Talking dogs: Stopping excited pet from peeing means changing behavior pattern

June 6, 2016


Ginger is a 4-year-old, overly excited and nervous terrier mix. When I come home, or someone comes to my house, she will pee. It seems she will deliberately pee as a way to greet me. I have tried avoiding eye contact, but she still pees. I am at my wits’ end and completely overwhelmed and stressed out by Ginger’s peeing. Can you help? Is this problem fixable?

— Tillie

Thank you for submitting your letter, Tillie. I can read how stressed out you are about this situation with Ginger. Although avoiding eye contact when you get home is a good start, clearly there’s more that needs to be tried in this situation.

First, I would recommend a thorough veterinary examination. There may be a physical component causing, or at least contributing, to this behavior. I assure you that Ginger is not urinating on purpose to send you a message. This is something that is beyond her control; the cause may be a physical problem, a behavioral pattern, or both.

Next, assuming that any physical issues have been ruled out or addressed, it’s time to change the pattern of behavior. The first thing I’d suggest is introducing an alternative behavior for Ginger, one that is incompatible with overexcitement and urinating. Is she an obsessive ball player? Does she live for food? Whichever she is most over-the-moon about, I’d introduce it the second she sees you.

This will mean having high-value treats or her favorite toy in the car with you. Upon arriving home, without greeting her, either toss the toy or a large, yummy pile of treats right at her, and then walk away as if she doesn’t exist. The goal here is to have her peeing behavior be "interrupted" by something that is high enough in value to redirect her. If this is to work, it needs to be repeated each time you arrive home, or someone comes to the door (in the case of guests, toss the ball or treats away from the door), until a new pattern of behavior is established — that of looking around for her beloved toy or yummy treats when you arrive home.

If she has already peed by the time you get close enough to toss the toy or treats, then investing in a remote control treat dispenser will be of great value. The unit should be placed toward the back of the house, and by using your remote control, you would have it start delivering treats as you walk in the house. The exciting thing about this approach is that Ginger will be further away from you and focused on getting those treats from the dispenser — both likely to result in no urinating.

Another important point — if you come home and ignore Ginger, but become exasperated when she pees, you could be adding to the problem. Ginger may become more stressed out, resulting in leaking urine due to the pattern she’s observed: You come home, ignore her, then become unhappy or stressed, perhaps even scolding, while you clean up her accident. So part of fixing this is to walk in your door, remain calm and serene, and even if there is a puddle, ignore it for a while. In short, be "zen" when you get home, regardless of what’s going on around you.

If redirecting Ginger with high-value treats or toys doesn’t get results, I’d recommend a consultation, so the routine can be observed directly. This way, we can cater a plan to fit you and Ginger specifically.

One final thing to consider: If all else fails, why not invest in a few pairs of "britches" for Ginger? These are little panties made for female dogs that will prevent her accidents from hitting the floor. Investing in a few pairs of these while you’re working on the issue might do a lot to ease your stress, while you both are learning to behave a little differently. Good luck, Tillie!

 

 


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