[Dear Annie]

To celebrate 1994 as the Year of the Dog, Director and volunteer dog walker, Lucie Tomson, has asked her dog, Annie, to help out with canine concerns. Annie, a border collie, does her best to help her fellow dogs with their questions.

Annie's picture Dear Annie:
I've got a strange problem that I cannot seem to control. Whenever I meet strangers and sometimes other dogs, I .....well how can I say it....I piddle. As far as I know, I am what humans refer to as "housebroken". Whenever I need to go, I stand by the back door, I bark and my owner lets me out to do my business and I can hold it while my owners are away at work. I would never do anything like that in my house on purpose because this is MY house and it must be kept clean, yet I can not seem to control my bladder at times.

Help! I think my owners are doubting me!

Dear Whiz:
You are not alone. I have this same problem and so do many other dogs. The first thing your owner should do is take you to the vet to make sure this is not a medical problem. If the problem is not solely medical, I'm afraid this is a inelegant case of "submissive urination" which is simply uncontrollable urinating or piddling in situations which you are not feeling confident. Dogs will commonly roll on their back or sit with one leg stretched back and leave a little puddle when they meet a stranger, a person that intimidates them or another dog. I stress the fact that this problem is uncontrollable for you, but the problem can be minimized with a few changes.

The best thing anybody can do is ignore you when they first meet you, not make eye contact or reach out to you, or lean over you. If the person holds off doing these things for a few moments and proceeds slowly, your anxiety may pass and they can proceed to meet you without any problem on your part. If this does not work, people should hold off any eye contact or touch for a longer time to allow you time to adjust.

Another way to minimize submissive urination is to build up a dog's confidence. This a long process, but obedience training, teaching new tricks and slowly building up challenges for a dog to do SUCCESSFULLY are all ways to increase confidence. When working on confidence building, it is really important that challenges are made more difficult in very small stages. Challenge a dog, but do not set up the dog to fail time and time again as this could actually decrease confidence.

When all else fails (which at times happens when I get overexcited to see my Grandmother) my owner brings me outside on the leash to greet her and the mess is never noticed.

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