Dealing with “marking” or “spraying of urine can be very frustrating when you own a male Labrador Retriever. It’s messy, smelly, and is a seemingly unbreakable habit. How can you, as a dog owner, teach your pet that this is bad behavior? In reality, there are many reasons why male dogs may “mark” furniture or areas of the house, all of which can be remedied by patience, understanding, and a good training routine.
CAUSES OF SPRAYING
This is one of the most common causes of spraying in male Labrador Retrievers. Male dogs are much more territorial than female dogs, though the Labrador breed does not tend to be territorially aggressive. However, a male Labrador Retriever may spray around their “home” to mark their domain against other dogs. This is more common in dogs that have not been neutered, as they are more receptive to the territory markings of other dogs. If you have recently introduced another dog (or another person) into your home, your dog may begin territorial spraying, even if they have never before engaged in this behavior. If your dog sees the “invading” person or dog to be dominant, they may become defensive, and initially mark their territory as a counter-dominance behavior.
Separation anxiety in your Labrador Retriever can cause a host of behavioral problems, and spraying is one of the more common. A Labrador Retriever has a very social temperament, and a constant need for affection. Frequent human interaction, especially early in your dog’s life, is very important. You need to earn your dog’s trust, in that you are not going to abandon them. Dogs that are lacking in attention, or dogs with a history of abandonment may spray around the house when left alone. This is a cry for help from your dog, and should give you a clue that your dog is lacking in some emotional requirements. The negative attention that you give your dog when you find a “spray spot” may be replacing your dog’s quest for positive attention, and this behavior needs to be corrected immediately.
Before a male dog is neutered, he is extremely receptive to the hormonal scent “signature” of other dogs. A dog has an extremely developed sense of smell, and will pick up on any other dogs nearby. If your male dog is indoors, and a female dog in heat walks in front of your house, your dog may be able to pick up her scent. This will trigger a surge of testosterone in your dog’s body, which will cause them to become excited. In their excitement, they will listen to what their instincts are telling them: to make themselves known to the female dog. This is done in the wild by releasing urine, which is what your dog will be compelled to do in this situation. Unfortunately, this is unacceptable behavior, and you will need to use a training method to discourage this behavior in the future.
PREVENTING YOUR MALE DOG FROM SPRAYING
There are many different methods that you can use to discourage or prevent your male Labrador Retriever from spraying or marking. Each dog is different, so you may have to try more than one method before you find an effective way to stop this behavior.
If you are crate-training your dog, the crate can be used as an effective tool to prevent your male dog from spraying. This is because your dog will not spray in the crate, since it is their “den”, and they feel safe. When your dog is indoors, try to put them in the crate as soon as they seem about to spray (ideally, BEFORE they make a mess), and leave them in there for a short time. After several minutes, after their urge to spray has passed, you may take them outside. This process may need to be repeated several times before your dog learns not to spray indoors.
The doggy-diaper is actually not diaper-shaped, it is an absorbent pad that wraps around your dog’s abdomen. When your dog attempts to spray, they will instead urinate on the pad, which will create a very uncomfortable sensation. After several minutes, change the pad, and your dog will repeat this process. Eventually your dog will associate spraying with being uncomfortable, and will no longer need the doggy-diaper.
While this may seem obvious, as much as 50% of spraying can be stopped in a male dog after they are neutered. However, this percentage decreases with age, and spaying a dog at a later age may not discourage this behavior. Ideally, if you are not breeding your male Labrador Retriever, try to have them spayed as soon as possible, since this will prevent most occurrences of spraying.