Inappropriate Elimination/Submissive Urination

Housesoiling in adult dogs ranks among the most common complaints of dog owners. Even the most reliably trained dog can have trouble controlling bowel or bladder function during illness or stress. If your dog suddenly loses its house-training manners, take him to your vet immediately to make sure he is not ill. Review recent events that might have made your pet anxious if there is no sign of physical illness.

Dogs may lose desirable habits in response to events that are not immediately obvious to their owners (such as a neighborhood female dog being in heat, arousing tensions in dogs of both senses). There may be changes in the dynamics between your dog and another household pet. Or loss of house-training habits sometimes reflects an owner’s stress because dogs are sensitive to their owners’ moods. Your dog may react to your tensions and withdrawal by reasserting territorial claims with deposits of urine or stool. It may even void in a place that is strongly associated with you (your bed or clothing).

Even if you’re busy, it’s important to keep up your twice-daily walks instead of just letting the dog out in the yard. Spending more quality time together reduces your own stress level and benefits everyone’s sense of well-being. Dogs benefit from structure in their daily routines.

If your dog loses its house-training manners, follow these steps:

  • Prevent accidents by resuming basic house training. Provide frequent opportunities for your dog to eliminate in an appropriate place. Walk it on a leash within a half-hour after each meal (or sooner) and, if possible, every few hours during the day. Reward your dog’s appropriate elimination immediately with abundant praise. Remember that it is not useful to punish a pet for inappropriate elimination. This is especially important when the problem’s underlying cause is psychological or physical stress.
  • Decrease your pet’s desire to return to soiled areas. Odors must be removed because they will attract your pet and maintain objectionable habits long after the initial cause of the misbehavior is gone. Thoroughly disinfect and deodorize the soiled area. Many effective household cleaning productions, such as alternating diluted white vinegar and baking soda, can neutralize or at least dilute the odors that attract your pet to the location. Products containing biological enzymes can be helpful in deodorizing, too. After cleaning, block your pet’s access to the target area with an obstacle such as a piece of furniture. Alternatively, feed your pet at or near this spot or simply place a bowl of water there.

Submissive Urination

Submissive behavior signals a dog’s recognition of its inferior social status toward another dog or a person. Physical clues associated with submission are similar to those displayed by defensive, even fearful animals. These may include ears flattened against the head, head and neck lowered, body arched in a sitting position or crouched low to the ground, and tail held low or between the hind legs. Submissive behavior during greeting may be accompanied by a dribbling of urine. This submissive urination is seen particularly in young dogs and most often in young females. It may persist into adulthood, but it usually resolves as urinary sphincters mature and the pup gains confidence in a stable human family.


  • The key to treating submissive urination is to keep greetings brief and calm. Excited entrances and exits may worsen the problem. Everyone entering or leaving your home, including you, should be calm and controlled.
  • Avoid prolonged direct eye contact when greeting the dog so that it does not feel threatened.
  • Do not pet the dog on its head or back during greeting. This may trigger submissive patterns, including urination, because petting is a subtle form of asserting dominance over the dog. Petting should be avoided during submissive urination so as to avoid unintentionally encourage that behavior.
  • Walk your dog at regular and frequent intervals so that its bladder does not become too full.
  • Crouch or kneel on the floor so that you present a less intimidating figure. Standing over a dog, particularly when it lacks social confidence, can be threatening.
  • Let your dog approach you rather than moving toward your dog. This will be less menacing and will allow your dog to greet you at its own pace.
  • Punishment is not recommended because it only aggravates the problem. Punishment makes your dog more anxious and increases its tendency to urinate submissively. Further, because the urinary (and anal) sphincters may relax during times of stress, the pet may naturally void more out of fear. Your dog may learn to fear and avoid you or to anticipate punishment at social encounters.

Source: "Canine and Feline Behavior Problems"

Naughty at Nighttime

FirecrackerHiRes WEBCats sleep about 18 hours a day and take multiple cat naps to accomplish this feat. They’re also nocturnal, which means they’re up and about when most of us are trying to sleep. Single kittens and feline adolescents tend to be the most active at night. Here’s what to know to try to keep a cat’s nature from interfering with your sleep:

  • Try to combat overactivity by wearing the felines out. Engage them in interactive play an hour or so before bedtime.(Find appropriate toys at Tri-County Humane Society's store. All proceeds go back to the animals.)
  • Give them a late-night snack.
  • Make the bedroom as dark as possible. Cats can’t see in total darkness. They can get around in low light very well, though.
  • If cats are just too playful, they might need their own playroom at the end of the home. This nighttime isolation is typically only needed until the cat is older.
  • Sometimes two is better than one. A second young cat with a similar activity level will give the first one an exercise partner.
  • If the cat starts tapping you, wanting food before your wake-up time, ignore him or her. If you give in, that just teaches them that they can get their way by harassing you. Roll over, pull the covers over you – do whatever you can to give them the message that this behavior will not be rewarded.
  • To keep a hormonally charged female from making night noise, spay her!
  • If it’s an older cat that’s being restless, consider taking him or her to the vet. A health issue may be behind the ruckus.

Source: Adapted from information by Jacque Lynn Schultz, CPDT

Select the Right Pet for Your Kids

boston1 WEBRemember, a pet isn’t a temporary playmate but a multi-year commitment - as well as a new family member.

How old should my child be before we get a pet?

Some experts recommend a child be at least 6 years old, but you are the best judge of your child’s maturity. At the very least, your child should exhibit self-control and understand and obey the word “no.” If you think your child is ready for a pet, introduce him or her to friends’ well-behaved pets to see how your child does.

Should we get a young animal or an older one?

Puppies and kittens are fragile, require extra time and care, and are prone to play-related scratching and biting. They might not be the most appropriate pet for a young child. Adopting a friendly, calm adult animal who has a known history of getting along with young children might be best. Talk to Tri-County Humane Society staff members for insights into an animal’s behavior with children.

What kind of dog is best with kids?

All dogs have the potential to bite, and a dog’s breed is only one of many factors that affect temperament and behavior. The best dogs for kids are those who receive proper socialization, humane training, exercise and attention, who are given adequate food, water, shelter and veterinary care, who are sterilized and who are safely confined.

How should my child interact with pets?

To protect both your child and your pet, it’s critical that you supervise all child-pet interactions. It’s also important to help your child see the world through your pet’s eyes: How would he or she feel if someone poked them or pulled at his/her ears? Explain that even the most docile of pets has limits, and all animals must be treated with caution and respect.

Pets might be upset by too much petting or stimulation. Teach your child to heed warning signs (hissing, lip curling, retreating and growling) that indicate the animal would rather be left alone.

Other people’s pets may feel and display discomfort if your child touches or even approaches them. Tell your child to get permission from an adult before touching another pet. Check out the instructions on how to avoid dog bites.

Animals in pain may lash out or bite anyone who tries to touch them. Teach your child to leave an injured pet alone and to notify an adult immediately.

Teach your kids not to scream and run around dogs. It may make them overly excited and even dangerous.

Dogs contained in yards or cars may try to protect their territory if approached. Teach your child not to tease or get close to them.

How can I help my pet feel safe?

Pets, like children, need time to adjust to new surroundings and circumstances. Provide pets with a place of their own where they can be away from the children. (Be careful about putting them in a yard unattended; they can be teased by neighborhood children.)

How can my kid help care for a pet?

Choose tasks appropriate for the age of the child. Even young children can be involved in some aspect of caring for an animal friend, such as selecting a new toy or color or carrying a food can.

How can I teach my kids to take good care of pets?

The best way to teach your children how to be responsible pet caregivers is to be one yourself. Start even before you get a pet – make sure you have realistic expectations about pet ownership. Take the right steps to select the right animal for your family at the right time. As soon as you bring a pet into your family, set up and enforce rules regarding proper pet care. (“Don’t pull the dog’s ears, tail, or other body parts.”) Insist they never tease, hit, or chase the pet. Teach children how to properly pick up, hold, and pet the animal. Ultimately, your children will learn how to treat animals – and people by watching how you treat the family pet.

Source: Pets for Life Behavior Series, adapted from Dumb Friends League in Denver, Colorado, and the Humane Society of the United States.

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