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It's funny, how something that once seemed cute can now seem so infuriating.
When your pup first did a fire-jet when you came home, your instinctive reaction was that it was endearing. However, that impression wore off long ago. Aside from the hygiene implications, what really irks you is that the rolling over and piddling is a very real reminder of the dog's submissiveness.
You hate to think that there's even a possibility of the dog being so intimidated by your that he wets himself. Unfortunately, you seem set on a vicious circle. You come home, the dog rolls over, you bend down to pet and reassure him, and he piddles.
How to break the cycle?
Piddling can be an annoying (and inconvenient) problem. It is especially common in puppies, as they have weaker bladder control anyway. Some dogs do just grow out of the problem with age, whilst for others it can become deeply ingrained behavior.
Minimize the risk of piddling occurring in the first place, by not getting the puppy over excited when you come home, and making yourself less of a threat to him (by kneeling down and not staring him in the eye.) If you are in the position of having a dog that regularly piddles, then stop him getting over excited, build his confidence, and use distraction techniques in order to eliminate the problem.
As with so many training issues, a big part of teaching the dog is managing your reaction to the dog, applying the rules consistently, and rewarding good behavior. To do this requires minimal equipment, such as:
- A treat bag or pouch so the rewards are always handy
- A mat or blanket for the dog to lie on
The Low Key Greeting Method
Understand the idea
When you return home, the excitement of being reunited is often a flash-point for many a dog that piddles. This is either from excitement or a form of appeasement behavior acknowledging you are in charge. Whatever the explanation, keeping the greeting low key is hugely helpful.
How to make an entrance
Your aim is to keep the greeting on your terms. Rather than acknowledge the dog with a fuss when he approaches you, limit the interaction and only give a gentle fuss when he's calm. For example, if the dog runs up to you the moment you walk through the door, pay him no heed. Wait for him to sit, then praise him and give a gentle fuss.
A low-key acknowledgement
Some dogs find being ignored in this way intolerable and will only get more and more excited, believing you haven't noticed them and so need to make more fuss. Handle this by speaking to the dog in a quiet, acknowledging voice, by saying, "I see you, Rex. Very good, now quiet down." Continue about the routine of taking off your coat and shoes, and if the dog sits quietly to watch, praise him.
Ask the dog to sit
Before fussing the dog, give him an action to do which you can then reward with a fuss or treat. For example, ask him to sit, and only when he does this give him an affectionate chin rub or a treat. This gives the dog a focus and a means of showing he is subservient but without the piddling.
Consider crate training
Crate training can be great for submissive or anxious dogs as it gives them a safe den to hide out in. When you come home, avoid letting the dog out of the crate straight away. Let him see you hanging up your coat and putting shoes away, and only then let him out of the crate and slowly walk away. This manages both his excitement and anxiety levels, which is hugely helpful when reducing piddling.
The Do's and Don'ts Method
Do: Visit the vet
Before jumping to the conclusion that the dog is over-excited or submissive, it's important to ensure he is physically OK. Problems such as an inflamed bladder or anatomical problems can make urinary leakage more likely. Get the dog checked out by a vet (and take a urine sample along to the visit).
Don't: Tell the dog off for piddling
Scolding the dog only adds to his general level of arousal and excitement, which makes piddling more likely, not less. This is especially true if the dog is submissive, in which case it's even more important that things are kept low key and relaxed in order to reassure him.
Do: Use reward-based training methods
Anxiety can play a big part in piddling. If your dog gets anxious around people because he's been told off or punished in the past, this raises his anxiety levels and predisposes to piddling. Instead, ignore inappropriate behavior such as piddling, and work on rewarding good behavior and following the steps here to correct the problem.
Don't: Ignore your role in the dog's behavior
Do you loom over the dog or look him straight in the eye? Both of these actions are potentially intimidating and threatening to the dog. Submissive urination is a means of the dog communicating his discomfort and that he's not threat to you. Sometimes, changing your own actions, such as kneeling down to greet the dog or avoiding a direct stare, can make a big difference to his confidence.
Do: Beef up basic potty training
It's also important to reinforce to the dog, what the appropriate places and times to pee are. Be sure to keep rewarding and praising the dog when he relieves himself on a walk. Encouraging positive actions can help reduce the bad.
The Distraction Activity Method
Understand the idea
Excitement or submissiveness can trigger piddling. Both scenarios respond well to being given a displacement activity or task to do. In the case of excitement, the dog has to calm down in order to do the task, while the anxious dog can prove his loyalty in a way that doesn't involve pee.
Ask for a 'sit'
The simplest option is to keep any greetings low-key, so as not to arouse further excitement. Ahead of fussing the dog, ask him to perform a command such as 'sit'. Only when he sits do you give the reward of a fuss or treat. His self-control helps divert him from the passive process of piddling.
Go to a mat
Even more helpful is training the dog to go to a mat, when your return home. Again, this gives his energy a focus that is not pee-related, by diverting his attention and giving him a task to accomplish.
Lure to the mat
Place a comfortable mat or blanket a short distance from the door. Start by introducing the dog to the mat and building positive associations. This is best done by placing treats on the mat and instructing to dog to find them. As he eats the treat say "Mat". Repeat this on numerous occasions.
Stay on the mat
Now shake things up a little by saying "Mat" and guiding the dog there, but only giving the treat once he is actually on the mat. The dog will quickly learn that going to the mat on command earns a tasty treat. Repeat this. Once the dog is going to the mat without hesitation, try leaving the room, returning and then sending the dog there. The final step is to send the dog to the mat when you return home, hence distracting him from piddling.
By Pippa Elliott
Published: 01/11/2018, edited: 01/08/2021