Solutions to Dog Fear Based Problems and Territory Marking

Solutions to Dog Fear Based Problems and Territory Marking

By Rena Murray

We devoted a prior article to DOG MARKING CODES – TERRITORY MARKING AND SCENT MIXING. There we explained how such behavior is used in wolf packs, and how domestic dogs imitate such behavior when they feel threatened. Excessive dog marking and rolling in dung are frequently signs of a dog’s insecurity.

Territory marking builds the dog’s confidence. Ugh! But don’t despair. There are methods for correcting dog marking behaviors and other fearful dog behaviors. There are more socially acceptable means of building confidence!

For example, take regular walks . . . EVERY DAY! Daily walks or runs put people in a situation where they can make the animal face its fears. It is also important for you, the owner, to control when the animal relieves itself, which begins control of excessive marking. Don’t let Butch mark every tree and bush!

Further, bonding with people also intensifies through daily dog walking. [Note: If you walk two dogs together, you provide them, too, with the most natural way for them to bond.] When dogs are walked or run under disciplined circumstances, they feel useful and secure, and in the process lose much of their obsession with claiming and guarding one place.

Walks are instinctively familiar to the dogs. In the wild, the whole pack changes its primary area each summer and winter. Tension rises up from boredom and restlessness if the pack stays too long in one place. So the Alpha male will take the pack on a territorial run, up to 50 miles a night, during the time when the pack shifts areas.

Your domestic dog is really only a short step away from being wild and still has such dog pack instincts. He needs to expand the territory he visits and to walk and run! Without this need met, he like the wolf will suffer from boredom, pent-up energy, and lack of apparent purpose, and may develop destructive or aggressive tendencies. Fear and uncertainty can set in, along with possessiveness of his territory and fear of interference with it or with him. Territory marking or rolling in dung may be unpleasant results.

Many people try to cure fear-based marking through petting and pampering their insecure pet. THAT DOES NOT WORK! Certainly, I love to give affection to my dogs, and I frequently do. However, they never receive it at the wrong time, and I do not use it to address fear-based behaviors.

When my puppy, who was extreme in everything, would show fear of something, I would lead her through a step-by-step process. For example, the puppy feared bicycles. Here is what I did.

First I walked her a short way on a leash to a place we often passed but had not yet explored. The lack of familiarity with the place prevented her going into a hyperactive state of mind. She was more in tune with me, because that was not her territory.

Then I would bring the pup near a bike and allow her to smell it. If she barked or became excited, I would calmly but firmly remove her from it. When she calmed down, I would bring her back. We repeated step one over and over again until she was where I wanted her.

Sometimes the dog puts up a tantrum, but she will finally submit. Be consistent and persistent! It always pays off.

Step #2 is to have a friend ride the bike in circles around us, at a fair distance, and then gradually lead the pup toward it. The first time, this needs to be a bike with which the pup is familiar. Again, you should remove her if she becomes excited or wants to fight it. With perseverance and repetition, you will succeed, and her fear of the bike will eventually go away.

Expert Author Rena Murray at is a professional Dog Obedience Trainer and Dog Behaviorist with extensive Dog Behavior Modification experience. Daring to ‘tell it like it is,’ Rena seeks to educate as many people as possible through her self-help articles on Dog Behavior, Training a Dog, Aggression Dog Dominance, Dog Breeds, Shelter Dogs, Puppy Training, Dog House Training, Dog Training Equipment, and all things dog related. Rena also publishes a free e-mail newsletter: PAW PERSUASION POINTERS and the PAW PERSUASION BLOG to help people better understand communication and control of their dogs, debunk dog training myths, explore right and wrong dog training techniques for specific situations, address destructive dog behavior, excessive and obsessive dog behavior, and other canine issues and concerns, from new puppy to old dog.

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