Dear Lisa: I have a male Chihuahua that is just the sweetest little dog in the world. He's well trained, does well overall with obedience but is very territorial. My problem is that I can't get him to stop marking in the house. He especially has a fetish for plastic bags and cardboard boxes, both of which cause us continual problems. Is there anything I can do about this habit of his? --Marking What's Mine
You didn't mention if your male dog was neutered or not, but if he continues to exhibit territorial behaviors like urinating in the house, I would suggest getting him neutered if he is not already. This will curb that urge somewhat. Another observation I have is that it seems like what he is marking are new items brought into the house such as a plastic bag from the grocery store or a cardboard box left by a delivery company, for example. Am I on the right track here?
These items are new to the household full of "alien" smells from faraway places. Your little boy seems to be marking them in an effort to call them "mine" in his home. Two obvious quick fixes would be to pick up bags and boxes off the floor and place them on the counter or away in a separate room. Or put him in a crate when you are bringing new items into the house. Many times I get questions that people are looking for a change in behavior from the dog when simply doing something mechanically, i.e. such as removing the offending item of his marking, will change his behavior automatically.
However, if you'd rather train him 'not' to pee on something then use his obedience talents and teach him the 'leave it' command. Next time he saunters over to a potential target, tell him to 'leave it' get his attention with a wonderful treat and reward when he walks away from the bag or box. Eventually he will learn the command and look to you for a treat every time a delivery arrives rather than trying to make it his.
If you have a question, send it to Lisa at AskLisa@AKC.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions she cannot offer individual responses.