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Monday, June 30, 2008

So Excited He Wets His Pants--Dogs Do It Too

My best friend wet his pants when we were in the second grade back in Cloquet, Minnesota. Our class was standing on stage in the Garfield School auditorium, getting positioned for our Christmas program which was due to begin in about 15 minutes. Everyone was giddy with excitement and nervousness. It was the first time most of the kids had "performed" in public, and Santa Claus was due to visit right after our concert.

My buddy was more excited than most. He wet his pants. I think they placed him in the back row so it wouldn't show, and we completed the program anyway.

Puppies and young, submissive dogs "wet their pants" too. It's frustrating to owners, who often confuse this as a housebreaking issue. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH HOUSEBREAKING! This is a behavior over which the puppies have virtually no control. Excitement gets them going, and they simply dribble because they haven't yet developed the social or physical maturity to hold it back.

It's called "submissive urination." It happens when you or a guest stoops to greet your puppy in an excited (i.e., overpowering) way. It happens when the puppy hears or sees sternness in your demeanor. It happens at the vet's office, or when two older or larger dogs come up to greet your pup.

DO NOT SCOLD your dog for this behavior. It will only make matters worse. Instead, tone down the stimulus that triggered the leak. If you make the puppy dribble when you come home, make a more subdued, casual entrance. Avoid bending down to touch her for the first few minutes you're home. Let her acclimate to your presence first. Same thing with guests...ask them not to bend down or pet your dog until they've been at your house for a few minutes.

As your dog matures, he'll be better able to handle such common social pressures and better able to hold his urine. In the meantime, don't scold or even acknowledge the puddle when it happens (aside from cleaning it up). Continue to socialize him. Keep him out of overstimulating circumstances (i.e., protect him from your visitors). With time and patience, he will grow out of it, and there will be no more "wetting his pants" in excitement.

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