Q. My dog Scamp was a puppy mill rescue. He is the gentlest thing, but he has some issues. The biggest issue is that he is wetting himself. I can casually walk up to him to pet him and he will just roll over and urinate. He also does it when he greets me when I get home. It’s a pain, but I don’t want to punish him, because when he does it he looks scared and runs away to hide under something. I have never hit him or anything else that would get that behavior from him. What can I do to fix this?
A. This behavior is not always the result of rough treatment. Submissive peeing (while either squatting or rolling over) is fairly common in puppies under 6 months of age when greeting adult dogs and people. From a dog’s eye view, especially a dog who hasn’t had much human contact growing up (like many puppy mill dogs), a human bending over to pet him may seem a bit threatening. Peeing when greeting a “superior” is an instinctive canine gesture that broadcasts the message, “I’m absolutely no threat to your authority!” This wet greeting style usually goes away as a pup gets closer to adulthood, though some may do it a bit longer. You didn’t mention how old Scamp is, but regardless of his age, you can help him learn to greet you in a more pleasant and confident manner.
When you arrive home, do not stop and pet him right away. Just calmly say something like, “Hi Scamp, how was your day?” as you walk past or around him. Basically ignore him while you put your coat away, check your phone messages, change your clothes or do some other brief chore.
After you’ve been home about five minutes or so, Scamp should calm down from the initial high excitement he felt when you walked in. Then greet him calmly. If he seems like he might be about to pee, stop greeting before he does and walk away. If you have a fenced yard, let Scamp greet you outdoors. That way, if he does pee, it won’t make a mess – so you’ll feel less anxious about it and that will help him be less anxious, too.
Teach Scamp a few tricks he can do to earn treat rewards. Instead of petting him when you arrive home, have Scamp do his tricks and hand him treat rewards. You could try petting him for a brief moment while he eats a reward. He’ll be in a confident mood right then, thinking about the treat he just earned, so he won’t be as likely to pee. The more tricks you can teach Scamp, the more confident he will become, and the less he will feel like he needs to demonstrate submission by peeing.