Uncontrollable urination due to exciting or scary/harmful people, places or events, is not an uncommon issue, especially for puppies and young dogs. Behaviourally this is a natural dog response.
However, you should consult with your veterinarian to rule out any possible medical reasons for this act before embarking on a behaviour modification program.
Puppies that experience uncontrollable urination as the result of excitement will typically outgrow the behaviour as their bladder muscles develop and they mature, as long as they are neither rewarded nor punished for their accidents.
Typical situations that trigger uncontrollable urination due to excitement may be family members arriving home after being away for a few hours and greeting the puppy, especially while making direct eye contact, speaking in an excitable or high pitched voice, leaning over to greet the puppy or even touching the puppy. It may also happen when friends and other visitors arrive at your home or children in the family play excitedly with each other or the puppy.
Puppies or dogs that experience uncontrollable urination as a response to things they find scary or harmful (referred to as submissive urination), do so to communicate their fear and avoid conflict or fighting when dealing with other dogs.
In some cases dogs will also display this behaviour to avoid punishment from a person. Typical situations that trigger this behaviour are older or aggressive dogs intimidating younger or insecure dogs or loud noises like thunder, fireworks, sirens or arguing between people or physically/verbally punishing the dog.
No matter what the cause it is very important you never correct or punish a dog for urinating. Punishment makes this behaviour go from bad to worse.
On occasion the dog may stop urinating temporarily or even long-term but fearful responses such as this will manifest into other fearful or even aggressive responses. Once you know the trigger for the uncontrollable urination, begin to train a new response by changing your actions and avoiding the triggers to start. Slowly introduce the triggers in small, quick sessions, making sure the dog is always successful = no urination.
If your dog urinates in the presence of a trigger you are working with, you have gone too far, too fast beyond your dog’s comfort zone. Take a short break and come back to the exercise, being sure to lessen the intensity of the trigger (either decrease volume or increase distance between the dog and the trigger) so your dog will be successful again.
When arriving home or if another family member has had the dog away from the home make sure all initial greetings are very calm. In some cases it is best to avoid eye contact, speaking, or touching the dog completely during the initial training stage.
Using food rewards can be an important to ensure success. Food rewards, when used properly, will help boost the puppy’s confidence and provide a way for the family members to reinforce the desired response – greetings without peeing – by training the puppy or dog to do something else instead, like sit or shake-a-paw. Another advantage to using food is that urination and eating are very difficult for a dog to do at the same time.
The dog's response to the food competes with the urge to urinate, and further reinforces the desired response of not peeing when in the presence of the trigger. Start by dropping a couple of small treats on the ground around your feet for the dog to eat off the floor. If the dog eats the treats and doesn’t urinate, try feeding the dog the treats from your hand while still avoiding all eye contact, speaking or any touching.
Once the puppy or dog is calm and the chance of the uncontrollable urination is at it’s lowest, teach the puppy or dog that making eye contact with people is a great thing and very rewarding for the dog by following these steps:
Step 1. Without saying anything, show your dog a piece of food. With the hand that is holding the food lure your dog’s focus by raising your hand to your eyes. When your dog’s eyes meet your eyes, click or say “yes” and reward your dog with the food. Repeat this 25-50 times over the course of a few days.
Step 2. Without saying anything, use your empty hand to target your dog’s focus by raising your hand to your eyes. When your dog’s eyes meet your eyes, click or say “yes” and reward your dog from your treat pouch. Repeat this 25-50 times over the course of a few days.
Step 3. Give your verbal queue “watch” or “look”. With an empty hand target your dog’s focus by raising your hand to your eyes. When your dog’s eyes meet your eyes, click or say “yes” and reward your dog your dog from your treat pouch. Repeat this 25-50 times over the course of a few days.
Once you have a day or two with no uncontrollable pees slowly start speaking to the dog in a calm quiet voice. Say one word then reward the dog while avoiding any touching (it is OK if your dog touches you but you should not reach out to the dog).
Slowly introduce more speaking to the dog and once you can say full sentences, start introducing touching and patting to the puppy or dog.