You come home from a long day of work and your puppy greets you at the door – his little body all curled into itself with his tail tucked in and a look of complete adoration on his sweet face. Then the water works start and soon there is a yellow puddle between his feet.
At eight weeks old, this is cute but as he ages and it continues, it only becomes a headache.
Submissive and excitement urination in a puppy is an annoyance but usually only a temporary problem. Most of the time the pup grows out of it just like a bedwetting child eventually outgrows their nightly routine.
In some pups however, the problem continues and in a small percentage of dogs, submissive or excitement urination begins in their adolescence. This is harder to train out of them but still manageable.
The first thing to look at is why the behavior started in the first place and how your actions may have contributed to the problem. When a puppy runs up to us in full on excitement mode, the normal reaction is to bend down to its level and greet it in an equally excited manner. The pup is automatically put in a submissive position as you are bending over it in an authoritative manner and telling him he is a good puppy which reinforces his place on the totem pole. Then he urinates to show his complete submission to the big human authority figure. The first time, you probably are shocked but not all that upset by the behavior, after all, he is just a puppy. And even if you did get mad or scold him, his natural behavior is to get even more submissive and pee on himself again which only proves to get you more upset. See the vicious circle developing?
So what is the right behavior for you? When you come home from work or school or wherever you have been for the last five minutes, ignore him completely. If that is not entirely possible, pick him up, take him outside but do not say anything to him – ignore him as much as possible while still holding onto his wiggling and excited little body. Put him down in the grass and now ignore him. If he pees in a submissive manner, walk away. If he pees in his usual squat position because he actually had to pee then congratulate him and move on with your day.
Ignoring the pup sounds cruel but it is actually doggy language. Picture the head wolf returning to the pack after a grueling day of hunting. What do the pups do? They go crazy, licking his lower jaw and scrambling for attention. What does he do? He ignores them completely. Why? This is doggy behavior reinforcing who is the boss and who is the subordinate. Do the pups urinate on themselves in an attempt to please him? No, they pay homage to their great and fearless leader and then go about their puppy business.
What else is appropriate wolf behavior? If, for example, one of the pups accidentally bites the lip of his leader in his excitement to show his respect, the adult wolf would wheel on the pup in what looks like a fearsome attack but stops short of any teeth touching flesh. The pup would scream horribly, fling himself on his back and pee on himself in the ultimate show of submissive behavior. The adult wolf would then go back to ignoring the pup and the pup would be back on his feet just as quickly acting as if nothing ever happened.
Humans do not understand doggy language that well. We encourage goofy and inappropriate behavior and overreact at normal puppy behavior. The pup is quickly confused and does not know what all to do to show how very sorry he is for whatever it was you got upset about (he has no idea as his puppy mind does not understand the confusing human behavior). He does the best thing he knows how and that is to pee on himself again. See where we humans need to change our behavior?
Acting like the alpha or top wolf continues to be necessary as the pup ages too. If a dog learns that acting submissive or peeing on himself elicits, in his mind, a favorable behavior from you, he will act that way in an attempt to please you.
Ignoring inappropriate behavior like submissive or excitement urination and encouraging good behavior such as confidence and self-assurance is the only way to end up with a happy, well-adjusted relationship with your dog.
So what will you do the next time your pup greets you at the door in a cute little cuddly ball of obvious submissive behavior? That’s right – walk right on past him. Only greet him when he has calmed down and is acting rationally once more. The submissive and excitement urination will soon stop and your carpets will be pee-free again!