Our dog Milo is a 9-month-old Lab/golden mix. He pees whenever he gets excited. If another dog runs up to him, he pees. If a person approaches him, he pees. It doesn't matter if he knows the person or not. He's done this since we first brought him home at 8 weeks and we hoped he would outgrow it, but it doesn't seem to be getting much better. Our veterinarian has ruled out medical causes. Will he ever outgrow this or is there something we can do?
- Milo's frustrated family
Whenever a puppy or dog urinates uncontrollably it is important to rule out medical causes, so it's good you've already taken that step. This is a fairly common problem in puppies and can take on a couple different forms. The first is "excitement urination," which is a result of immature muscles that simply have not developed enough for the pup to be able to hold his urine when excited. The majority of dogs grow out of this as their muscles develop.
The second cause is "submissive urination." A dog will submissively urinate to show deference to another dog or human. Based on your description, I think Milo's problem may be excitement based, so teaching him how to control himself when greeting could accelerate the resolution of the problem.
Start by working in your house where he feels most comfortable. Teach him some easy cues like "Sit" and "Down." You will need to recruit some friends to help with controlled greetings. Ask Milo to "Sit" away from the front door then have your friend enter and calmly walk toward him. Instruct your friend not to make eye contact or bend over to pet him, but just toss a treat and keep walking. Physical petting can cause a dog to urinate, so the reward for not peeing should be a treat with no affection. If Milo pees as your friend approaches, start over and have him toss the treat from further away. Gradually have him move closer before tossing the treat. Once you've repeated this exercise with several friends, try having Milo lay down for the greeting.
After you've practiced inside the house, move the greeting exercise outside. You'll need to work in many settings for Milo to build confidence and learn to control himself. If you want to start working with dog approaches, begin by using a calm dog on leash. Gradually increase the speed of the approach, still using the calm dog. There is no way to control an excited dog running straight for Milo, so he won't be able to learn from this situation.
Building Milo's overall level of confidence will be very helpful as you work to resolve this problem. Consider taking him to a positive reinforcement based basic manners class. He will encounter many different dogs and people in this setting and learning new cues will build confidence.
- Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog Training and Education Center in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org