One of my friends has the sweetest little Siberian Husky puppy. He’s 5 months old now. “What do I do?” she said. “When I take him for walks and we meet someone, he gets so excited he tinkles.” Yes, that’s my friend, and she said, ‘tinkles.’
We’ve given advice on how to handle this problem from the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy book before. It’s time to do it again to help this darling, blue-eyed pup.
From AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy: A Positive Behavioral Approach to Training. Find a dog trainer near your location and take the Canine Good Citizen test for your dog.
Submissive and Excitement Urination: Whoops!
With puppies, submissive urination usually happens when someone reaches out to pet the puppy, someone leans over the puppy to pet it or greet it, or when an owner returns home and the puppy is excited. While this behavior mainly occurs in puppies, submissive urination is also a problem for some adult dogs.
Submissive urination happens with dogs or puppies who are submissive. These are puppies who often squat to urinate or roll over on their sides or show their bellies when greeting an unfamiliar person.
Punishing submissive urination, even if only with a loud verbal reprimand, will make the problem worse. Some puppies will grow out of submissive urination and others will need a behavioral intervention.
Problem: The puppy urinates when people in public walk up quickly and reach out to pet him.
What you do: Get a helper to work with you. To begin, this can be a friend or family member.
- Helper slowly approaches up to about 10 feet away from puppy and stops. If the puppy did not urinate, go to the next step. At any point the puppy urinates, you need to back up to the previous step. For example, if the puppy urinated when the person was 10 feet away, try this step with the helper 15-feet away.
- Helper approaches and gets 5 ft. away from puppy and stops. Did the puppy urinate? If not, repeat this with 3 ft., then 1 ft. away.
- The helper is now 1 ft. away. Have the helper hold out her hand and offer the puppy a treat. While the puppy is eating the treat, the helper touches the puppy on the side, then removes hand. If the puppy is not willing to take food from a stranger, try a toy.
You can also do this behavior plan without the treat or toy, but treats are good distractors and often result in faster progress. Finally:
- Helper approaches, offers treat, places hand on puppy, and pets.
- When the puppy can do this with a familiar person, bring in a new helper. Someone from your AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy class would probably be delighted to help you.
- Vary the places where you do this — at class, in the park, as you take your puppy for a walk in your neighborhood. You can also vary the position of the helper. In the beginning, the person may squat down when close to the puppy and over time remain standing.
Excitement urination is different than submissive urination. This occurs when highly excitable dogs lose control of their bladders during activities that involve social stimulation or put them in a state of arousal (i.e., heightened reactions). Excitement urination can occur during very active play.
If your puppy urinates when excited, someone new approaches for petting, or you enter a room, here are some tips:
- Never punish this behavior by hitting the puppy or yelling — this will make the problem worse.
- Make sure you give your puppy plenty of socialization and ongoing exposure to new people, places and things. An AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy class is a great idea.
- Identify the stimuli that cause the submissive or excitement urination. Observe very carefully to determine the conditions under which this happens:
- Is it when a stranger approaches for petting?
- When you come home after being gone?
- When you enter a room where the puppy is after she has not seen you for a while
- When someone stands over the puppy to pet it?
- When you are playing very active games?
- When the puppy gets ‘wound up’ during active play?
Once you’ve identified a situation that is clearly a problem, set up training sessions to work on this.