Raise your hand if you were ever greeted by your puppy, and then as you moved away, you ended up stepping into a yellow puddle? If so, most likely you were surprised the first time it happened, wondering if perhaps your puppy needed to be taken out. Yet, as the episodes continued, you may have then started accepting the yellow puddles as part of your dog’s greeting “ritual.” Well, the good news is that you’re not alone; countless puppies and dogs urinate when they are excited – and there’s nothing more exciting from a pup’s perspective than seeing his owners after being left alone! The not-so-good news is that it’ll take time and some effort on your side to design a plan of action meant to reduce the chances of future puddles on your precious rugs.
Not all puppies though urinate when they’re excited, some will also urinate in totally different circumstances. Submissive urination, another common form of inappropriate urination, takes place when the puppy feels intimidated. It’s the pup’s way of saying “I am just a puppy, please don’t be rough with me.” If your puppy is urinating mostly in one of these two contexts, most likely you’re dealing with excitement or submissive urination.
Top Candidates for Excitement and Submissive Urination
The ideal candidate for excitement urination is a puppy under one year of age. Pups who just can’t seem to contain themselves from the happiness they feel when their owners come home fit the profile. The urination tends to occur quite suddenly as the puppy is standing or walking and his tail is wagging wildly side to side. Typically, the owners also partake into making a big fuss over saying hello with lots of attention, baby talking and petting. This form of urination may also take place when neighbors, friends or even strangers greet the puppy.
On the other hand, the most common candidate for submissive urination is an insecure puppy who perhaps has had some past negative experiences or who is simply genetically predisposed to being timid. His body language is of fear: you’ll see flattened ears, a tucked tail and lowered body. Urination happens when the pup feels threatened by a particular person or situation and feels the need to “appease” using submissive body language. Some puppies will roll over their backs and urinate when they expose their belly.
Excluding Other Issues
Before assuming a puppy or dog is urinating out of excitement or submissive urination, it’s important to rule out some other causes for inappropriate urination. Is your puppy or dog fully house trained? Is your dog or puppy urine marking? Have your ruled out medical problems? Some medical problems such as a urinary tract infection or a urinary bladder dysfunction may be a trigger for urinating in the home. If by exclusion, you have determined that your dog doesn’t have a medical problems and your dog is urinating exclusively in certain contexts, then you may want to looks for solutions for excitement and submissive urination.
Dealing with The Problem
Keeping Greetings Low Key
Keeping The Mind Occupied
Change your Approach
For excitement urination it helps to interact with your puppy calmly. If you greet your puppy or dog making a big deal of it, you’ll be feeding your dog’s arousal levels, kicking them up a good notch. Instead, try to keep your excitement at bay and make your greetings low key. Walk back inside your home quietly, ignoring your puppy’s boisterous display as you put your keys away and take off your shoes. Then, once your puppy is calm, you can interact with him, but be careful to not over do it. Ask your guests to do the same. Same goes with puppies who urinate when play gets too exciting. Try to tone down the game or incorporate training to keep arousal levels low.
Another option to reduce the chances for excitement urination, is to distract the dog and keep his mind off urinating. Training an alternate behavior will keep the dog’s mind focused on accomplishing the task rather than going on a greeting frenzy. Keep a container of treats in your car and fill some in your pocket before you come home. Open the door, say “treasure hunt!” and drop the treats on the floor. Your puppy will likely be too busy searching for treats to go into his greeting ritual and accompanying urination. Alternatively, you can open the door and invite your puppy outside with you, so he’ll be likely to get distracted and go on a sniffing adventure.
Sometimes, the way we approach dogs makes us appear intimidating which can be scary to a small puppy. Avoid looming over your puppy, making direct eye contact and patting him over the head. Hugging him and kissing may also make him uncomfortable. Scolding your puppy or punishing him may also trigger submissive urination and even make it worse over time. Use gentle training methods based on rewards and always talk in a calm, soothing voice. Pet your dog under the chin or chest area rather than on top of the head. Getting down at your dog’s level can be less intimidating than bending over him.
Because submissive urination is based on fear, it helps to raise the pup’s levels of confidence and self esteem. This is particularly important with puppies who don’t seem to be outgrowing the problem and risk bringing it along into adulthood. Confidence can be increased through reward-based training. Clicker training, particularly free shaping is a positive-reinforcement method that works great for this as the dog’s natural behaviors are rewarded. Other good choices are the sport of agility and canine nose work.
The Bottom Line
Fortunately, most puppies outgrow excitement and submissive urination as they attain better bladder control and as they mature and become more confident. However, at times the problem may linger for a longer time. It’s important to ignore the episodes as getting irritated over them makes problems only worse. If you need help, it’s best to consult with a positive reinforcement trainer or a behavior consultant for assistance.