Submissive urination in dogs

Thanks to an article by Dave Barry, we refer to Submissive Urination as the “Wee Wee of Joy” in the Mielziner home. You’ve probably encountered it at some time. Coming home, your dog approaches, tail wagging furiously, submissive posture and suddenly, your shoes feel warm and wet. Oh, Boy…you’ve been spritzed by the Wee Wee of Joy.

Submissive Urination is one of the top ten behavior problems reported by dog owners and is often the reason dogs are surrendered to shelters and rescue groups. It is reported so often as a housetraining problem that it’s a good idea to first determine if it is actually the Wee Wee of Joy. It is not a lack of housetraining. That little squirt of urine is actually an offer of appeasement. The dog is trying to communicate that, “Hey, it’s your world, please don’t hurt me during the greeting.”

While some dogs never let loose at all, Submissive Urination is almost a given in some breeds, such as Old English Sheepdogs. Certain people have a stronger stimulus package to a dog and hence, find their shoes soaked more frequently. The Wee Wee of Joy happens most often on greeting, but can happen in any encounter. It usually decreases on it’s own by age two, but if not, help can still be sought and a good outcome is possible.

What to do about the Wee Wee of Joy? First, NEVER punish it. Remember, the dog is programmed by nature to communicate like a dog, not a human. He has no control over this behavior and even shrieking, “Eeeewww, that’s so gross!” just makes it worse.

Often, owners are so frustrated by this behavior that by the time they report it to a behaviorist, great damage has already been done to the human animal bond. The owner has reacted in anger and the dog has lost confidence that the owner can be appeased and is now quite anxious on greetings. All members of the family must understand that punishment of any kind is counterproductive.

Managing the Wee Wee of Joy during retraining is crucial to outcome. Sometimes working around the problem is all that is needed. Provide owners a reasonable alternative by quietly bringing the dog outside before greeting. A handy leash kept near the door or in a purse can be used for this purpose. Ignore the dog, keep body language neutral and quietly snap on the lead and take the little squirter out. A few inexpensive, washable throw rugs can be placed near the door. Wait until the bladder is flatter to do the Mommy’s Home! routine. Quietly go about cleaning up the spills without complaints that the dog will only interpret as more reason to appease the alpha with more and bigger puddles.

Obedience and/or agility training are great to increase confidence in the dog as well as teach the owner to more effectively communicate with the dog. Well-trained dogs are usually more confident in social situations and see less need for appeasement. Remember, aversive techniques will only increase the anxiety and paper towel bill.

Exposing the dog to many new situations and people will also increase confidence. Make sure that these are positive encounters by asking the people to give your dog a small treat. Have the volunteers hold a neutral body posture, don’t make eye contact and speak quietly.

Good luck and may you need no more paper towels for The Wee Wee of Joy. Thanks, Dave.

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