Male German Shepherds are fun and loyal companions once you train them, but they can be hard work before then! You may hear lots of German Shepherd rumors and myths – yet some of this info is true. But what about male German Shepherd spraying? And is German Shepherd spraying just a boy thing?
Male German Shepherds do spray, but only under certain situations. While these will vary from dog to dog, male German Shepherds tend to spray either to mark their territory, to ward off attackers, or when trying to attract a female dog in heat.
Knowing why male German Shepherds spray can help reduce the moments when they do occur. With the right training, you can control this natural behavior.
Welcome to the world of German Shepherd spraying. Let’s dive in!
Why Do Male German Shepherds Spray?
Spraying or urine marking is a normal trait for territorial animals such as dogs, and German Shepherds are no different. Dogs use it to communicate and inform other dogs who they are and why they are there.
While the stench is a nuisance to you, to your male German Shepherd, that smell conveys the identity, sex, and reproductive status of the sprayer, whether that be himself or another dog.
“Leaving a scent mark with urine is a normal dog communicative behavior.”VCA Hospitals
German Shepherds are among the few breeds which aggressively mark their territory with these signals as well. While all GSDs do it, males spray more often, especially if they are reproductively intact.
They also start marking young. Research shows some German Shepherds start spraying from as young as 3 months old with all dogs eventually marking within their first 2 years.
Common Spraying Situations
People often confuse spraying with urinating, but German Shepherd spraying is a different phenomenon. While they both release urine, male dogs will only eject a small amount on a vertical surface when they mark, usually while raising a leg.
Here’s an interesting short video to help you distinguish between your dog marking or peeing. In the case of a multi-dog home, it’s especially important to recognize the difference between spraying and urinating as territorial behavior can sometimes trigger fights between dogs:
Male German Shepherds can mark anywhere and at any time, but they typically do it under certain situations. These trigger situations vary from animal to animal, but all tend to fall under a few common categories:
When a Male German Shepherd Will Spray
Male German Shepherds will typically spray in a few common circumstances. If you notice them spraying, then one of these situations is most likely occurring:
- The presence of a reproductively intact female dog – Unneutered male German Shepherds spray more often when attempting to attract a female dog currently in heat or to ward off other potential suitors.
- Entering a new environment – As territorial animals, male German Shepherds want to own their home. A dog’s “home” can include his actual home, his yard, his daily walking route, nearby parks, and anywhere else he regularly visits. Fresh new areas are bad enough but add the scent of other dogs and you have a recipe for a marking frenzy.
- Exciting social environments – Despite their aggressiveness, male German Shepherds are social creatures, and their social situations can trigger marking events. Some males will only mark in the presence of females. Others will only do it around other males. Still, other dogs will only spray when overstimulated regardless of the reason.
- Anxiety attacks – Males can also spray when they are nervous or anxious. Their anxiety makes them use more urine than they would normally use to mark, as well as cause them to tag non-vertical surfaces as well.
- Submissive personality – while uncommon, a male German Shepherd may spray to show submission. These dogs tend to only urinate when playing, greeting, and making physical contact with others, or when you scold or punish them. In these situations, they will display submissive behavior such as averting their eyes, cringe or cover, flatten their head or ears, or roll over on to their belly.
- Medical conditions and diseases – While spraying is normal, male German Shepherds can do it for abnormal reasons as well. If your pet sprays all the time, he might have a medical condition or an infection in his urinary tract or kidneys.
Regardless of the reasons why your pet sprays, you should not scold and physically abuse him. Yelling at dogs rarely achieves anything, and you will make the situation worse. Should you need to discipline your GSD for any reason, I have a great article which details how to go about it.
How To Deal With a German Shepherd Spraying?
Male German Shepherds are very territorial and proud creatures, even as puppies! They will attempt to dominate anything that moves within their territory, including their owners if they let them!
As the dominant gender of their breed, they will aggressively protect what belongs to them. Spraying is just one aspect of this.
Their proud and sometimes aloof nature makes them wary of strangers. This situation can become worse if your pet comes from aggressive parents as well. You must socialize them from a young age and properly train them from when you bring them home at around 8 weeks old.
German Shepherds are an incredibly intelligent breed and are easy to train. Respect them and treat them fairly if you want them to obey, including not marking your home.
Male German Shepherds are also enthusiastically curious animals. They like to play and learn just like any other dog. Thus, all is not lost. You can house train your pet to curb his spraying habits, however, proper house training takes time.
If you have an older dog or an untrained rescue dog it can take weeks before your pet changes its ways. Thus, you may want to try other solutions while you train him.
Some effective methods for reducing male German Shepherd spraying behavior include:
- Increasing your pet’s socialization
- Reducing your dog’s anxiety
- Positive reinforcement training
Some of these solutions are more involved than others, but they all stem from keeping your dog away from his triggers. For instance, you should deep clean anything brought in from another household, such as furniture, especially if other pets lived there.
Make sure you do not use an ammonia-based cleaner, as this will defeat the object. Urine contains ammonia, so your cleaner would trigger your pet to spray again! Always use an enzymatic cleaner, as it easily breaks down stains and is very effective at removing pet urine.
Let’s look at each one of these measures in more detail to reduce your male German Shepherd’s spraying:
1. Increase Socialization
Male German Shepherds can be very aggressive sprayers, but this is not set in stone. Socialization governs a dog’s temperament as much as genetics. You can prevent spraying by teaching your pet not to do it by raising them accordingly.
For example, a young puppy will grow less aggressive with regular exposure to other people, animals, and situations. Each new moment of socialization removes a spray trigger, keeping your pet calm and gentle. This should start whilst the pup is still with the breeder from around 4 weeks of age.
While it is best to start while they are young, you can continue the socialization with any German Shepherd you bring into your family. However, you should also enroll your dog into an obedience school as soon as possible to maximize his training and experiences. That includes putting puppies into obedience kindergarten classes.
Another good socialization technique is taking your dog on regular walks in a park and your neighborhood as soon as they’ve had all their vaccinations. You should introduce your dog to any new people and pets you meet along the way.
2. Reduce Anxiety
Male German Shepherds spray to ward off danger when they are anxious or nervous. Dogs can get anxious when they come in contact with new objects or furniture in their territory.
However, each dog reacts to different stimuli in different ways, and you must assess your dog’s behavior before labeling his actions as an anxiety attack. That also means evaluating his behavior when he is not marking as well.
You need to identify the exact situations when he acts skittish so you can reduce or eliminate them from your dog’s life. Dogs can get anxious about many things. Some common sources of anxiety for German Shepherds include:
- Beeping smoke alarms
- Changes in routine or the family
- Conflicts with other animals or people
German Shepherds are affectionate, social animals and are one of the breeds prone to separation anxiety. They are fine when you are around but start disruptive behavior such as chewing, digging, barking, or soiling everything once you leave, even for short periods. Some signs you should look for include whether your pet becomes upset or nervous every time you are about to leave your house.
Each source of anxiety and stress affects the severity of your pet’s spraying and other nervous behaviors. So, you need to experiment and find the true cause as soon as possible.
As male German Shepherds often spray to show dominance and mark territory, neutering them can help reduce the behavior as documented in this study. This is because it lowers aggressive behaviors while also preventing dogs from producing unwanted offspring.
Neutering will also remove the likelihood of your pet spraying to court female German Shepherds.
Neutering is a surgical operation that removes your dog’s testicles. The process requires several days. One day for the surgery, and the rest for healing. While not a necessity for the health of your dog, it is recommended for many situations and behavior issues beyond just spraying. It helps prevent some diseases and disorders as well.
However, neutering will not eliminate spraying behavior. It only reduces it. You must combine neutering with other solutions to truly control how often your male German Shepherd sprays.
4. Positive Reinforcement
Out of all the solutions for marking behavior, house training using positive reinforcement techniques is the only truly effective method. It gets right to the core of the problem, however, it can backfire if done poorly!
Poor, incomplete, or lack of house training is often the leading cause for most pet urine marking behavior. Your GSD may spray because he has always done it, lived as a stray or in a kennel, or for any number of unknown reasons.
Fortunately, it is never too late to start training your German Shepherd as you can learn in this article. While it does get more challenging as the dog ages, you can still house train your pet with lots of patience, discipline, and the right methods. Remember, German Shepherds are smart dogs and they love to learn.
Thus, any training regimen will work, but here are a few tips that can speed up the process:
- Positive reinforcement
- No physical punishments
- Give your dog the attention he needs
- Lots of exercise
- Try dog diapers or belly bands
It deserves to be repeated that you should always treat your pet with respect and kindness. Like with humans, constructive and positive reinforcement works wonders in all dogs including German Shepherds. Generally, you want to make them go outside whenever they start spraying or any other unwanted behavior!
You should never train any dog with fear and you should certainly never hit your pet or rub his nose in his spray! German Shepherds, especially males, tend to rebel in the face of fear to assert their dominance. Instead, you should give them treats every time you get them out of the house.
German Shepherds also need constant attention during house training; thus, you may want to try belly bands. They may help as a temporary fix if you cannot watch your dog all the time. GSDs don’t like being wet, and they will usually stop spraying once they realize that marking makes them uncomfortable.
Routine exercise helps immensely as well. Going outside provides more than just socialization as it also teaches your German Shepherd to go outside when he needs to go!
You just need to be aware of any marking behavior during your walks such as half-second peeing. You want to stop these moments as soon as possible as letting him do his thing just reinforces the behavior. Luckily, you can just distract your pet to get him to stop.
5. If All Else Fails, Remove Temptations
Spraying is a natural reaction to many stimuli, and yes, you can reduce it. However, not every dog is the same and some GSDs are too proud for any measure to work. When all else fails, the only other thing you can do is keep your pet away from his temptations.
You should always consult with your vet before you try any disciplinary technique, but if you must prevent your German Shepherd from marking your home, you can:
- Keep him in a pen or crate – but no more than 4 hours for crating
- Enroll him in a daycare center for dogs
- Give him ample exercise – at least 2 hours per day
- Put him in another room
- Have distractions to hand such as interactive toys or treats
- Clean your home to wipe away the scents of your guests as they leave
Sure, it might be a challenge, but you need to keep your pet’s well-being in mind while you have fun with your guests. Male German Shepherds are very protective of their owners, and your pet might even be spraying to protect you!
When to Call the Vet?
While you can handle most spraying behavior yourself, there are times when you will need assistance from your veterinarian.
Medical reasons for spraying include:
- Urinary tract infections
- Abnormal genitals
- Urinary incontinence
- Medicine side effects
- Kidney and urinary diseases
Urinary problems can agitate your German Shepherd and give him pain and discomfort along with frequent urination. As urinary infections often lead to kidney failure, you will need to get your dog checked out as soon as possible.
Many dogs suffer from incontinence. This medical condition makes them empty their bladders, leading to an increased likelihood of spraying even while sleeping. Your GSD may not even be aware when they wet themselves. Belly bands can be useful in this situation.
Urinary Tract Infection
Urinary tract infections make dogs empty themselves in frequent small amounts which can resemble normal marking moments. Luckily dogs suffering from urinary tract infections will excessively lick their genitals as well, making this a good indicator of the disease.
Other Medical Causes
Urinary problems are the prime medical reasons for spraying, but they are not the only ones. Several diseases and disorders cause frequent urination, including some side effects of some medications.
Treatments Your Vet Can Provide
Some common urinary treatments include:
- Lots of water
- Changes to your dog’s diet
Female German Shepherds Spray Too!
While male marking is more noticeable, all German Shepherds spray. Female dogs just spray for different reasons than their male counterparts. The female behavior is still largely done to mark territory, but they are not nearly as aggressive.
Generally, female German Shepherds only spray when they are in heat to attract any males that happen to be nearby. They may also do it to show affection towards you. Thus, spaying a female GSD tends to be more effective at eliminating the behavior than neutering is for the males.
Otherwise, female German Shepherds spray for the same reasons as males. They can also do it when stressed or when they are suffering from a urinary infection.
Male German Shepherds spray to communicate with other dogs. They will mark their territory to show dominance, they will scent when they are overstimulated, excited, or to ward off competitors, or when trying to attract a bitch in heat.
You can modify or reduce the moments when your dog urine marks by following the suggestions in this post. This will improve the quality of life for your GSD, your family and friends, and you!
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