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Why Do Dogs Pee When You Greet Them?

 

Why Do Dogs Pee When You Greet Them? It happens almost predictably, you enter your home, open the door and your dog pees the moment you greet him, what gives? Puppies are notoriously over represented when it comes to greeting and urinating rituals, but if the issue isn’t tackled correctly, the behavior may persevere for longer than it really should. Understanding why puppies and dogs pee when they greet in the first place can help address the issue correctly and make a great difference on the outcome.

Cocker spaniel puppies are prone to submissive urination.
Cocker spaniel puppies are prone to submissive urination.

A Matter of Control

Puppies are blessed with high metabolisms compared to adult dogs. This means that they produce a lot of urine quickly and they don’t have great storage abilities. Consider that the bladder of a Labrador retriever puppy is about the size of a lemon; whereas, the bladder of a Yorkie is about the size of a small apricot or a large grape, explains veterinary behaviorist Karen Overall. On top of that, consider that puppies don’t have a very competent bladder sphincter when they are young, but as puppies age, the sphincter will mature and the problem of leaking urine stops, explains Dr. Loretta.

A for Antecedent

Antecedents are events that occur right before a behavior. If your puppy or dog urinates when you come home to greet him, carefully observe what you are doing right before your puppy urinates. Are you looming over him to pet him? Is your puppy just romping around happily and then suddenly you find yourself stepping in a little dribble? There are two forms of urination puppies and dogs may engage in when you greet them: excitement urination and submissive urination.

Excitement Urination

Oh, my! My owners are coming home! Yay!
Oh, my! My owners are coming home! Yay!

If your puppy is romping around happily as you enter the home and dribbles some drops of urine, most likely you are dealing with excitement urination. In this case, the urinary sphincter muscle momentarily relaxes during excitement causing the pup to leak a few dribbles of urine.  According to dog trainer and behavior consultant Pat Miller, this is the pup’s way of saying ““Whee! I’m so happy and excited I peed my pants!” This is not under the pup’s control, so please be patient. Scolding the puppy for urinating excitedly or having potty accidents in the home will only lead to further problems down the road, such as a puppy peeing submissively.

Submissive Urination

If your puppy urinates when you are looming over him and your puppy rolls over on his back or shows appeasement gestures such as licking, pawing and keeping the body low and ears flat back, you may be seeing signs of submissive urination. It can also be seen when a puppy’s owner raises his/her voice to scold the puppy or do anything the puppy may find intimidating. According to veterinary behaviorist Dr. Ian Dunbar it’s as if the puppy was saying: “Welcome home. Pleased to see you. Please accept my presence. Please don’t hurt me – I’m a lowly worm compared with you, most honored human!”




A Matter of Health

While excitement and submissive urination are quite common in puppies, it’s always a good idea to exclude medical problems regardless if it occurs in puppies or adult dogs. According to Marvista Vet Animal Hospital, there are several medical conditions that may cause leakage of urine such as urinary tract infections, a weak bladder sphincter or canine cognitive dysfunction in older dogs, spinal cord disease and conditions that increase water consumption such as diabetes, cushing’s disease and kidney failure.

dog submissive urinationFixing the Leaky Faucet

In both cases of excitement and submissive urination, it’s important to be patient and understanding as they’re involuntary behaviors that aren’t under the dog’s control. Punishing the puppy or dog will only make matters worse. Fortunately, when addressed correctly, most puppies outgrow the problem as soon as they hit the beginning of doggy adolescence.

For excitement urination, for the time being, it may help to greet the puppy outside so there’s no need to clean up messes. Also, it helps minimizing excitement during greetings, by acting calmly and talking in a low tone of voice instead of a high-pitched manner. Ignoring your puppy until he calms down is an option, suggests dog trainer Jolanta Benal. Teaching the puppy an alternate behavior that distracts the pup can also help. Train your puppy to fetch a toy, drop several treats on the floor and let him go find them, or ask your puppy to roll over for a belly rub.

For submissive urination, it’s important to refrain from engaging in behaviors that elicit the urination. Avoid approaching your pup quickly and refrain from making direct eye contact, looming over the puppy or patting the puppy over the head. You’re better off looking sideways, kneeling to the pup’s side and scratching him on his chest. Even here it helps to engage the puppy in an alternate behavior such as chasing after a ball.

I can't help it, I love to play tug-of-tail.
I can’t help it, I love to play tug-of-tail.

Did you know? The odor of puppy urine is quite distinct and it’s meant to advertise the pup’s age. According to Ian Dunbar, when the puppy urinates submissively in the presence of other dogs, he’s telling them something along the lines of: “Yo! Sniff this urine. See, I’m just a young puppy and don’t know any better. Please don’t harm me. I didn’t mean to jump on your tail and bite your ears. He! He! He!”