How do dogs mark their owners?

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Do Dogs’ Scent Mark Their Owners?

When we have something, there is this want in us to protect it—to guard it jealously so that no one can claim ownership to what is rightfully ours because we own it, and we want to continue owning it. This behavior is found in all species in the world due to the reason of wanting to guard our things against jealousy.

Animals mark things they think belong to them in order to ward off people or other animals that would want to take or own that thing. This behavior also happens when it is related territory. Dogs are not left out when talking about marking their ‘possessions’. Dogs love hierarchy, somewhat similar to wild cats—where there is a pack leader, and there are followers. When dogs are marking things, it is either in submission or to claim ownership, to a person, thing, or even a territory. Scent marking most times is usually on items or inanimate things. However, in some cases, dogs mark their owners to claim their ownership. Marking their owners is mostly to show ownership, although, sometimes, it is to show submission to their owner, especially when they are afraid of them. 

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When a dog has a new doggy companion, it might cause some sort of competition between them. The dog starts feeling it has a need to mark its owner to ascertain that they are its possession. This is what starts the marking of its owner. Usually, a dog is not supposed to mark its owner because it is not a regular behavior. However, we cannot rule out the fact that it happens. When it happens, it is usually borne from a competitiveness or inferiority complex. To answer the question, “do dogs’ scent mark their owners” the answer is yes, they do, sometimes.

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How do dogs mark their owners?
How do dogs mark their owners?

Why would a dog mark its owner?

After knowing that marking owners is not a normal thing for dogs, it is very plausible that everyone would want to consider what the reason might be for this behavior. Why would a dog mark its owner? The answer is not far-fetched. Taking humans, for example, when you are in a place where the possession of your belongings is threatened, you mark your things by writing your name. Writing of your name or engraving of your name is a form of marking. What is the need to write your name when you can just say it is mine? Writing your name is just to prove that the ownership you claim is actually real. Another instance that can be related to this marking in dogs is walking your dog in the park and leashing it. The leash serves as the mark to differentiate your dog from all the other dogs in the park—similarly, same with when a dog’s place is threatened in the eyes of its owner.

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Usually, dogs are very sensitive in nature, to the point that they know when their place is threatened. When a new dog is brought to the house, and the attention they usually receive is not as much as the amount they received before, it causes some sort of inferiority complex in the old dog. This inferiority complex will make the former dog want to mark its owner whenever he or she gives it attention. This marking will let the other dog know that “this owner is mine.” Another reason why a dog might mark its owner is when its owner has a new face over at the house, more often than usual. It could be a new friend or even a baby. When the dog is very clingy to its owner, it will lead to marking. Marking of its owner could also be done in a park where there are other dogs to show possession. Another reason for this marking is fear of its owner. This happens mostly when they are punished for marking. There are several reasons why a dog would mark its owner, and it is important to check the situation surrounding the marking.

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How Do Dogs Mark Their Own Area?

Just as we fence our houses or lands, so that another person or builder does not encroach, so does a dog mark its area, so other dogs don’t encroach into their space. In packs of wolves and wild cats, there is a culture of claiming territory and building of hierarchy. This territorial lifestyle leads them to mark the area where the pack would stay. Similarly, in dogs, this is also common—the pack lifestyle alongside their territorial nature. Marking is done in two ways; expulsion of feces and urination. Usually, the urine of dogs contains some pheromones. Before going into the job of the pheromones, it is important to know the meaning of pheromones. 

Pheromones are chemical signaling substances that have the ability to pass information from one living organism to another living organism of the same species. From the meaning of pheromone, we can easily deduce the job of the pheromones contained in dog urine. To explain further, the job of the pheromones is to send information of the dog it was released from to another dog that comes close to where the dog has marked. That is, if a dog marks a particular area, there are pheromones in the urine it releases. These pheromones contain information about the dog—information like; gender of the dog it was released from, the age of the dog, and even as much as the social status of the dog. Yes, including social status, as they have hierarchy also in the dog world. All this information that is contained in just a tiny amount of urine, is understood by any other dog that comes to that particular place. This information is understood by the other dog because it is a dog, and dogs are the same species of animals. This means that if a human goes to that particular place, they might not understand what is going on because we are of a different species. Anyway, they use this urine to mark the area that they want to make theirs. It could be two places or even more. They just release a small amount of urine or feces in that area to mark as theirs.

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How Do Dogs Mark?

How dogs mark is pretty easy to tell and easy to know. Before a dog marks a person, place, or object, you would see them raise one of their hind limbs up and high in the air. This behavior of raising their limbs high in the air cannot be seen when they are just urinating or pooping. Remember, marking anything, a place, or anyone is with a little amount of urine and at least a little amount of poop. If the amount of urine is more than just a little, be careful, your dog might just be urinating, not marking. If a dog is about to mark an area as its own, let us say the area is about one foot long, in width, and about the same in length; if a dog marks in there, you would see it doing that in about two or more spots. That is, you would see it raising its leg and urinating. It might do it several times in that area, provided that that is the area it has already marked. If it is marking a toy or an object, it is pretty much the same thing; it would release a little urine on it so that other dogs steer clear from it. If it is marking a person, the process is similar —raising its leg and releasing a tiny amount of urine. It is important to note that the urine of a dog is odorless and colorless. If the urine of a dog has the slightest bit of odor or any kind of color, it can be said that the dog is sick.

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How do I stop my dog from marking territory in the house?

Dogs marking territory is very common, especially with male dogs. Despite how common the marking of territory is in dogs, it can be quite uncomfortable when they leave marking their territory outdoors and start marking inside the house. It might even decide that the next target is an important piece of furniture that is worth thousands of dollars, marking it might cause destruction of the furniture. This is probably why you are curious to know how to stop it from marking its territory all over the house so that your precious ornaments do not go down the drain. The first step in stopping dogs from marking in your household is to spay or neuter your dog. The need to mark significantly decreases in your dog when it is spayed. You might be wondering what spaying is; it is quite easy. Spaying is the removal of the reproductive organs responsible for making offspring, thereby making the dog sterile. If it is a female dog, spaying is done by removing the ovaries and uterus using a surgical procedure. When it is a male dog that is concerned, what is removed is the testicles. These procedures help curb inappropriate behaviors that are exhibited by the dogs on a normal day. 

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This is not to say that dogs would not mark because they are spayed; rather it means, the occurrence of marking would be reduced significantly. If, after the dog is spayed, it still marks incessantly, it would be advisable to see a vet. Another way to stop marking is by using anti-enzymatic cleaners on the areas it has marked so that it would not be able to know where it has previously marked. Hiding items that could make it mark could also be a good idea to avoid destruction. Important furniture should not be put in the way too so that it doesn’t mark it. Previously marked items should be thoroughly cleaned with an anti-enzymatic cleaner and hidden out of sight. Show a form of dominance to the dog so it can easily obey you when you ask it not to mark when you catch it in the act. 

Synthetic hormone diffuser has a calming effect, which means it can reduce their urge to mark. This could be of great help in stopping them from marking. If your dog has anxiety issues about a new dog in the house, you could take it to a vet to help with what is going on. If the dog is not comfortable because of a new family member, make the family member bond with it so that it can feel comfortable around them. Another thing that could help a great deal is keeping it away from the place it has marked before. If the dog cannot be kept away from that place, it is also good to take its mind off marking that place often by giving it treats, so that it associates that place with treats, and not marking. Limiting its contact with outside dogs or other dogs generally could go a long way in helping it. Excess physical activity, although healthy, could cause anxiety. It is important to limit the amount of physical activity performed by a dog that marks inside the house. The last and most important thing to do is monitor your dog. It is better to catch it in the act of marking and correct it. Correcting it or scolding it for marking when you didn’t see it marking can cause anxiety for the dog, thereby causing more marking.

Why is my dog Marking all of a Sudden?

Your dog has not marked before, and it suddenly started marking? It is important to survey and check the situation surrounding the period it started marking. Most times, why dogs start marking suddenly is because there are new circumstances at home or surrounding their owner. If your new partner or family member comes over very often, it can cause the dog to be really anxious and then start marking. Anxiety caused by different situations at home can cause marking. This type of marking can be stopped with the help of a vet doctor. When there is a new object in the house, like; furniture or even glasswares, the dog might feel threatened and start marking all over the house. 

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Another thing that might make a dog start marking in the house is when its owner has a new dog in the house. The presence of the new dog in the house might cause the dog to want to show its dominance. Somewhat like saying, “this is my house, where the hell are you going to?”. To show that they have a right over the house, even more than the other dog. To show their right to ownership, they might start marking all over the house. Another thing that would make a dog mark all over the house is making it stay in the company of other dogs. If these dogs are unfamiliar, the dog would feel threatened. Feeling threatened would make the dog mark all over the place where it is at. When visitors have the smell of other dogs on them, it could make the dog mark. There are many things that can cause a dog to suddenly start marking; it can never be because of no reason.

What does dog marking smell like?

Before going into what marking smells like, it is important to know that marking is sometimes by the use of urine or even poop. To know what the marking smells like, you should first consider the kind of marking the dog did in that place. If the marking is poop, then it would smell awful. I mean, we all know that the feces of dogs smell awful and foul. If the dog marks with urine, it would be better off. Not because it is good to mark, but because the urine of a dog is odorless and colorless. Now, if a healthy dog marks with a small amount of urine, you shouldn’t notice a thing. The only case where you would notice it is if the dog is sick and needs treatment.

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Do female dogs mark their territory?

Female dogs are also dogs, and it is in a dog’s nature to mark their territory to show ownership so that no other dog encroaches into their place. Although, it is mostly male dogs that mark their territory. Still, female dogs do this to attract mates from male dogs or, on rare occasions, to show that that particular territory is theirs.

Spayed female dog marking in the house

Normally, it is believed that spaying a dog can stop it from marking in the house. This is not totally a lie; spaying reduces the chances of marking often. Nonetheless, if they still mark a lot, even when in the home, and as a female, it is important to visit the vet, there could be an underlying condition.

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How to stop a male dog from peeing on everything outside? 

If you spay or neuter a dog, it should stop it from peeing on everything outside. Another thing that could stop it from peeing on everything outside is letting it know your dominant side, with words like; sit and stop, so it can obey you when you want it to. Another way is to make it stay away from other dogs that can be intimidating. Finally, it is important to see the vet when you’ve tried all of these tactics, and it is beyond your control.


Hazel Buckley
Hazel Buckley

About Hazel Buckley
Hazel is an animal enthusiast and educator who grew up on a farm which her parents owned in Ingogo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.  The farm was situated right under the Majuba Mountains - the site where the Anglo-Boer War was fought. 

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