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More than cleanup needed to solve wetting problems
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Most pet owners put away the paper towels and the disinfectant when their pet is housebroken, but some must keep them handy because their trained dog continues to have accidents in the house.
Dr. John Harkness, animal behaviorist at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, said many dogs urinate inappropriately from submissiveness or excitement. Other causes include fear, separation anxiety, territorial marking and medical problems.
"Submissive urination occurs in dogs of any age, but more often in puppies and young females," Harkness said. "It often occurs in dogs that are repeatedly punished or corrected and which are kept dependent on humans."
Harkness attributed the behavior to the social relationship between humans and the dog. Dogs urinate in response to dominant or threatening signals given by the people to whom the dog is submissive.
Among the signals dogs submit to are direct eye contact, threatening or angry facial expressions, reaching over the dog, scolding or punishment, and loud, excited or higher-pitched voices. Not all dogs wet in these situations. Some submit by rolling over, cowering, laying back their ears, tucking their tail between their legs, hanging their head or exposing their groin.
"These are behaviors intended to signal back to the dominant person that the submissive dog poses no threat and wishes to avoid conflict," Harkness said. "Generally, the longer submissive urination persists, the more difficult it becomes to stop."
Most puppies outgrow or overcome this unwelcome behavior if their owners stop greeting them and interacting with them as they have in the past. Reduce or eliminate all signals that initiate the wetting, and encourage visitors to do the same.
"When you get home, greet the dog quietly with no eye contact, over-reaching or loud words," Harkness said. "Kneel and speak softly, patting the dog's chest, not head. Avoid scolding."
Harkness said when the dog responds correctly, give it encouragement or food treats. When the dog acts overly submissive, ignore it, but don't punish it.
"Interact gently with the dog when you know its bladder is empty, such as after a walk. Never interact with the dog when it is submissive," he said.
Mild anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drugs may help, but not common tranquilizers. Some owners put diapers on their dogs to deal with the problem.
Sometimes dogs wet out of excitement rather than submission. Young, active dogs with incomplete bladder control exhibit this problem most often. It can be triggered by such things as greetings, active play, loud speech and clapping.
"Dogs usually outgrow this behavior, but owners and others near the dog should stop doing what excites the dog," Harkness said. "Remain quiet, move slowly, ignore the dog, and reward sitting and quiet behaviors."
Exercise and walk active dogs with urination problems often, allowing them to use the bathroom outdoors. Anti-anxiety drugs and those that increase urinary tract control may be useful as prescribed by a veterinarian.
For more information, contact: Dr. John Harkness, (662) 325-0994