Q: How can I stop my dog from peeing on people’s shoes when we’re at the dog park? My 18-month old Bouvier has recently started raising his leg and peeing on certain people’s shoes/legs whenever we’re at the dog park. He’s done that to a couple of people and now I’m paranoid as soon as he starts getting too close to someone. Two trainers warned me in the past that, approximately at this age, he’d be trying to become more assertive and show who’s the boss; however, I had no idea I’d be dealing with this type of problem.
A: Your brilliant Bouvier is clearly trying to remind people in his own special way that the dog park is no place for one’s Sunday best! Okay, seriously, my first question is whether he’s neutered. Marking is one of those behaviours neutering may eliminate, although it’s not always the case. If your boy is still intact and there are no mitigating circumstances, you might wish to seriously consider having him neutered. Neutering might also help with male-male dog aggression, which can be an issue at dog parks.
It’s up to you to carefully monitor your dog’s behaviour at the park. You can allow your dog to visit with people, but when you see those telltale signs that he’s getting ready to mark, call him to you. Use a high, happy voice rather than a threatening one, just as you do during training sessions. Reward him for coming to you. (By the way, don’t make the mistake that many people do of calling your dog only when you’re getting ready to leave. Most dogs catch on pretty quickly, and a game of Keep-Away is the result.)
Begin practicing recalls at home where there are no distractions and progress to areas with low-level distractions. For example, employ a friend, without and then with a dog, to walk past at a distance as you call your dog. Build the difficulty level slowly. You could also visit the dog park at off hours to practice, since that’s where you need the behaviour to be solid. Next, practice at the park with just a few dogs and people present. The ultimate goal is that regardless of how many people there are and how badly your boy would like to “shower” someone with affection, you are able to interrupt and call him to you. Displaying fabulous obedience skills is a way for your dog to really leave his mark on the dog park!