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The Wee Wee Of Joy: Or Submissive Urination And What To Do About It
by Charlotte Mielziner

The Wee-Wee of Joy or
Submissive Urination and What to do About It
By Charlotte Mielziner

Thanks to an article by humorist Dave Barry, we use the term “The Wee-Wee of Joy” in our home to refer to Submissive Urination. Most dog owners have encountered it at some time. Coming home, your dog approaches, tip of the tail wagging furiously, submissive posture and suddenly your shoes feel warm and wet. Congratulations, you’ve just been spritzed by The Wee-Wee of Joy.

Submissive Urination is one of the top ten most common behavior problems reported to consultants and is often the reason dogs are surrendered to shelters and rescue groups. That little squirt of urine from a dog is an instinctive offer of appeasement. The dog is trying to communicate that you are definitely higher in the pack order and please don’t hurt him/her during the greeting.

While some dogs never let loose at all, Submissive Urination is almost a given in some breeds, such as Old English Sheepdogs or Cocker Spaniels. Some people have a stronger stimulus package and create more response in the dog. The Wee-Wee of Joy happens most often on greeting, but can happen in any encounter. It usually decreases on it’s own by age two, but if not, help can still be sought and a good outcome is possible. It is so common that when owners complain of a housetraining problem, I diplomatically question them to determine if it is actually Submissive Urination.

What to do about The Wee-Wee of Joy? First, NEVER punish it. Remember, the dog is programmed by nature to communicate like a dog not a human. He has no control over this behavior and any punishment, even shrieking, “Eeewww, that’s so gross!” just makes it worse.

Often owners are very frustrated by this behavior and by the time they have reported it to a consultant or obedience trainer, the human-animal bond is already damaged. Often, owners mistakenly relate it to housetraining and react in anger. The dog loses confidence that the owner can be appeased by the little liquid offering and is highly anxious. All members of the family must fully understand that punishment of any kind is counterproductive.

Management of the problem during training is crucial to a good outcome. Sometimes working around the problem is all that is needed to relieve the situation. Provide owners a reasonable alternative by quietly bringing the dog outside before greeting. A spare leash kept near the door or in a purse can be handy. Ignore the dog and enter the home quietly, keep body language neutral and snap on a lead to take the little squirter out. A few inexpensive, washable throw rugs be placed near the door can help. Wait until the bladder is empty to do the Mommy’s Home routine. Quietly go about cleaning up accidents without loud complaints that the dog will only interpret as more reason to appease the alpha with more and bigger puddles. Try pet urine deodorizers from the pet store to renew the carpet and rug.

Obedience and/or agility training is highly recommended both to increase confidence in the dog as well as teach the owner to more effectively communicate, but make absolutely sure positive motivation techniques are utilized. Well-trained dogs are generally more confident in human interactions and less likely to see appeasement as necessary. Aversive techniques only increase anxiety and make the situation worse.

Exposing the dog to many new places and people will also help him relax. Again, make sure that these are pleasant encounters. Ask friendly, cooperative people not to stoop over the dog in a dominant posture, speak loudly, or hold eye contact. Have the volunteers quietly give a treat and stroke the dog on the side of the face, under the chin or on the shoulder avoiding the top of the head.

Instilling an alternate behavior can also help. Behaviorists call this technique Response Substitution. Train a trick such as spin, sit or wave and use it each time the dog is beginning to look like The Wee-Wee of Joy is about to rain down. Look for early signals such as head held low, or common triggers, such as greetings at the door, to work the tricks. Keep repetitions light and happy, but low key. This solution requires a great deal of consistency and is more time consuming and so may not be an option for some owners.

Good luck and may you need no more paper towels for The Wee-Wee of Joy.

Published: Oct 22,2008 20:40
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