We have the sweetest Border Collie Mix and we just love her so much – but we are having a serious problem with her. Whenever we come home after being away, she gets so excited, she pees on herself and all over the floor. She does this when strangers come to pet her too. She doesn't seem afraid at all – she is just so happy, she can’t contain herself. She will even do this in the car when people walk by and say hello to her. She is completely house-trained otherwise. It almost seems that she doesn't even know she is doing this. What can we do about this problem? We really can’t have her wetting all over the place and we just don’t know what to do.
Sandra and Jack
Dear Sandra and Jack,
The behavior you are describing is, as you have surmised, completely unassociated with house-training. Excitement Urination (or Submissive Urination, as it is also called) is a behavior that has roots in your dog’s genetic past. Non-alpha wolves in packs generally urinate in the presence of their leaders to show their respect and their submissive role in a canine society. Since domestic dogs are all descendant from wolves, occasionally these pack behaviors show up in a household setting.
The good news is this – you have a submissive dog which means with positive training and feedback, your dog will always be friendly, and eager to please you. A submissive dog is easy to train and will want to learn everything you have to teach. Needless to say, at the top of the lesson plan, you will be instructing your pet not to urinate when excited.
The most important thing you should know is that your dog should never be scolded or punished for this behavior. If she feels as though she is doing something wrong - and she will if she is scolded or punished - she will urinate even more to show her submissiveness and respect. That’s how it’s done in the dog world. She will never correlate your angry tone with her urination behavior, and she will be completely baffled as to what the problem is and why you are so upset with her.
You will need to address this behavior in small steps. First, when you arrive home, you and your family members should completely ignore your dog for ten to fifteen minutes. Go about your business without talking to her or making any kind of eye contact. Happy voices and lots of petting encourage the excitement response in a dog. By entering your house in an “I’m too busy now” fashion, your pet will gradually attain an equilibrium and go about her business while you go about yours. You will notice almost immediately that she will not urinate.
After you have given her this time to adjust to your return, you may take a seat. Do not call her over, but if she does come to you, gently give her one or two pats on the head, but do not speak or make contact. If she begins to get excited, walk away. When you have achieved success to this point, you can add more time to the petting, and even a few soft-spoken words. Continue to avoid eye contact until your dog can handle both petting and being spoken too without getting overly excited.
When friends come to visit, be sure and tell them ahead of time that you are in the process of training your dog and to please follow these same interaction guidelines. It is also important to tell people who approach your dog that she is in the middle of important behavioral training and to please not pet or engage her in any way as they walk by. Most people are understanding about these things and will abide by your wishes.
This behavior will not disappear overnight, so please be patient. You have a very sweet dog who loves you unconditionally. Please give her that same gift, along with your patience and guidance. In the long run, you will be very happy that you did. It’s only a matter of time before she becomes the type of dog that everyone wished they had.
Best wishes to you.