Dog Marking Codes – Territory Marking and Dog Scent Mixing
By Rena Murray
Everyone has seen a male dog lift his leg to mark his territory. It”s dog instinctive behavior, but why? Most people are not aware of the significance behind or beyond that.
In wolf packs, only the Alpha male and Alpha female lift a leg to mark. All other members of the pack, regardless of sex, from Beta to Omega, must squat. That”s why you see some males squat to urinate and some females lift their hind legs.
The urine contains messages to warn unwelcome visitors and members of other packs of the strength of the Alpha, his age, and how the pack is faring. Other markings such as gnawing on trees and rubbing ear wax into the ground are used as well. [Sometimes you might see your dog rub the side of his head on the ground. He’s marking.]
Because predators are many in the wild, wolves sometimes roll in caribou droppings to disguise themselves. This helps them avoid detection by approaching enemies or predators. [The attraction of cat dung?]
For example, wolves are deemed mature and leave the pack in which they grew up when they are two years of age, searching for a mate and a permanent pack. When a two-year-old leaves a pack, the Alpha male of the new territory will sometimes roll in caribou droppings and follow essentially parallel to him for a while. The newcomer”s scent sends messages such as, “I would be a contributor here,” or “My best experience is as a young, good hunter.” The disguised Alpha then evaluates those messages and determines if he will accept the newcomer. If he does, then the whole pack does.
Domestic dogs imitate these behaviors when they feel threatened. Excessive marking and rolling in dung are signs of insecurity. Territory marking builds the dog”s confidence. Surely there’ a better way to build confidence, a way of correcting dog marking behaviors!
When wolves have been frightened in the wild, they run to the pack leader and each one licks his face and chin, they bite him lovingly under his chin, and the Alpha female commences the cleaning of his eyes. The pack members then lick and clean each other”s faces and eyes. You see this behavior when two dogs have been put in the same environment and are coming to accept each other.
Next, the Alpha male wolf will generally release his glandular scent on the Beta (as he does not let anyone near his Alpha female). Then the Beta will rub himself against another member, and they spread the scent marking throughout the entire pack. This also stimulates the oil glands in their skin, so that their own personal scent is heightened and renewed, and their coats are kept excellent condition. Importantly, this daily ritual strengthens pack bonds of unity and serves as a reminder of the Alpha’s competence, thereby boosting confidence both individually and as a pack.
Sometimes they also release their scents from the glands at the top of their tails. That odor is NOT pleasant to human noses! You have probably smelled it when a dog is scared enough. It”s unmistakable!
Many people try to cure such fear-based marking by their dogs through petting and pampering. Of course, that does not work!
If you are at home and your dog is scared, do NOT pet him. Instead, allow him to lick your chin and cheeks. This way, he will relax. This is an appropriate way of building his confidence, using his dog pack instincts to your and his advantage.
Expert Author Rena Murray at Paw Persuasion is a no-nonsense Dog Obedience Trainer and Dog Behaviorist with extensive Dog Behavior Modification experience. She dares to tell it like it is! Rena publishes 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. Search the PAW PERSUASION BLOG and subscribe to Rena”s free e-mail newsletter: PAW PERSUASION POINTERS to help you better understand communication and control of your 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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