Diamonds in the Ruff

A common greeting that causes leaking: frontal posture, reaching arms.  Turning sideways can reduce the amount of leaking.

Submissive/Excitement Wetting
How to greet a sensitive dog

WHY does my dog leak when I reach to pet her?

When I first get home? When meeting someone new?


Submissive urination is not a house training problem, it’s a natural greeting behavior of a sensitive dog who lacks confidence. It is often triggered by a frontal posture, when a person leans toward them to say 'hello' or reaches over their head to pet them. 

Why does it happen?

Urine is communication.  Dogs leave urine scent when they mark along a trail.  It's information.  "Spot was here."  Shy dogs "introduce themselves' with a puddle so the person or animal can "get to know her" in a less invasive way, by smelling the puddle, rather than needing to get up close and personal.  "You can smell me over there."


Excitement wetting is common in immature dogs who are over excited.  "So excited I wet my pants."

The good news is, they usually do outgrow leaky behavior.

Age and life-experience are the real solution. In the mean time, we can minimize the frequency and size of the puddle by minimizing the triggers and the negative impact by introducing them to new people outside where it doesn't matter, or on easy-to-clean surfaces - the kitchen tile, not the carpet!


What do do about "wet greetings" ...

Submissive urination/excitement urination is often seen in sensitive personality types and it will gradually subside with confidence building and socialization and by gradual desensitization - gentle exposure to the trigger until it becomes normalized and no longer concerning.

Keep excitement and stress to a minimum. When arriving home, family or guests should make no eye contact for at least 15 minutes. Only when your dog has calmed down, greet her quietly. Dogs feel less threatened and have an easier time controlling their excitement when guests don't make eye contact or try to make friends right away - after the adrenaline rush has subsided, wetting will be reduced or sometimes even eliminated.


Avoid leaning over or looking down over your dog.

This is really difficult with a small breed dog or puppy! Instruct guests to squat and turn side-ways and scratch under her chin, not over her head or shoulders, to avoid accidental overbearing body postures.


It can be very difficult to guide humans in proper greeting posture.  Telling people what NOT to do is rarely helpful.  Focus on what you need them to do instead. 


"Can you sit over here so she can come to you?  If she comes over hold your hand low for her to sniff and ask her if she would like you to scratch her under the chin with just one hand.  That's what she likes best.  It will take her awhile to warm up."  Now they are focused on offering one hand, which often turns them more sideways, and holding the hand under so they aren't reaching over the top of the dog's head.

If wetting occurs, ignore it.

If you look disappointed, groan, or scold the dog, you will make matters worse - so avoid any negative reaction.

Socialize.  Leaky dogs need life experience to help them see new people and places as expected and normal. The more kind and gentle people they meet, the more sights and sounds they experience, the less overwhelming they become.  When things aren't overwhelming and stressful, the leaking will stop.

Don't coddle or correct. Build confidence by concentrating on what the dog is doing right and ignoring any "mistakes." Keep your tone upbeat and confident. Your dog will feel much more confident when it is apparent that you are in control of the situation and are comfortable and relaxed. If you shriek, the dog will leak!

Set up for success. Carry your puppy or small dog in social situations so when she does meet someone, the person is at eye level and not bending over your dog.  (Wear clothes you don't care about and bring a towel - be prepared!) If someone is approaching on the street wanting to pet your dog, step between your dog and incoming visitor to block them so you can instruct them about your dog's needs before they direct their attention on the dog.  This will eliminate the loom-factor of a close talker.  It's important that the dog approaches them in her own time and on her own terms.  Direct them to turn sideways, give her time and space, let her sniff.  If she welcomes their interaction, remind them to scratch her under the chin or the side of her shoulder and not over the top of her head.


Distance is your friend.  Right now, those kids are far enough away that this dog is aware of them and can watch without feeling any anxiety.  If they moved closer, we'd see his calm relaxed demeanor change.  We might see his hears flip back,  he'd probably lick his lips, look away, and show other outward signs of concern.  His heart rate would go up.  If people appear passing on the grass area, we might see avoidance, hiding behind his person, or looking for an escape route.  If their attention was directed at him or if anyone approached where the lawn meets the dirt., we'd likely get growling and barking.  His hair might stand up.  He would likely go into fight or flight mode  We don't want to put him in that situation!  The goal is for the dog feel fine the whole time.  If he gets startled, if we let him get in over his head and have to bail, as he escapes the scary thing and feels relief, we will make him worse, not better.

Let the dog lead.  Allow the dog the freedom to change direction and move away.  Don't pressure the dog to move closer.  ANY time the dog stops moving forward, keep the leash slack and stop with him.  Give him time.  If he opts to increase distance congratulate him for his wise choice.  More information in this article:  "Thresholds - Recognize and Respect Them."

Empowerment - why having a choice matters. 

Would you?  Could you cross this bridge? 

What if someone took you by the arm and dragged you toward it? To your dog, fearful stimulii cause the same physiological response as crossing this bridge causes this man.  Fear affects adrenaline, cortisol, and heart rate, resulting in sweating, increased respiration rate, and decreased appetite. 


Don't pull him toward what scares him.  Living beings go into freeze, fight or flight mode when panic sets in.  They may go frozen and shut down, try to escape or hide, or lash out to keep the scary thing at bay.  The man on this bridge cannot walk due to his fear.  He clutches the railing, scooting to get across.  If you have a fear of heights, just looking at this photo probably gives you the heebie-jeebies!


We will assume that this man chose to take this challenge.  Dogs are rarely given choices or given the space and  time they need to come to terms with what scares them.  They are made to endure the approach of animals or people and pulled by their leashes toward scary situations at the insistence of their humans.  Too-often frightened dogs are seen as stubborn or unreasonable when they put on the brakes and can't continue. 


Time and space matter.  Slow is fast when it comes to helping your dog through his fears.


This handout courtesy of © CAROL A. BYRNES "DIAMONDS IN THE RUFF"

Training for Dogs & Their People (509) 325-7833

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