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Understanding and Managing Your Dog's Urge to Mark

A common issue that many mushers face is their male dog’s urge to stop and mark territory during the run. Understanding why this behavior occurs and how to manage it can significantly enhance your mushing experience.

Dogs have a natural instinct to mark their territory, especially in environments where other dogs frequent. Marking is different from simply peeing; it’s a way for dogs to communicate with each other and establish their presence or territory. When your dog stops to mark, it’s responding to the scents left by other dogs in the area, essentially leaving its own "message" in reply.

When you’re mushing in a semi-urban environment, the presence of numerous dogs walking around means there are many scents marking the territory as their own. Your dog feels the need to respond to these signals. Initially, your dog might actually need to urinate, but after about a kilometer of running, the need to pee diminishes, and the urge to mark takes over.

While marking is a natural behavior, it can interrupt the flow of your run. Depending on your preference, you might want to allow your dog to mark or encourage it to continue running without stopping. Pay attention to your dog's behavior. You’ll notice signs when your dog is about to stop and mark. Typically, they will start to slow down and veer to the side. As soon as you see these signs, act quickly. Before your dog comes to a complete stop, gently turn your bike and pull the leash in the opposite direction and give a firm but short "no." After giving the command, maintain your pace and keep moving forward as if nothing happened. This helps your dog understand that stopping to mark is not part of the running routine. Consistently applying this method will teach your dog that marking during the run is not acceptable. Over time, your dog will likely reduce or stop the behavior altogether.


Every musher-dog team is different, and what works for one might not work for another. If you don’t mind the occasional stop, allowing your dog to mark can be part of the adventure. However, if you prefer a seamless run, following the steps outlined above will help maintain your flow.



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