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My Pet World: Dogs may 'look guilty,' but they don’t feel guilty the way humans do

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

My two-year-old Rottweiler is peeing on and around almost everything in my home for no obvious reason. I have two Rottweilers (both from the same litter), and the other one does nothing of the sort. It's not like he has to pee; he lifts his leg and spritzes on furniture, table legs, carpets, the walls, and even on his own feeding tray.

I've tried "stay away" sprays and blocking him from areas where he does this, but nothing helps. I put him immediately in his crate when he does this, and he knows he's done something wrong. Any suggestions? I'm at my breaking point. He's ruining my home.

— Frances, Elmhurst, New York

Dear Frances,

That "guilty look" is not an admission of guilt as you and I know it, but him reacting solely to your displeasure with him. He is not likely making a connection that he has done anything wrong, only that you’re mad at him.


There are many reasons your dog may be marking.

If your dog is not neutered, he is doing what sexually mature male dogs do. They never quite empty their bladder because they need small bits of urine to continually mark their territory. The urine attracts females and tells other male dogs to stay away. The fact that your other dog is not doing this tells me that the one doing it is the more dominant dog. This behavior generally develops when neutering is delayed until after sexual maturity.

If your dog is neutered, then your dog may be asserting dominance over the other dog in the home. Dogs also may mark territory when they’re anxious, when there is stress in the house, when there is conflict among pets, when there is a new baby or family member, when there is a job loss, or when they can see other animals outside, etc.

So, what can you do? Neuter both dogs right away if they are not already. Neutering after sexual maturity can sometimes reduce marking, depending on how ingrained this habit is for your dog.


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