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Thursday, June 23, 2011

He peed on me!!!!!

Angus and I had just finished our weekly obedience session with him and four dog buddies at my friend Connie's house.  We were all standing outside in her front yard, and Connie decided to let her older male dog out of the house to say hi to the rest of us.  Charlie, a border collie mix, came bounding out, happy and confident as can be.  He went from person to person, sniffing and wagging.

Apparently my sweet little Angus, 14 months old, was a bit intimidated by this new, boisterous male dog.  The hair on his neck went up just a bit, and he ducked in behind my right leg.  Instinctively I gave his leash a friendly tug to encourage him to move up and not hide behind me.  He moved up and stood quietly next to me.  Three seconds later I sensed a warm wetness on my lower right leg, and I looked down to see (horrors!) Angus LIFTING HIS LEG ON MINE!!!

Talk about shock and awe from both parties!  I let fly a few loud words that made him want to suck back everything he'd already squirted.  At that point I had to turn my head away from him so he wouldn't seem me laugh, because his expression told all; even HE was mortified by what he'd done!

My very innocent young boy had momentarily let instincts take over while his self control flew out the window.  He had "marked" me as his own, just in case that very friendly new male dog decided to come over and put the moves on me.  It was totally inappropriate behavior, but  was explainable under the circumstances.  Given the negative outcome, I'm quite sure he won't repeat the offense.

I've been peed on before, but never with such submission and innocence.  The first time it was a very bull-headed, intact male Dalmation who became somewhat notorious around his upscale Yakima neighborhood. I was conducting a private lesson at his owner's home.  "Spot" and I had already had a couple serious talks about his behavior on the leash, and I was standing there smugly explaining things to the owner when I felt the wet sprinkle on my leg.  Needless to say, my ego deflated as I realized I had more work cut out for me than I had planned!  Unlike Angus, Spot had marked me with disdain.  He was telling the world (and me) in no uncertain terms that he owned the house and everything in it, including the visitors.  It was the largest insult a dog could give.

A similar thing happened in a group class at Manning Dog Training a few years later.  While using a new student's male dog (neutered) to demonstrate a leadership exercise, the dog hiked his leg on my shoe.  Like Angus, this was a laugher too, and it really broke the ice in the class and gave me the opportunity to explain some "whys" and "hows" to the students as it was turned into a light-hearted teaching moment.

Many people find the subject of "marking" a bit repulsive because of its connotations of dominance, ownership and territoriality.  The thought of anything (or anyone) urinating on you is pretty disgusting.  But dogs are not people; they're animals with strong instincts and generally weak self control.   A dog who marks inappropriately is revealing something about his needs for better leadership, more mental challenges, more exercise, more socialization, and better boundaries.

By the way, marking isn't limited only to intact males.  Neutered dogs do it too, as do females (yes, a female may even hike her leg, or just squat).  Marking boundaries--corners of buildings, car tires, etc.-- in the presence of other dogs is quite common.  Many dogs will also immediately re-mark over a previous dog's's the dog way of "having the last word."   But this behavior should never be excused or tolerated if it's done in the wrong setting (i.e., indoors) or against the wrong backstop (a human leg)!

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