Poise pads for dogs? Well, yes, I’ve known dogs who could use them. These dogs just can’t contain their enthusiasm when greeting people, and a little dribble – or a river – leaks out. What makes them do that and why?

First, if your dog is urinating when people or other dogs approach, a medical condition should be eliminated. Females who have been spayed might have a tendency to be incontinent. Or a urinary tract infection should be ruled out. In the absence of a health problem, then your dog’s issue is probably behavioral.

Some dog parents get upset with the dog when he urinates when excited, thinking that the dog is not housetrained. This is usually not the case – housetraining is a separate issue. If the dog is not having accidents in the house other than when being greeted, then incomplete housetraining is not the problem.

Speaking in dog language, they use body postures to signal their feelings. We’re all familiar with the classic “roll over and show you my belly” pose which, in dog speak means that, “I’m not a threat, please don’t hurt me.” Taking that to the extreme is urination. A very fearful dog will expose the belly then urinate to show the approaching individual that he is not a challenge.

Not all dogs will assume this posture.  Dogs with a more confident and in-control personality generally will not show signs of submission. But an insecure, anxious dog will be more likely to show signs of submission. It will start as a young puppy.  While some pups will outgrow it, others will continue, and many times the reactions of the pups’ human parents determine if the pup outgrows it or not.

I once worked with a family who adopted a 3-year-old Golden Retriever. The dog urinated whenever the husband approached. I was able to ascertain that the husband got angry with the dog and scolded him the first time he urinated. Also, the man liked to watch The Dog Whisperer, so the husband followed advice learned from this TV show and alpha rolled the dog whenever he submissively urinated which only served to reinforce the dog’s fear. The poor dog was terrified of this man, and of course the urination continued because the dog was desperately trying to tell the man that he was afraid of him. The man didn’t understand how to “talk dog” and made the problem much worse.

This example is an extreme case (I hope!) but we can inadvertently reinforce submissive urination by delivering attention to the dog by either scolding or even greeting the dog with too much excitement.

What to do for a dog who urinates when greeted?

–          Ensure that all greetings are calm. In fact, if your dog has the tendency to get over-excited, don’t greet him at all until he is calm. Come into the house and do other activities – hang up your coat, put away your keys, grab a snack – then say hi to the dog. But be calm, no matter how happy you are to see him! Have guests do the same.

–          Do not bend over the dog when greeting him and avoid direct eye contact. These postures are threatening to dogs. Instead, come down to his level and calmly pet under his chin, never over the head.

–          It goes without saying – never scold or punish the dog for urinating. It will make it worse. The dog will learn to associate greeting you with getting scolded, and the urination will continue as in the example above.

–          If your dog is very sensitive to your emotions, be careful about any yelling or raised voices. The dog could be urinating to try to appease the situation. He could be trying to tell you that it’s upsetting him.

–          Do activities to encourage your dog’s confidence. As mentioned above, a more confident dog rarely shows sign of submission. Dogs who are engaged in training, games, or even have a job like doing therapy work will be more sure of themselves.

If all else fails, there’s always doggie diapers!