In the course of fostering and getting dogs adopted out to new homes, we have come across a few young dogs with this peculiar problem: The dog pees whenever it greets people or when we come back home at the door. This will happen even after the dog has just returned from a walk and done its business. It can be frustrating because it changes the entire mood of the scene: from one that is being happy to come home and all ready to hug your dog to one that makes you head straight into the bathroom for a mop and trying frantically to get the dog not to walk all over the house with its pee-stained paws while you clear the puddle! Sigh…
Pet experts often explain this behavior as merely a case of the dog being over-excited. Overtime the dog will grow out of this behavior when it hits adulthood. However, we discovered that over-excitement is not the only reason for such behavior. In this week’s article, we hope to provide a more complete explanation of this behavior and how to cope with it.
This canine behavior is known as submissive urinating and it is most prevalent in puppies or very shy and submissive mature dogs. It is natural and should be deal with in a positive way because it is not a case of house training problem. Submissive urinating is an involuntary and subconscious reflex, that is, the dog isn’t deliberately trying to do it and he may not even be aware he is doing it at the time.
In puppies, such behavior needs not be a concern as oftentimes they outgrow it as they get older. However if it happens in a mature dog, then it indicates an extremely submissive dog with a very low self esteem. This behavior is also most common in abused dogs.
As it is the dog’s nature to submit to authority, this is a way of showing the dominant person that they are submissive. By doing this they are asking the superior person or animal not to hurt them.
To the dog, this is act of submissive urinating is also a way of pleasing the master. Hence, raising your voice, scolding the dog and rubbing its face onto his own pee will not solve the problem. Punishing them for urinating will further aggravate the situation because the confused dog will interpret it to mean that they have not pleased you enough and thus push them to urinate more to try harder to please you.
So if we should not discipline the dog for submissive urinating, then how else can we solve this problem?
1) Identify the things, situations or people that cause the excitement or stress on the dog which triggered the submissive urination.
a) If you think your dog pees owing to the excitement of seeing you when you first arrived home, then you need to find ways to minimize the excitement.
b) If the dog pees owing to a lack of confidence, then focus on ways to make him feel 100% accepted and to be more sure of himself.
2) Implement the appropriate adjustments.
a) Instead of an enthusiastic greeting to your dog, just quietly walk in from the main door and go about your business. Let the dog settle down on its own first.
b) Let him outside to pee as usual as soon as you open the door. No greeting first.
c) If your habit is to talk to the dog, then just say “Hi Blessing” in a calm and casual tone of voice. Not too high or low in pitch because these tones will create excitement that leads to urination.
d) Don’t make eye contact (look directly into its eyes) because it may feel intimdated and pee. We are not saying that you cannot look at the dog’s face; you can still do so but just don’t zoom directly into his eyes only. You can still look at his eyes but only for very short intervals.
e) Don’t pet him.
f) Assume a less dominant position when you approach the dog.
When the dog has settled down, very gently crouch down to his level presenting to him sideways (this makes you very non-threatening), then calmly and quietly praise him and tell him he’s good. Be sure to tell your family and visitors to do the same.
Ensure that you get the cooperation from all members of the family to follow the same guideline when implementing (a) to (f).
g) Socialization with other dogs can also help in overcoming the shy personality of the dog in due time.
Bring your dog to social places like the park or the beach. As the dogs mingle with other dogs, hopefully it will develop the inherent ability to socialize and thus realize that he is normal and boost his confidence level.
h) Obedience training can help too.
The rationale is simple: when your dog obeys, he gains confidence through your praise. So when he does something wrong, he gets reprimanded. If the latter happens frequently, then eventually the negative treatment will affect his self-confidence.
Minimize the occasions which your dog makes you want to scold him by eliminating the things that would entice your dog to do unwanted actions.
For instance, if your dog has the inclination to chew shoes or ransack the trash bin, simply keep unused shoes out of the dog’s reach and put a lid on the trash bin. This way you won’t have to scold the dog.