Changing The Leader Follower Dynamic to Stop a Maltipoo’s Marking in the House

By: David Codr

Published Date: April 15, 2016

Jackie and Patches

Jackie (left) is a thirteen-year-old Multipoo who lives with her son Patches, an eleven-year-old Multipoo who is marking and pooping in a room in the house.

The dogs were fairly subdued for the greeting which is not a surprise due to their age. They came up and investigated me with their noses but did not attempt to jump up on me and there was virtually no barking.

When I sat down with their guardians to discuss the situation, the dogs started to nudge the humans with their nose, paw at them or jump up on the chair to get attention. This was not at all surprising because the dogs guardians immediately started to pet and caress the dogs anytime they did this.

To help the guardians transition their dogs into more desired behaviors, I went over a practice that I like to call Petting with a purpose.

By asking the dogs to do something simple like sitting or laying down before they are rewarded, their guardians can start to change the dog’s perception of authority.

Often when I deal with dogs that are marking in the house, it is related to the dog thinking that they are in the same position of leadership as the humans. It will be important for the dog’s guardians to consistently correct the dogs anytime they jump up on them and instead give them the counter order before they provide attention or affection.

I spent the next few minutes asking questions about how the guardians potty trained their dogs and rewarded them for successful eliminations.

The dogs guardian had introduced an expression (multiple words) rather than a single command word. Based on how they used it, I think the dogs had interpreted the command expression as meaning “do you want to go outside” rather than “do you need to go outside to potty?”

To help the dogs understand that their guardians want them to eliminate outside, I spent the next few minutes going over some remedial potty training with their guardians.

I also suggested that the guardian’s check out the column that I wrote for my weekly dog behavior column in the Omaha World Herald which offers 10 tips on potty training a dog.

The potty training reinforcement I outlined in the above video should help the guardians communicate to their dogs that it is much more desirable, and rewarding, when they eliminate outside.

The marking is a different story. Marking is not an accident, it is an intentional action by the dog to communicate ownership or possession of a location or object. In a pack setting, generally it’s only the top dog that is allowed to mark.

In order to stop Patches from marking in the house, the guardians will need to consistently provide leadership and structure so that he starts to identify as being in a follower position. Once the dog perceives his authority as being a subordinate to the humans, it will seem inappropriate for him to mark in the home.

We finished up the session by feeding the dogs in a more structured way. I always like to incorporate structure into every day and routine activities because this is a great way to develop and reinforce a healthy leader follower dynamic. Because the activity is repeated daily, it gives the guardians the ability to achieve more of a leadership status in the dog’s eyes by doing something they have to do anyways.

It was great to see how quickly the dogs were starting to adapt to the new rules, boundaries and escalating consequences that I taught their guardians.

Just like anyone who is being demoted, there will be a transition. Its likely the dogs will continue to challenge for the next few days as they like their status the way it is. But if their guardians stay consistent and reward or correct the dogs with good timing, it shouldn’t take long before both dogs give up their unwanted behaviors for good.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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