Picture this: you walk through your front door after a long day of work and immediately get greeted by your canine friend, only when you reach down to offer him a "hello" pat on the head, you see a puddle of pee form on the floor beneath him.
Some dogs tend to sprinkle a little upon encountering something exciting, especially if they're in early puppyhood or living out the later years of their lives. An otherwise housebroken adult dog who pees each time he gets petted can be even more frustrating for owners to deal with, as the cause is generally hard to pin down. If you hope to prevent your dog from peeing when petted, you'll need to understand why he does it, then take the correct measures to avoid it.
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Here are some potential reasons why your dog may pee when you pet him.
While dogs have been domesticated for a long time, those wild, wolf-like behaviors still pop up from time to time, like ear licking, resource guarding, or marking their territories. Another such pee-related behavior that some dogs still display today is called submissive urination, says The Humane Society. Stemming from pack socialization dynamics, submissive urination is exactly what it sounds like: submitting to a more dominant pack member by urinating on yourself, usually while on your back. If your dog is a naturally submissive type and you notice her peeing on herself or the floor anytime you or a houseguest walk through the door or greet her, this is most likely the reason why, or at least a part of it.
We've probably all seen the "I just peed myself a little" comment somewhere on social media by now, and while this meme is always posted in jest to express our excitement over something, some dogs actually do just that: pee themselves a little when they get excited. This is especially prominent in puppies, who will sometimes grow out of the behavior, although some adult dogs carry the trait well into their later years, which can be frustrating. Luckily, there are measures you can take to reduce your dog's excitement, and hopefully, her tendency to pee when she sees you.
What not to do
When it comes to teaching your dog not to pee when he gets petted, one of the most important tips is not actually what to do, but what not to do. Punishing your dog, be that by scolding, hitting, or even just kind of freaking out in a potentially scary way, will almost never help your dog unlearn to pee because he's excited (and it definitely isn't going to build up his confidence if he's peeing due to submission.) Excitement or submissive peeing isn't the same thing as not being housebroken, and will require a slightly different approach to combat. While this process will take a bit of time and patience, it's important that you guide and encourage him not to do this, rather than punish, if you want to see long-term results.
What to do
First thing's first, if your dog is housebroken and still can't seem to control her bladder, it's recommended that you take her in to see a veterinarian, who may be able to spot whether an underlying medical issue is causing her to pee so frequently. If health problems, like a urinary tract infection, are ruled out, you'll need to identify why she may be peeing, along with some of her possible triggers. For example, if you notice that your dog pees every time you walk in the door, but you walk in the door and yell her name and throw your arms up in the air because you're so happy to see her, this may be lending to her excitability, which could be the reason she pees uncontrollably.
Similarly, if your dog rolls over onto her back and pees on herself anytime you yell or assert other dominating behavior, opting for a positive reinforcement training method may get her to stop peeing while still learning what not to do.
If submissive urination seems to be the issue, Banfield Pet Hospital has an easy recommendation to help curb the behavior. Basically, you're going to want to create a neutral atmosphere between the two of you so that your dog can feel confident and calm in your presence. To do this, kneel down closer to her level but face away from her and allow her to approach you. Then, you can offer a gentle scratch under the chin, taking care to avoid eye contact as not to scare her. If you notice that she pees in specific scenarios, like when you walk in the door, try distracting her with something that she knows how to do well, which will help build her confidence, like sitting for a treat or chasing a ball. If excitement is the issue, you'll want to do your best to remain calm when petting or greeting your dog, and offer her affection or a walk outside without too much enthusiasm, and always reward calm behavior while your dog is not excitement peeing. You can also try entering your home through a different door, if possible, just to break up the routine if your dog gets excited when you come in.