How to Train Your Dog to Stop Submissive Peeing

Hard
1-12 Months
Behavior

Introduction

You adore your dog, she's the center of your world, and yet she has this upsetting habit. It's not a major problem, but it irks you none-the-less because you recognize it means she is submissive, and therefore potentially anxious. The last thing in the world that you want is for the fur-friend you love and adore to feel anxious or fearful around you. 

So what is this problem? Submissive peeing!

It's what happens when you come home. The dog runs to greet you, rolls over, and pees on the floor. In itself, it's not a major problem but it's the implication that your dog is submitting to you in such a way. Plus there's the hygiene aspect, which is less than ideal. And then there's what happens when she meets strangers and lets go a veritable fire-hydrant of pee.

It doesn't have to be like this. By understanding the psychology of what makes the dog pee, you can tackle the issue at its root cause, so that both you and the dog are happy.

Defining Tasks

Submissive dogs urinate as a means of appeasing a person or dog that they perceive as a potential threat. Key to preventing this problem is to bolster the dog's confidence so that he no longer feels the need to give an appeasement signal such as urination. 

This is done by using a combination of tactics, such as using reward-based training to bolster confidence, avoiding confrontational circumstances, and by keeping things low key. 

Dogs of all ages can show submissive urination, especially puppies. However, many pups do grow out of the problem by the time they are a year old and their bladder control improves. If at any stage you suspect the dog is incontinent, rather than showing submissive urination, then check in with a vet. 

Getting Started

You need no special equipment, other than treats, in order to retrain the dog. What matters most is your body language, how you act around the dog, and taking time and patience to build the dog's confidence.

Helpful items include: 

  • Treats and a training bag to keep the treats in
  • Cleaning equipment to deal with those 'spills' in a no-drama way

The Increase Confidence Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Understand the idea
Building the dog's confidence gets right to the heart of the problem. When he no longer feels a need to appease because he no longer feels threatened, then the problem will stop.
Step
2
Use reward-based training methods
Reward-based training uses the principle that he is encouraged to learn by giving a reward when he does something well. In this context, the dog is rewarded when he acts confidently.
Step
3
Give the dog an alternative action to perform
The dog wants to appease you and show he is no threat. Work on training the dog to 'sit'. When you come home, quietly ignore the dog and when he approaches, use the 'sit' cue. By giving the dog an alternative action to perform, this distracts him and channels his need to obey into something less wet than peeing.
Step
4
Distract the dog
When flashpoints are likely, such as greeting strangers or when you arrive home, distract the dog. This could be throwing a favorite toy for him to fetch, or by using that 'sit' command he learned earlier to offer you a more appropriate behavior.
Step
5
Give the dog a goal
At the core of submissive urination is a dog that wants to please you. Work at training the dog to do an activity, such as going to a mat to lie down or fetching an object. This way the dog has a displacement activity he can perform rather than peeing.
Recommend training method?

The Keep Things Low-Key Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Understand the idea
Submissive dogs become anxious or fearful when challenged. Anxiety increases the risk of submissive urination. By keeping greetings low-key and understanding the body language cues that signal dominance, you can help reduce the dog's anxiety and cut back on submissive urination.
Step
2
Ignore the dog on coming home
A flashpoint for submissive urination is when you come home and the dog greets you. This is best avoided by ignoring the dog and waiting for him to grow calm. It's fine to acknowledge the dog in a low key way, such as saying "Hi, Rover, I see you,", so that the dog understands you have seen him but aren't choosing to greet him right now.
Step
3
Greet the dog calmly and quietly
Once the dog is calmer, then greet him. But keep things quiet and understated, with a gentle stroke along the body or under the chin. Speak to him softly. Avoid overly enthusiastic greetings and if the dog rolls over, then walk away.
Step
4
Avoid confrontational behavior
Actions such as approaching the dog head on or staring into his eyes are seen by challenges by a dog and make a submissive dog anxious. Instead, approach the dog in an arc so you come round to his side, and either watch him from the corner of your eye or focus on a distant part o his body such as the tail.
Step
5
Speak to your vet
If your dog lacks confidence and this submissiveness is disabling, then consider speaking to your vet. They may be able to suggest a medication to reduce the dog's anxiety while he undergoes training to build his confidence.
Recommend training method?

The What NOT to Do Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Never punish the dog
A submissive dog that urinates is doing so out of anxiety and as an appeasement activity. If you scold the dog this will make him more anxious and more the behavior more likely to occur. Not only does this make the problem worse, but it risks the dog becoming increasingly distressed and unhappy.
Step
2
Don't use dominance training methods
Out-dated dog training methods use the principle of dominating the dog, to show who's boss. However, dominating a submissive dog only increases anxiety, which could even result in the dog becoming aggressive because he is fearful....and the dog may still urinate.
Step
3
Don't push the dog outside his comfort zone
Owning a submissive dog can be frustrating, as he doesn't cope well with visitors or changes in his routine. It can, therefore, be tempting to force the dog into situations he's not comfortable with (such as making him greet strangers) in order to 'get him over it'. However, this is liable to backfire and only make the problem worse.
Step
4
Don't loom over the dog
Leaning over the dog to greet him or stroking the head are both gestures that reinforce your dominance and can be perceived as a threat to the dog. Instead, try kneeling or sitting down and letting the dog come to you, and stroking him under the chin.
Step
5
Don't overlook medical reasons
If you are really struggling with the dog's problem, then get him checked by a vet. It might be he has a medical problem which needs treatment, that is exacerbating the submissive urination.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Lillie
Labrador
1 Year
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Question
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Lillie
Labrador
1 Year

Lillie only submissively urinates when my husband tries to put her back in her kennel at the end of his lunch break. He has no problems other times of the day. I never have any problem with her. We do have to coax her in with a treat and she cries for a little bit then she stops. She knows when his lunch break is over and she’ll hunker down and pee, even with the treat! My husband has made it a point to make the kennel experience pleasant and talks sweet to her, he gets down on her level. She is a rescue lab pit mix so we don’t know her whole background either. We’ve had her for 2 months.

Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
274 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jessica, It sounds like Lillian is anxious either about having to go into her kennel or about your husband leaving. It might be the last one since she is fine at other times. Possibly the reason that she is OK at other times but not at this time, is because she is getting anxious leading up to him leaving, since his routine is so consistent. She might be working herself up to a higher state of anxiety than the crate alone would cause. It's a bit like the building stress of waiting for a roller coaster to make it's first big drop at the beginning of the ride, opposed to already being on the roller coaster and experiencing multiple drops throughout the ride that cause less stress. Look for creative ways that your husband can change his lunch routine, such as putting her into the crate and then taking her back out, leaving the house and then coming back, gathering his things and then putting them back. You want to keep her guessing until she becomes bored with the experience of his departure. Also make sure that she is being given an opportunity to eliminate during the lunch break, even if it has not been that long since she went last, and give her something really fantastic to do in the crate after you are gone, in addition to the treat that you are already doing. For that, I recommend stuffing a Kong with mushy kibble and peanut butter. Put your dog's food into a bowl and cover it with water, let it sit out until the water makes the kibble mushy, then add peanut butter to it, and loosely stuff the Kong with it. For an extra challenge, freeze the Kong overnight, so that it is a time released treat that will keep her busy for longer. If you freeze the Kong, then you can purchase multiple Kongs and stuff them all at once, then simply pull them out of the freezer when you need one. When you use Peanut Butter check the ingredients and make sure that it does NOT contain Xylitol. Xylitol is a substitute sweetener than is extremely toxic to dogs. If you cannot use Peanut Butter squeeze cheese also works. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Chrissy
Maltipoo
2 Years
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Question
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Chrissy
Maltipoo
2 Years

She pees a little when we have visitors not all visitors just some what can I do

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
274 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sharon, She is probably excited peeing. Instruct your visitors to ignore her for at least ten minutes when they come in. Once he has calmed down and has been taken outside to pee, which will decrease but not stop the peeing incidents by itself, then they can say hello to her calmly. You want her to expect all visitors to ignore her when they come to your home. This should not only prevent excited and submissive peeing during that visit but also decrease her overall excitement and possible anxiety about visitors in general. If she begins to expect visitors to be pleasant but not overly-exciting, then she should be less prone to peeing around visitors in general. Do this will all visitors while you are training her. Not just the ones she pees for. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Bond
Sheltie
2 Years
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Question
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Bond
Sheltie
2 Years

When I take him out of his kennel in the morning he has a couple squirts of pee almost every morning. How can I make him stop or at least cut back

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
274 Dog owners recommended

Hello James, The peeing is probably excited peeing combined with a full bladder. First of all, try to make your interaction with Bond as calm and boring as possible in the morning before he has peed. When you walk into the room where his crate is, ignore him for five minutes to help him calm down before letting him out of the crate. When he is a bit calmer try three different methods I will outline below and do whichever one works best for Bond. First, ignore Bond for five minutes, then reach into Bond's crate very calmly without saying anything and without touching him any more than absolutely necessary to clip on his leash. Next, tell him "Okay" very softly and calmly, and stand up and start walking toward the door without interacting with Bond other than simply holding his leash to lead him outside. The goal is to make his entire morning routine boring. Second, if the first method causes him to pee despite letting him calm down first and not talking to him, then after five minutes, start to open the door, and if he tries to rush out, close it again. Repeat this until you can open the door all the way and Bond will wait inside. Once he is waiting patiently with the door open, then calmly tell him "Okay" and let him come out. You want him to come out calmly and you want to keep all of your commands very calm and monotone. Once he is out, walk toward the door to take him outside and let him outside if your yard is fenced. If you need to put a leash on him, then attach it in the crate after doing the door opening and closing. Third, try ignoring him for five minutes, going over to the crate, calmly opening the door without speaking to him, and then immediately turning your back to him and walking away toward the door to go outside. You can then let him outside into your fenced in yard. If he needs a leash, then follow one of the other options to attach a leash in the crate first. Try each of these for three days in a row and see which one keeps him from peeing. The key is to decrease his excitement and change his attitude to being calm to make it easier for him to hold his bladder. Once he pees outside, then you can interact with him like normal again. You may also need to practice always letting him out of the crate calmly, so that he will not expect crate exits to be so exciting. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Leia
Australian Cattle
1 Year
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Question
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Leia
Australian Cattle
1 Year

Leia usually does this with my husband. He will come home from work and she will pee on the floor. We have tried everything. All of the recommendations...nothing is working. How can we break her of this? It's tiring cleaning up pee every single day. We've tried the low key method. He has never given her reason to be afraid or fear him. At our wits end!!!!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
274 Dog owners recommended

Hello Patricia, First, try tweaking the low-key method. When your husband comes home, have him stand by the front door very calmly, while completely ignoring her through the window, for five minutes. After five minutes, he should come in, continue to completely ignore her, without looking at her or speaking at first. After ten minutes, if she is completely calm, then he can take her outside and say hi there. You need to break the cycle of her getting excited, then peeing, to change what is now a habit and hard for her to stop. That first method will be a bit simpler then what I am about to suggest so it might be worth trying that for week first. If that does not work, then teach Leia to go to a crate when she hears him coming and to stay in there for thirty-minutes, until you tell her "Okay". To teach this you will need two people (it does not have to be your husband at first but it can be). Set up the crate somewhere easy for her to get to but not in the entrance way. Put a leash on her, lead her over to the crate with the leash, tell her, "(Husband's name) is home", lead her into the crate with the leash, and as soon as she gets inside, toss lots of treats inside. Stand by the crate door without saying anything, and if she tried to leave the crate (which she probably will at first), close the door to block her from getting out. After a second, open the door again without saying anything, and if she tries to leave again, close the door again. Repeat this until you can open the door and she will stay inside. Toss more treats into the crate when she will stay inside. Practice having her stay in the crate while the door is open for five-minutes at first. When she can go into the crate when you say "(Husband's name) is home" and will stay in there for five-minutes with the door open with you standing there, then work up to ten minutes staying in the crate, and practice having her stay in the crate while you are a bit further away. Overtime you are going to work on practicing her staying in the crate for longer and longer and practicing it with you standing further and further away. Practice this until she can stay in the crate for thirty-minutes while you are out of the room. Occasionally return to her when and drop more treats into the crate to reward her for doing well. Do not let her out of the crate or say anything to her when you drop the treats though. You want things to be calm. When you are ready for her to come out, tell her "Okay" and lead her out of the crate by the leash at first - to show her that "Okay" means come out. When she can stay in the crate without anyone present, then go back to standing next to the crate. Have your assistant knock, walk into the house, or unlock the door and then walk in (whatever is more similar to the noise your husband makes when he enters). As soon as she hears the noise, tell her "(Husband's name) is home." If she goes into the crate on her own, then reward her. If she tries to leave the crate before being told "Okay", then be ready to close the door to remind her not to leave yet. If she stays in the crate, then occasionally reward her again. If she does not go into the crate on her own, then be ready to lead her into it with the leash. Expect her to disobey what she has learned the first few times with the distraction of a person - that's why you are practicing it around a person. Be ready to show her again what to do with the new distraction of a person. Finally, put the entire scenario together and practice it with your husband. Work up to her being able to go to the crate on her own when she hears the door, and stay there without you present- like you did when not one else was there and it was just you and her practicing it at the beginning. For on this until she can go to the crate on her own when she hears your husband entering, and will stay in the crate on her own for thirty-minutes after she goes there while he is home. The goal of that training is for her to learn to go somewhere calm and calm down before being around him. She is likely excited peeing - which is similar to submissive peeing but is more related to your dog's excitement rather than submissiveness - the excited dog needs to learn how to calm herself down. I suggest having her stay in the crate for thirty-minutes because she needs to be in there long enough to get bored and have her stress hormones decrease again - to let her be able to contain herself when she does get around him later. When he does greet her finally, it should almost be like he does not care about her - that unexcited and unenthusiastic at first. You can leave a food-stuffed chew toy or favorite chew toy in the crate. You may need to tie it to the back of the crate with something that she cannot chew through to keep her from removing it from the crate though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Layla
Pitbull and Australian She
13 Weeks
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Question
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Layla
Pitbull and Australian She
13 Weeks

Hello! I have been working on housetraining my puppy. I am a first time dog owner so I know I am not experienced. I take her out every half hpur to releive herself but she cant stop the submissive peeing. Latley she has been doing it when I put her leash on to take her outside. She also does it when she is being picked up, when she gets too excited and sometimes for no reason. I was spanking her lightley and saying no but I have read that doesnt work. Should I put her in her kennel? How do I know if she is submissive peeing or doing it for a different reason? I give her a treat every time she goes outside and she knows thats where she is supposed to pee. I dont want her to fear me or to do it wrong but I also want her to learn. Thanks.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
274 Dog owners recommended

Hello Victoria, First, it helps to understand what submissive peeing is. Submissive peeing is something a dog will do around another dog to let them know that they recognize their authority and do not want to fight. Because of that doing anything domineering or intimidating to a submissive peeing dog will actually make the submissive peeing worse because she is essentially trying to show you that she recognizes your authority and wants to avoid confrontation - by peeing, which of course makes you more angry - creating a vicious cycle for her. It is extremely common for puppies to submissive pee so extremely likely that she is doing it due to submissiveness and sometimes excitement and not because she is trying to be vengeful or difficult or something else. Most puppies outgrow submissive peeing if you can prevent it from becoming a habit - to prevent it from becoming a habit the goal is to simply help her stay calm enough that the cycle of peeing is broken as she grows and has better bladder control. Avoid the spanking and other forms of physical discipline right now - you can still have consequences like her having to leave the room when being pushy but you want to keep hands less scary so that you can build confidence about her being touched again - to avoid her peeing when you touch her. Work on handling exercises to get her comfortable with being touched; to do this, gently touch her somewhere, like a paw and give her a treat at the same time. Practice this outside at first in case she pees. Gently touch different areas all over her body, one place at a time while giving a treat each time. Feed her her entire meal this way at dinner or breakfast. When she can handle being touched all over without peeing, then gently lift her up a couple of inches, put her back down, then give a treat. Practice that until you can pick her up and she can stay calm too. When you first get home, ignore her and act boring until she calms down. When you open her crate, keep her calm and be boring. Lead to the door outside in a calm business-like matter and clip her leash on when she has had a chance to calm down a little bit, touching her as gently and little as possible. If that is still too much for her, purchase a chew-proof leash, like Vir-Chew-Ly and keep a leash on her around the house when you are there to supervise her. This can be good for other types of training too. Avoid talking to her in a deep-angry or excited-high pitched voice while inside. Instead, save the excited voice for outside, and when you have to scold her be matter of fact and calm. Try using a word such as "Ah ah" for no, so that you sound firm but not as angry. You can and should still be sweet to her and praise her inside, just keep your voice softer and more soothing while inside. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Jimmy
Beagle
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
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Jimmy
Beagle
1 Year

We rescued jimmy about a month ago and noticed that he will urinate at the most seemingly random times and always after I know he has already gone outside. Sometimes when he is really excited but mostly it is becoming clear it’s when he is nervous. Today he was outside going potty and I came out on the deck and called him over to me and he immediately rolled into his back and was shaking and starting shooting pee out.
It made me sad because he seemed scared or something and I’m starting to realize perhaps this is his issue. How can I handle this appropriately? I never yell at him because he is such a sweet timid dog.
I don’t know his history but I’m starting to think he may have been abused.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
274 Dog owners recommended

Hello Laura, First, if it is happening often you may want to purchase a belly band to keep your home clean while you work on it. Use treats to gradually introduce the belly band (male diaper) to him to help him feel at ease with it if you do so. Second, since it sounds like you are interacting with him calmly (which is the first step for most people), I suggest also working on obedience that will generally build his confidence and relationship with you, and getting him used to being touched more. For the confidence, a general positive reinforcement obedience class, an agility class, a trick training class, or a tracking/scent type class could all be good options. You want to stimulate him mentally, help him learn to navigate new situations, increase things like impulse control and his ability to calm himself, and increase his focus and confidence toward you. Practicing certain types of training in a positive way can help him develop those skills. Also, give him boundaries and structure at home. It can be easy to pitty or baby a timid dog, but they actually tend to benefit from consistent rules and boundaries that are enforced. When you enforce the boundaries, be consistent and insist that he obey but do it calmly. It's the consistency and insistence that matter. For example, if you tell him to sit while on a walk, keep his leash tight enough that he can't go do something else fun, like sniff, and wait until he complies and sits before you continue walking, even if it takes him five minutes to give in (after a couple of minutes you can repeat the command once if you think he may have forgotten it by now, and he must understand what the word Sit means to begin with). Another example would be practicing heel during walks. Expecting a nervous dog to focus on you and walk behind you a bit can help that dog worry less about their surrounding and depend on you to lead during the walk instead. To get him used to being handled, use his meal kibble to reward him when you touch him. Feed him his whole meal one piece at a time while touching each area of his body gently. Do this as often as you can make time for. For example, touch his shoulder and give a treat, touch his ear and give a treat, touch his paw and give a treat, touch his belly and give a treat, and touch his mouth (if he has never shown any form of aggression) and give a treat. Repeat this with every area of his body calmly (if you act too excited he may pee). Practice this for several weeks until he feels confident being touched and enjoys it. When you attend a class I suggest having him wear the belly band with an absorbent pad in it to avoid any concern about peeing during class. You can also look for a class that trains outside if there is a high quality one in your area that does that. It is possible that the timidity is due to a lack of socialization and a genetically timid temperament, rather than abuse, and he could have been given up because of the peeing. If so building his confidence is still what I suggest, but he may also benefit from more positive socialization as well (which a class would also help increase). Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Coco
Kelpie
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
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Coco
Kelpie
1 Year

My dog wees when excited and also when i give her certain commands she has not be socialized very much and growls at some ppl please can u help me.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
274 Dog owners recommended

Hello Krystal, First, I suggest building confidence. This can be done by taking her places and rewarding calmness, friendliness, bravery (in a good way like curiosity), and focus on you. Also, work on teaching her commands and tricks. Training that stimulates her mentally can also help not only with confidence but also trust in you. While she is still peeing you may want to train outside using a long leash or a fenced in space. What commands does she pee when given? The issue might be your tone of voice or the submissive position of the command. You may need to change the way you are teaching and enforcing certain things right now, to avoid intimidation. That doesn't mean you cannot enforce the commands or even discipline, but learning how to do it very calmly and proactively instead of being reactionary if that seems to be an issue (I am basing this off of what little I know about the situation - so that may not be the case). If she seems overly excited when this is happening, opposed to timid, then I suggest keeping training more structured and calmer. Use life rewards, like getting to eat dinner or receive a pet or a toy, opposed to treats, or training practice - if she is overly excited. Also, keep your energy and tone of voice very calm - avoid high pitched, excited praise, and praise her softly and calmly instead. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Jim
Chiweenie
3 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Jim
Chiweenie
3 Years

Jim is my pride and joy, although the issue is that, without fail, every time anyone greets Jim (even if its not for the first time) he pees EVERYWHERE. I don't scold him and I have tried ignoring him but it still isn't working. I've taught him to sit already, should I just try distraction methods?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
274 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ashley, I suggest doing what you can to make visitors very boring. Instruct guests to pretend like he isn't even there until he is completely calm, then they calm super calmly greet him (fun is not the goal here - boring is). Right now he is excited about people and is likely getting excited during the whole process of the person driving up, walking up, entering, then finally greeting him - by the time they greet him it is too much for him. Make it so that he learns that guests are not fun or exciting but boring, so that he doesn't get worked up by their approach even. If he doesn't get worked up by their approach after practicing this long enough for it to become a long-term habit for him, then when they are in your home it is not as hard for him when they do give him attention. When you get home, ignore him for the first ten minutes you are home (I know that's hard to do). He will learn to expect your return home to be boring and it can help him break the cycle of habitually peeing when you first greet him. You can also have him wear a belly band - which is like a male dog diaper for urine to keep things in your home clean in the meantime. Have him wear this inside in general though and not just when you know someone is coming over if you use it though, because you do not want the belly hand to signal that someone is coming and get him worked up - you just want it to be something he wears sometimes, like his collar or leash. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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