Saturday, February 23, 2008


Ginny invites you to write to her with your questions...... [Submit them as a comment on one of the "Ask Ginny" posts and Ginny will repost them in a new post segment.]

Q & A about health, veterinary
matters, training, and life

Q: Dear Ginny,

I have a dog who is generally well house-broken, but whenever my husband comes home and greets her, she pees right on the floor. I have scolded her, but it doesn't seem to make any difference. What can I do?

A: The reason it doesn't help to scold her is that you are not dealing with a house-training problem. What your dog is doing is called "submissive urination." In the language of the dog pack (which all dogs feel a part of), the lowest dog(s) of the dominance hierarchy shows certain body language to indicate respect and submission to a dominant dog in the pack. This includes putting the ears back, lowering the head, averting the eyes, presenting the groin region, and urinating slightly. Because submissive urination is a way to showing respect to the "top dog," any reinforcement of dominance will just encourage submissive displays, such as urination. Scolding just reinforces dominance, so will induce even more submissive urination. In a dog's mind, dogs don't become members of our family; we become members of their pack. Therefore, we must understand dog language, which is primarily a language of the body. Greeting times in the dog pack, such as when your husband comes home from work, are times when the hierarchy is reinforced. The most effective thing you and your husband can do is to be very low-key when he gets home. Even though it's difficult, he should ignore your dog altogether until the excitement is past. He should avoid direct eye contact and avoid bending toward her. Both these gestures are dominant gestures in dog body language. If you and he are reluctant to give up an excited greeting, then just put down a mat at the front door, which you don't mind getting urine on. However, be sure to pick it up after the greeting is over, since you don't want to confuse the dog and have her go back to that spot and think it's all right to pee on it again.

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