Peeing Dog
June 7, 2004 6:51 PM   Subscribe

My roommate and I adopted a dog about two weeks ago. He's a submissive/excited urinator. When I get home from school, if I so much as look at him, there's pee everywhere. Same thing with scolding--he does something bad, I'm all "no, that was bad," and he's all "okay, have some of my urine!"

I've been told that the best way to deal with this is just to wait, but if there's something to expedite the process, I'm all ears. (More about our training methods inside.)

We're crate training him. He goes into his little cage/house/thing at night, whines a bit (that's tapering off, though--we only started create training about a week ago), and then he's good. We had to do that because of the urination thing, our carpets couldn't take his excitement when we wake up in the morning.

We're leash training him, as well. He's also being trained to sit/roll over/etc., as a confidence booster.

He has a problem with in-home pooping, as well, but I can't really do anything about it, because a negative change in voice will cause him to cower and pee.

Anyone's experiences with a super-submissive dog who likes to show that submission through watersports would be greatly appreciated.
posted by billybunny to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
This is a funny read, and isn't it good that your problem is that he likes being with you guys so much?

Time will totally help it, but maybe you should try to keep regular hours--is it a surprise each day to him because you're coming home at different times so he never knows when to expect you guys? He's very new, and you guys are a mystery to him.

Is the crate in one of your rooms? that may help too...being near one of you all night would be a boost for him, and tell him that you guys are there for him, and not punishing him.
posted by amberglow at 7:34 PM on June 7, 2004

this may help (the carpet, at least) too
posted by amberglow at 7:43 PM on June 7, 2004

My mother's dog does this every time I go home to visit. With the exception of these visits, she rarely does it. Now I've learned to invite her to greet me out on the front porch, or at least over some of the hardwood floor. I don't know if it's possible to isolate your dog's episodes by changing your rituals with him, but it can take the edge off an otherwise vicious cycle. I think the training will also help, as the dog will gain more confidence through some bonding with you.

Age has helped with my Mom's dog, too. She also seems calm down after I rub her belly (I'm not sure what that signifies to her, but it calms her down).

I'd also suggest that you avoid any dominant behavior, so as not to trigger the submissive reaction. Try looking to your left as you approach your dog. The very fact that your eyes aren't on him will totally change his reaction to you. This is how I get close to skittish cats as well.

And instead of punishing him with yelling, punish him by leaving him outside, or in the bathroom, or some other form of punishment that doesn't involve elevating yourself to "alpha" status.
posted by scarabic at 8:38 PM on June 7, 2004

We adopted a submissive dog about 2 months ago and she's great now. First, get a copy of these two books. Help for Your Shy Dog and The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs. Are you and your roommate both male? This could be adding to the problem. You need to realize you're communicating tons through body language--yours is simian, but the dog interprets it as canine. You're the dog's pack now and you'll need to work at communicating in it's language. The dog is trying to find it's place in your pack. It will feel more comfortable when it learns you're the leader, but a kind leader.

Even slight eye contact stressed our dog at first. Facing her stressed her. So we would turn to present our side and avert our gaze when she became overly submissive. People think bending down, squatting, etc. will calm a submissive dog. It actually tends to make them more submissive. We worked on ignoring her submission by turning our back on her when she did it. Then she'd sit up and we'd reward that behavior with reassuring cheek rubs. Some dogs learn to be submissive to trigger interactions with their people. Don't pat the top of the dog's head, don't lean over the back of the dog, don't hug the dog. Scratch it's chest, rub it's cheeks. I think male voices can be part of the problem. Try using a higher voice when dealing with the dog.

I was extremely careful about her encounters on our walks at first. We didn't meet any dogs or people for the first few days. I'd cross to the other side of the street. I didn't want her submissiveness reinforced by a squatting person or an aggressive dog. Then we graduated to meeting people, but I would say please don't lean down, let her come to you. And we'd meet dogs, but I first asked the owner if it was okay, was their dog aggressive, etc. I was always careful to watch her body language--ears, tail, etc.--for signs of submission and as soon as I'd see it, I'd tell her she was okay, she was doing great. Now I tend to let her work through it and praise her after the thing that worried her. We started taking her to the dog park and again I was very careful she didn't get frightened or overwhelmed. I still keep a close eye on her, but she's fitting right in without being overly submissive to dogs or people.

Everyday she has to try something that scares her--walking on a busy street, getting in the car, etc. Everyday she gets to do something she's good at--sit, down, stay, come, check it out(for things she's scared of). She gets praised ALL the time--for not balking on her walk because of something scary, for being calm, for sitting at the curb.

You might want to hold off on any serious scolding until that switch is flipped in the dog's brain that you are benevolent leaders. My husband didn't scold the dog at all for a while because it freaked her out. I'm still moderate in my scolding. I say "anh, anh, anh" for most things. She gets short time outs in the kitchen for clearly naughty behavior. We waited about two weeks after the switch flipped in her brain before we started scolding her and she's pretty okay with it. She will always be a submissive dog, but she knows she doesn't have to grovel with us. She hasn't peed in well over a month, she doesn't cower when people approach us, she doesn't balk at unfamiliar things.

I think you're off to a good start with the training and crate training. I think the books could really help too.
posted by lobakgo at 9:19 PM on June 7, 2004

Response by poster: Well, the problem with not yelling at him as a punishment (not that I "yell," per se) and doing it another way is having him understand why he's being punished. He'll often hide in a corner of the dining room and do his... business... there, giving us a while before we notice what he's done. I can't really do anything to make him understand why he's being punished without getting a golden shower.

I don't like the idea of closing him up in the bathroom as punishment, either, because then he associates being closed away with being punished, and that's basically what we do with the crate. We finally just broke him of whining when left alone for the night, I'd rather not bring that behavior back if I can avoid it.

He can't be in either of our bedrooms because, well, neither of us want our bedrooms smelling like dog pee, really. He's not allowed in either of our rooms without our supervision, either.

On preview: He's not overly submissive, other than urination. He interacts well with other dogs, meeting new people doesn't really affect him that much.

I'll look into those books, thanks for the recommendation.
posted by billybunny at 9:29 PM on June 7, 2004

I recommend supervision whenever your home, period. If your dog has a pooping problem you need to keep and eye on him and give him outside time as much as possible, until you get an elimination schedule down. With our dogs we feed them and let them run around outside until they poop. Especially in the beginning keep them outside until they go. Don't take that to extremes. In the beginning I'd say take them outside 15 minutes of every hour they're out of their crate until they go, then they can hang out with you for say 2 or 3 hours, then back in the crate for a while. It sucks to have your dog in the crate when your home but your dog will be much happier when you're not upset with him for pooping everywhere. Even if you have to crate him or keep him in a bathroom 24x7 for a week it will pay off in spades later.

One of our dogs still does the submissive peeing thing sometimes, generally when we have guests (when it's most embarassing). It's gotten much better. In the long run you will want to reduce the excitement that the dog gets from you coming home. That won't help immediately but it will in the long run. I do not acknowledge our dogs presence when I get home until I take them outside, feed them, and they pee. Likewise I do not make a big deal about leaving.

Believe it or not, your dog will probably come to love his crate. We let one of our dogs roam the bedroom at night but the other one gets crated. We let her roam for a while but every once in a while there'd be an accident, and besides, she'd just sleep in her crate anyway.

There are some pads that are supposed to attract dogs for peeing purposes. At least that way when they pee in the house it will be somewhere cleanable/disposable. That will not work for the submissive peeing which is not triggered by scent, but by anxiety.

Last but not least, there are doggy medications for seperation anxiety. Talk with your vet, but I believe it's generally best to give the dog 4-6 weeks to get used to you before you can even tell if they're going to settle down or need more treatment.

Oh, and also, obedience training for you and your dog is a good idea. Your dog will feel better if it knows it's place and understands that good deeds go rewarded. Modern training does not rely so much on negative correction, but more on positive feedback so you should be able to avoid the submissive peeing. Also most training places are prepared to deal with that kind of thing. Training is also going to show you how to take charge of your dog in more subtle ways. For example dogs are very visual creatures and my dogs respond better to hand signals than spoken commands. Also, spoken commands should be short and distinctive. Dogs don't parse sentences. It sounds silly, but "here" is a better command than "come over here" or even "come here". Owners want to use longer gramatically correct commands because that's how they're used to talking "fetch the ball" "drop the ball" "take the ball" but dogs work better with "fetch" "drop" and "take".

Good luck! I don't know what breed your dog is but there are forums on the web for EVERY breed and you can often find lots of top information on them. Breeds have like temperments and someone who's gone through your problem with a dog like yours can be very helpful.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:54 PM on June 7, 2004

I watched our dog like a hawk for over a month when we got her and hustled her out whenever she looked like she needed to pee. And took her out after meals for her to poop. I took her on a leash in our backyard so there was no lollygagging. She knew we were there for a reason. We also limited her access to the house with two baby gates, which made supervising her a lot easier. She got praised for eliminating outside. I'm teaching her to ring a bell by the door when she needs to go out now. If you don't catch them in the act of peeing, etc. in the house, I don't think they'll get why they're being scolded.

I think RustyBrooks is right about hand signals and short commands--we do both.

I would say give it some time. He's settling in still. I think the fact that he's stopped whining at night is a sign that he's starting to do just that.
posted by lobakgo at 10:36 PM on June 7, 2004

There is no need to punish or scold a dog like this. If he is pooping in the house, it's because you didn't keep him outside until he was empty or didn't let him out when he needed to go - punishment is a very ineffective way to train dogs, especially dogs with a nature as soft as this one, it will only harm your relationship - ignore the bad and reward the good, make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard (i.e. he can't poop in the house if he's already emptied his bowels outside - give him a treat and some calm, sincere praise when he poops outside). Punishing/scolding a dog for messing in the house doesn't teach the dog not to mess in the house, it just teaches the dog not to do it when you're around, or that you get irrationally angry at him when you come home (you have just a couple of seconds after any given behaviour to reinforce or dicourage it, after that, the dog can no longer make the connection) - these things will make an already-submissive or insecure dog MORE insecure or neurotic.

I second the "Other End Of The Leash" book suggestion, and also suggest "The Culture Clash" by Jean Donaldson and "Don't Shoot The Dog" by Karen Pryor. Look into some clicker training classes, all dogs benefit greatly from training, but especially very "soft" submissive dogs, who feel more secure and in control if they learn in a clear, straightforward, dog-friendly manner what is expected of them. As to the submissive urination when you get home, make a policy of completely ignoring the dog for a few minutes or even half an hour (just take him outside in a calm, matter of fact way if he needs to go outside) - don't talk to him or look at him until he settles down.
posted by biscotti at 8:33 AM on June 8, 2004

I just wanted to echo RustyBrooks habit of not making a big deal when you enter/leave. A friend of mine has a mature dog who's an excited urinator, which suggests this may not pass with time.

Everytime my S.O. & I visit we have to restrain from acknowledging our friends dog. Even though the dog obviously knows we're there and he wants to be acknowledged, he'll still piddle if you do. So we've just had to train ourselves to sit down, become comfortable, let the owners reign him in if he gets too close (verbal) and give the dog a few minutes to forget about these new beings in his home. After this he's a urine-free joy!
posted by mnology at 8:53 AM on June 8, 2004

Yes, I have even more to say. On the encouraging side, I think that because submissive dogs are very aware of the humans in their home, they can be easier to train. I'm rarely ignored by our dog and she picks up on things extremely quickly, in part because she so wants to please. I see alpha dogs ignoring their people all the time.

Clicker training is working well for us. And I second the Don't Shoot the Dog recommendation. Be sure you and your roommate are on the same page--use the same words and hand signals. Because dogs are so attuned visually, slight variations in hand signals can throw them, like if your thumb is sticking out or tucked in. I think our dog sometimes give us some leeway, as if she were dealing with someone with a very thick accent.
posted by lobakgo at 11:38 AM on June 8, 2004

Clicker training is the shizzle. I recommend the book The Culture Clash by, I think, Jean Donaldson, along wih the Don't Shoot the Dog book, which is the primer.
posted by dobbs at 3:59 PM on June 8, 2004

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