Can anyone give me advice on stopping a castrated male Setter from scent marking indoors. Bailey is our 2nd setter but 1st male dog. He came to us 5 months ago as a 1 yr old, already castrated by his previous owners just weeks before we took him.
Everything was fine to begin with (We had sort of anticipated the stealing from the kitchen bin and hoarding socks from the laundry) but suddenly Bailey has started scent marking the couch. We never catch him doing it. It's always during the night or when no-one is with him in the house. Could it be separation anxiety?
We have another dog (spayed female spaniel) and she's the dominant dog in the house.
Please, does anyone have any suggestions? The couch needs replacing as I've washed the covers so often that they're becoming tattered but there seems little point if he's going to scent mark a new couch too. My husband is threatening to rehome Bailey but I feel there must be something we can do.
Many thanks for the reassuring advice. We love him very much. He's full of fun and I think my husband was just frustrated that we didn't know how to break the habit. An overnight crate sounds like a sensible solution. He is still very young and we do give him lots of praise when he goes outside.
I agree with Susanne....confine Bailey at night or when you are not around...Crates are just wonderful...I confine my boy when I am away, I pop him in the crate with a biscuit and he is as happy as...then as soon as I get home I let him out to the toilet and praise him when he has been...
Bad habits are so easy to get into and harder to break.....so be patient with your Lad, he will learn.
I now only have to pick up the keys and shut the outside door and Finn knows he is not going with me and rushes into the crate and waits for his biscuit and me to close the door...;-))
Yes crates are a great idea for house training and for young dogs to sleep in so they dont get into the rubbish etc while you are out or asleep! But scent marking is a bit different than house training and has little to do with needing to empty out! Perhaps some of our experienced dog trainers on this site like Ursula or Susan would know about this problem!! Sounds like a dominance(or pecking order issue!)
I'm not sure I qualify, Carmel, but I can give you my thoughts and maybe they will help with overcoming the problem.
Personally I would not say this is a dominance problem as the dog is not scent marking in presence of his owners but when they are out of the house. It sounds more like the opposite: he is a young, possibly insecure dog. Scent marking has become his habit of coping with stress. I think you may be right that he has trouble coping with separation. Many males cock their leg as a way of 'letting off steam' when in stressful situations - and once this habit has been formed it can take a while to break.
To cope for now, a crate is a good idea. But first you need to train Bailey to be relaxed in his crate before you can leave him for any length of time.
At the same time re-train him to be at ease when left on his own: Get him used to you going out of the room and leaving him on his own for just seconds to a minute or so, making no fuss at all, neither when you leave the room nor when you come back. Completely ignore the dog, thereby making no great issue of him being on his own.
In the meantime, to break the habit of scent marking furniture, I suggest leaving unexpected tasty tidbits in exactly those crucial places, so that when he goes to sniff he finds a tasty morcel - not many dogs scent mark where they eat! Punishment is not an option as you say he only does it when you are not there.
Depending where you live there may be a pet behaviourist who can help you in this situation and can assess Bailey's behaviour. Certainly worth a try before considering re-homing him.
I agree with what Susan has written but would like to add that confining does not need to be a cage but can just as well be a single room.
The one without the settee :-)
There is no need for a dog to have the run of the whole house when you are not there.
But being shut in a room (just as well as in a crate) needs some training.
There are plenty of dogs that have no experiance of being shut in one room with a closed door.
So even there, start with short periods!
But there is a also "quick-fix" to be had.
And that is the DAP-collar.
Works wonders with most dogs and I did a test for the kennel-club and it certainly was a short-cut for many.
The collar works for about 3 weeks and will reduce nervousness etc.
I am personally against the use, as I can see that it can be misused in so many ways. Particually when it comes to breeding, competing and choosing suitable dogs to breed from.
But in this particular case, the above hardly applies.
(Sorry, I dont seem to be able to get this link clickable)
Just for those members who have never heard of a DAP collar: NO, THIS IS NOT AN ELECTRIC DEVICE!!!
DAP stands for Dog Appeasing Pheromones and is a substance or scent produced by a lactating bitch from the mammary glands.
Many thanks for all the brilliant suggestions. I thought separation anxiety was the issue as it was only when he was alone that he scent marked the house. (He does also stand on the window sill, pawing at the window when we leave him). I'll certainly try the tidbit idea - never thought of that and he is a very food motivated dog.
Don't worry, we never punish him for it as we never catch him in the act.
Borrowed a crate from our neighbours today and left him in it with a biscuit and the door open. He seemed to actually quite like it.
I'm quite hopeful. He is still very young and has an unsettled start so it makes sense that he might be insecure. I guess the longer we love him and give him ground rules, the more secure he'll become.
I've been reading all the tips everyone has given, and i surely agree that your dog needs to get used to be alone without feeling insecure. But I'd also like to suggest another command I've thougt my cocker some years ago. This was a particularly stressed dog, that would not sit or lie quiet for a second, wich became unberable. So I thaugh her the command "calm". With this command, she had to be still, but that was not the main purpose, the main purpose was that she would learn to actually be calm. In 3 training sessions she realised she had to be still, in whatever position she wished. I used this to gain quiet times with her, in wich I was quiet also, for example I'd give the command and then sit near her and read a book. After a month or so, the calm commad actually made her calm down and relax. I increased the difficulty slowly, and after 6 months she was able to be calm in the most stressful situations, as long as I gave the command. I also taught her to be calm when I left the room, at first for small periods, then enlarging them. This last part I think would be very helpful to your dog, because it could enhance his confidence that it is ok to be calm when you're not around!
From my experience, this is a command that takes a lot of time to be fully managed by the dog, but can become very handy, even in situations like going to the Vet (and Vets would apreciate it, I'm sure!).
Hi Alison Sorry to hear Bailey is doing this perhaps if you get a crate to put him in while you are out and at night with his toys give him his own space i am sure he will settlle he wil;l still have the hormones of an un neutered dog
Are you sure it is him and not your other dog as u say she is the dominant one To re-home Bailey now would be disastrous for him give him time and i am sure all will be well
Definitely Bailey as we shut our other dog in another room to stop her stealing all his toys and treats. He's been a completely different dog since we borrowed a crate from our neighbour last week. A whole week and the couch is untouched! Makes me more and more convinced that he's just insecure about being left alone. He's been getting longer walks as I've felt so guilty about crating him, which I think has also helped.
This week he's taken to snuggling on the couch with me and sitting on my knee when I'm on the computer. He seems a lot calmer in himself and I've discovered that the word 'stop' instead of 'no' seems to calm him down when he gets a little too boisterous.
Hopeful of a good outcome.