, many dogs in my lifetime; I have had many, many unspayed bitches.  Not one developed mammary cancer, not one.

The reason we allow a bitch to obtain her first estrus cycle is for the hormonal influence on behavior: progesterone.  Sometimes progesterone replacement therapy (for short term) can "do" what the estrus cycle would have done but there's no way of knowing.  For that, you need a veterinary behaviorist.  The actual risk of mammary cancer is SO SMALL in a bitch following ONE estrus cycle as to be a no brainer: the behavioral benefit of a full estrus cycle far outweighs the risk.  Also: some breeds (especially smaller breeds) seem to develop a stronger predilection for other forms of cancer WHEN spayed.

Cleaning up urine in your dog's sight does two things:
1.  It mimics the behavior of your dog's dam (mother) if the dam was in good health and properly maintained when her puppies were neonates.  This is an affirmation to a dog.  
2.  You are very stressed when you are trying to save your carpet.  Even if you are having a "party" when doing this your adrenaline is up, your body language is communicating.  A dog that is having security issues and is a bit "soft" in temperament will immediately associate her own scent of urine with your reaction (which will alarm her and which you cannot hide because you're not even aware of the subtle body language your are exhibiting).

Feed the dog ON the "favorite pee spot".  You can't really ever "clean up" the scent of urine to a dog.  Sacrifice this carpet, there are other carpets.

There are two dogs in the home now; I can't determine what their relationship to one another is nor their placement in social hierarchy, so to suggest any form of behavior modification that involves making the dog(s) aware that its/their social hierarchy is beneath your own and that you are in control (a huge factor if a dog is to feel secure) means they both have to undergo it.  A modified form of Nothing In Life Is Free is what I would suggest, FOR BOTH DOGS so that their relationship with one another is not compromised.  The male should be acquiescing to the female, it's the natural order of things, but this is not always the case. Unless you see CLEAR SIGNS that the male is doing this, don't "try this at home".  Here is my method of counter conditioning a dog with separation anxiety.

1.  You can create an emotional independence in the dog by conditioning a "time out" article.
Simply place the chosen article (something you don’t use for any other purpose, like an odd garden statue) in full view of the dog every day for thirty minutes to one hour and call a "time out", during which you actively ignore the dog.  When you remove the article, reward the dog with praise, but don’t overdo it.  Over the course of two weeks, your dog will begin to recognize the article and begin to acknowledge your unavailability (many dogs go to a corner to lie down, or their favorite couch spot, etc.)  Once you observe your dog’s recognition of the article, put it in plain sight about ten minutes before leaving the house (but NOT in the room the dog is confined to, the dog will lose its conditioned response.)  In other words, use the article as a CUE to the dog that you are not available.

2.  Make your dog earn everything for about one month, including pats, entering/leaving the home, etc.  (This is called “Nothing in life is free”.)  You will be promoting yourself psychologically, which will help the dog to feel calmer.

3.  Purchase Turid Rugaas' book, “On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming signals” or go to her web site  Observe the dog’s behaviors before you depart to determine if your departure rituals are creating anxiety.  Use calming signals just before leaving the house WITHOUT saying “goodbye” to the dog (which can set the dog up for emotional distress.)  Dogs instantly respond to these signals and you’ll begin to see that response immediately.

4.  Change your departure rituals so you do not inadvertently "cue" your dog.  This means doing things differently EVERY day during treatment (which should last about two to four weeks.)  If you put your coat on last, put your coat on five minutes before you actually leave the house; if you pick up your keys last, put them in your pocket ten minutes before leaving the house, etc.  Again, given two weeks (at least) of this treatment, along with the others, your dog’s extreme sensitivity to your departure rituals should diminish and/or extinguish.  When you RETURN home, ignore the dog for a few seconds, and then ask the dog to “sit” and acknowledge him/her; keep your homecoming attention short and sweet.  If there is any destruction around (torn objects, etc.) IGNORE IT.  What you don’t want is the dog to fear your RETURN as much as s/he fears your leave taking.  

5.  Do not allow the dog free “run” of the house when you are gone; this places a heavy emotional burden to “protect” on the dog, and might increase stress (which accounts for excessive barking!) Put the dog in a protected space (kitchen, well ventilated and spacious laundry area,  etc., NOT the basement or the garage), or use a crate large enough for him/her to get up and turn around, and only use it for short periods of time.  Keep “special” toys there the dog doesn’t have at any other time, like a “kong” with a ½ teaspoon of peanut butter, a Buster Cube which holds a portion of the dog's daily food and which the dog will roll around to obtain it, a squeaky toy, etc. The dog will begin to anticipate this treat and associate it with your leaving the house.  Try using sound technology especially designed for dogs, as seen on Amazon:

Dogs that have been rehomed often develop separation anxiety; dogs that have been heavily bonded to a person that is then “lost” (not seen again for whatever reason) can suffer serious anxiety at the leave taking of the “new” human caregiver; dogs that have moved with their human family to a totally foreign environment are emotionally “lost” and may develop separation problems.  Some dogs are generally anxious or high strung and have a greater tendency toward emotional distress.  Ask your veterinarian if your dog may benefit from a course of medication while you are using behavior modification to change his/her separation related problem behaviors.  This medication should NOT be SSRIs (“doggy Prozac”) or in the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which inhibit learning.   There are several medications that are presently being used to treat severe separation anxiety, but remember that all medications have side effects.  Be certain to check the web site and observe your dog carefully for potential side effects, especially harmful ones, and report these to the Vet immediately.  

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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