Over my career, I observed many people who confuse excitement urination with submissive urination. The poor guardians stop petting their dog’s head, speak in a quiet voice and ignore the dog when they return home, yet the problem still persists. Every time the dog gets excited, urine puddles on the floor because the underlying cause is not addressed. In excitement urination, the sphincter pressure drops and urine flows out of the bladder when the animal is overstimulated. Successful treatment involves teaching the dog and their people to interact in a calm manner. Here is how I counsel clients whose pet suffers from this condition.
1) Always run the appropriate tests, blood work and urinalysis, to rule out medical causes. If the test results are “within normal limits,” then focus on behavioral causes.
2) Chronicle the dog’s behavior in a journal. Document the situation and what occurred right before the dog urinated. Also record who was present, both human and animal and what they were doing before the “accident” occurred. Finish with the amount of exercise the dog received.
3) Study your dog’s behavior closely. Most display signs that tell you they are getting excited. Learn to recognize the signs and help the pet calm down before the stimulation is too much.
4) In my experience, drug therapy to increase sphincter tone does little to help this problem. The best treatment is to teach the people in the household to avoid overstimulating the dog.
5) With the history from the journal in hand, your veterinarian will be able to work with you to identify triggers of the behavior as well as a treatment plan. In general, I recommend lots of exercise, obedience training and slow deconditioning to the stimuli that caused the behavior. Let’s look at each more closely.
Most of the dogs I see with this problem get very little exercise. The excitement builds all day as they wait for their people to return home. Schedule 15 to 30 minutes of hard play twice a day, in the morning and evening. This will burn off some of their nervous energy.
Teach the dog to relax and settle on command. Start with basic obedience commands such as sit, stay and heal. Once your dog understands these commands, work on the ‘settle’ command. I put them on a down stay, rub their back and say ‘settle’. Most dogs will roll onto their side and relax. Keep the interaction short at first. The goal is to set the dog up for success. Stop before an accident occurs.
Slowly decondition the dog to whatever caused it to become overly excited in the first place. Expose them to small doses of the stimulus without taking it any further. For example, let’s say the dog drips urine every time you pick up their leash. Put the leash in a conspicuous location, where it is visible to the dog. Let it sit there without going for a walk. When the dog is comfortable with that, move the leash around but do not pick it up. If the dog stays dry, pick up the leash, run it through you hands and then replace it. Slowly do more and more with the leash, all the while ignoring the dog. Eventually, they will be deconditioned to the leash. Remember, to proceed slowly with deconditioning. Some animals may learn in a few days while others might take several months.