Dogs are some of the most sensitive creatures on this earth and it is just infuriating and heartbreaking how easily their spirits can be crushed by the ignorance, indifference and thoughtlessness of humans.
Once the damage is done it's done and even with the utmost love and care given in a totally safe and nurturing environment, some dogs may always be a bit insecure and have setbacks.
Many or even most animal behavior issues can be attributed to not a problem with the dog but with the behavior of it's human. If people would just take time to understand natural dog behavior and forms of communication, and stop thinking the dog should think as people do, so many problems could be avoided. To punish a creature who just wants to please and is loyal even in the face of total confusion as to what he is doing so wrong, is disturbing on so many levels.
Here we have Miner, a young lab mix who not only ended up at the shelter but no less in the "watch" section as a potential aggressive dog, a label which too often results in a much less chance for adoption. To see him now, we cannot imagine the anxiety he must have gone through as he got shuffled from his mom and litter mates to a new home, to a shelter, to another new home and again back to the noise and fear of being trapped in a cage. His "crimes" included his first owners having the lack of time to understand puppy behavior, and the next time around an unsupervised toddler stuck his hand in the food bowl. Dogs usually don't start out as actual biters. They communicate first with body language, then perhaps a warning growl, then if that is ignored there may be a snap, but rarely is that snap intended to harm. How his previous owners handled matters will never be known, but the end result is now a young dog who is known as a Submissive Pee-er. Frustrating behavior that could easily have cost him yet another home. But this time Miner was not only lucky, but very blessed. He was adopted by a young couple who were determined to understand their dog rather than just try to dominate him into "proper" behavior through further submission.
Excitement Urination and Submissive Urination are both involuntary reactions to conditions in the dog's environment. Involuntary means the behavior is not under his control, he is not trying to deliberately soil the house or "get back at you" as people often think. Once a veterinarian has ruled out any medical or physical causes, then the behavior modification can begin.
Excitement Urination is seen as immaturity and common in young dogs who have not yet developed complete neuromuscular control. The best solution is time and patience. Try to greet your pup outside, get him out frequently, don't made a big deal out of it, and reinforce calm rather than getting him more excited upon greeting or in meeting new people.
Do Not Punish him or you just may create a Submissive Pee-er.
Submissive urination is more common in certain breeds, including Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, and Dachshunds, but can occur in any dog. Some dogs are just natured to be more submissive and show other behaviors such as lowered body posture, rolling over, licking and avoiding eye contact. Actually, submissive urination is a natural behavior which starts with the mother dog's practice of stimulating reflexive urination by licking the urogenital area. In the canine world, it keeps a lower-ranking member of a group safe from a higher-ranking member. If you observe dog behavior upon greeting other dogs, there are usually signs that send a clear message of "I am not challenging you". When a dog pees at the feet of his owner he may just be acknowledging that he knows that human is his master.
By the age of eight weeks, puppies usually outgrow natural submissive urination. They gain more confidence as they mature and don't perceive so many things as a threat to their safety. But if a puppy is punished for normal housetraining accidents or other normal puppy behavior such as chewing and excited barking, peeing may become associated with expected punishment every time he sees the approach of his owner. This can also happen if there is another dog in the house who is a bully.
Ok, so we know all that, yet here we are now, trying to deal with what we're left with from someone else's mistakes.
I'll let Miner's story be told by his now forever Mom and Dad:
"Submissive Peeing. It's a term my husband and I had never heard until we adopted Miner, our Lab/Shepherd adopted from the Greenbrier Humane Society in Lewisburg, WV, in August 2014.
When he first met us, he peed all over the lobby entryway; the staff said it was because he was excited. He did the same thing when we picked him up to take him home the next day. Then he peed the next day, and the next, and so on. It got worse when my husband would call him over or lean over to pet him. Over time, we realized something was going on, especially when he would hang his head as if he was in trouble. He would also try and lick up his pee before our trusty Seventh Generation wipes could clean it up. Our poor boy could not seem to control his pee, no matter how wonderful we treated him.
Enter a dog trainer and a helpful site called www.pets.webmd.com and we had a diagnosis. Submissive peeing, by definition, is done to show social appeasement. When a dog submissively urinates, he or she is trying to convey that they are not a threat. Not all dogs submissively urinate. However, some will urinate when they're exceptionally excited or feeling submissive or intimidated. In Miner's case, his history of being abused led him to think all men would hurt him. When my husband would lean over to pet him, Miner was expecting to be hit on the head. When he would be called over, Miner was expecting punishment. By then licking up the pee, he was getting rid of all evidence that he was scared of his master. It was a vicious cycle, and just when we thought things were going better, my husband would be away for a few days and it would start back up again as soon as he came home.
It has been almost two years since we brought this handsome fella into our lives, and he truly has changed our lives for the better. He does submissively pee on occasions, but it's nowhere near as often as a year ago. My husband can play with him now rather than Miner peeing as soon as my husband would act excited over a game they play together. Patience was the key to where we are today. It may never go away completely, and I certainly wish I could take away any type of mistreatment in his past.
To others in this situation: Stay strong and hang in there. It can be extremely frustrating to have pee happen anytime, anywhere in the house. Have wipes on hand and remember: Your dog is trying to tell you something. Have patience and don't give up on him, just continue to love. These guys need that more than anything, since you, their master, are their entire world.
Love them with all you have and I promise you, they'll return the gesture."
Here is Miner today, a much more confident pup
Whenever possible, greet the dog outdoors
Keep the greeting calm. Rapid body movements and loud voices can easily be a trigger.
Have a calm, soft mannerism when speaking to your dog.
Be sure to take him out frequently so he isn't always holding in a full bladder.
Don't be overbearing when bending down to your dog. Turn your body sideways and kneel down with the upper body straight rather than bending over.
Avoid direct eye contact, let him approach you.
Rather than him seeing you reach for the top of his head to pet him, scratch him under the chin.
Give visitors treats to give your dog rather than the usual petting of the top of the head. This encourages the dog to increase body height and move forward rather than feel the need to cower.
When accidents do happen, do not react verbally or physically. Calmly clean it up.
Remember that your dog can't help it.
Patience, Patience, Patience...it will get better.