Problem Behaviour


Excitement / Submissive Urination

Breaking the Barking Cycle




1. Excitement / Submissive Urination


Occasionally, there is a puppy who is housebroken and crate trained, but he's still having accidents all over the house! The puppy pees when:


  • there is an over affectionate greetings Bullet the owners come home from work,  
  • when they pet him, 
  • when they have guests, 
  • when puppy is excited, 
  • when puppy is scolded, and 
  • sometimes even when puppy's just given a simple command or a reward.

Believe it or not, this is not a housetraining problem. It has to do with some normal canine behaviour patterns that you can and should deal with in a positive way. This is submissive or excitement urination. 


To rule out the possibility of this being a physical problem, you may wish to have your veterinarian examine your dog for possible physical abnormalities pertaining to this problem. Occasionally this same behaviour is the result of a urinary tract infection. 


Excitement urination is the result of infant muscles that simply cannot hold their urine when the pup gets excited. Your puppy's behavior may be partially excitement urination. Your puppy can get so excited when he sees you that he temporarily loses control of his bladder. The vast majority of dogs simply outgrow this problem as they become stronger and gain control of their muscles. 


Submissive urination falls into a completely different category. Dogs have several behaviors designed to reduce violence between them. When challenged, a submissive dog must display some or all of these behaviors to display its lower status and to prevent an attack. Submissive urination is most commonly offered in this type of greeting. By wetting, the dog is merely acknowledging the other dog's superiority. 


In order to understand this behavior, you must understand the language of dominance and submissiveness. Young puppies learn this from their mother. Gestures like averting eyes, rolling on their back, and urinating, are all used to express submissiveness. In situations where a dog feels intimidated, the proper learned response for them is to elicit some submissive signal to show the person or other dog that they recognize their dominance. Dogs are instinctively programmed to accept the authority of creatures (animal and human) that they consider to be superior to them. They seek the approval of their superiors and are eager to please them. Many dog owners prefer a dog who is submissive to people and eager to please, and selective breeding has produced many domestic dogs with this characteristic. As tough as Terriers are suppose to be the Norfolk, Norwich and Border Terriers are considerably softer than the rest of the Terrier Group. 


Some dogs are more submissive than others. Very submissive dogs, shy dogs that lack self-confidence and often young pups will urinate when in the presence of more dominant dogs and humans. It's their instinctive way of telling the superior "You are my Supreme Master. Your wish is my command. Please don't hurt me!" 


The good news is that puppies usually outgrow this behavior as they mature. Dogs who are naturally shy, insecure, extremely submissive, or who have been abused may continue to exhibit submission in this way even as adults. It is generally an involuntary, subconscious reflex. The dog isn't deliberately trying to do it. As a matter of fact, he may not even be aware that he's doing it at the time! 


Many dog owners mistakenly believe that this type of urination is a house training problem, and try to correct it with discipline. To their dismay and frustration, rather than improving, the dog's problem gets worse! Because the message he's sending is misunderstood by the owner, the dog is caught in a vicious cycle - his instincts tell him to urinate to please his superior by showing submission. But when he does, he is punished. He then tries harder to please by urinating even more. This results in more punishment, and still more urination. After a time, the dog may become so confused and insecure that he urinates at the mere sight of a human being or another dog. 


How to solve the problem 

Your task is to take the excitement and stress out of the periods that previously triggered submissive urination. Get cooperation from all members of the family. When you first get home, you can anticipate that the dog will get excited and urinate so you need to minimize the excitement. Instead of an enthusiastic greeting to your dog, quietly walk in the door and go about your business. Let him outside to pee as usual, but without any fanfare. If you talk to him at all, just say "Hi Rover" in a calm, casual tone of voice. Don't make eye contact with him or pet him. After he settles down, very gently crouch down to his level presenting to him sideways (this makes you very non-threatening), then calmly and quietly praise him and tell him he's good. Be sure to tell your family and visitors to do the same. 


Do everything you can to boost your dog's confidence. As he becomes more confident, he may feel less of a need to display extreme submissive behaviour. Positive reinforcement obedience training does wonders for a dog's confidence! An untrained dog doesn't know how to communicate with humans or how to behave. The trained dog understands what's expected of him, and the words you say to him. He's confident because he has the tools with which to please his superiors. Always encourage and PRAISE the dog for what it does right. This helps to build self confidence and cements the bond between you and your pet.

Socialization at training classes, dog daycare, at the park, or just going with you on errands and to visit friends can do wonders for your dog's confidence. Have guests over who are willing to help out with this problem.

Training classes are other fun ways to boost your dog's confidence using physical and mental stimulation as well as new human words to understand and obey.

Incorporate basic obedience (Sit, Stay, Fetch, Come, etc.) into your daily life and when your dog obeys, he gains confidence through your praise. Just don't overdo the praise (this can result in a puddle!). A simple "Good boy" and gentle pat, under the chin instead of on the head, is enough.

Minimize the occasions your dog makes you want to scold him; think about what your dog does that causes you to scold him. For example, does he get into the trash, steal your children's toys or chew on your sneakers? By simply putting a lid on the trash can or putting it into a closet and requiring your family to pick up after themselves, these situations can be eliminated. The easier you make it for your dog to do what you want, the quicker he'll learn and his confidence will grown. On the other hand, discipline, scolding and physical punishment will simply reduce his confidence and worsen your submissive urination problem.  

If your pooch urinates in response to loud, angry scolding, instead of yelling at them when they do something wrong, try to deal with their inappropriate behavior in firm and constructive manner. A firm NO given consistently at wrongdoings will often suffice.

Be careful not to physically dominate the dog. Dogs, especially shy or submissive ones, are very sensitive to body language and tone of voice. Bending over a dog is a "dominant" posture that may provoke an accident. Instead, get down to your dog's level by crouching or kneeling, preferably at his side rather than head-on. 

If your dog urinates out of excitement when you return home and greet it, or if unfamiliars greet it, try to downplay the greeting by staying calm and saying hello or even ignoring it for the first few minutes until it calms down. Ask your friends to do this as well.

These dogs are often intimidated by direct eye contact as well. Look at your dog's face without looking directly into his eyes, and only for very short periods.

Limiting your dog's intake of water can help it gain weather permitting. If you are expecting guests, take your dog for a walk and get his bladder emptied ahead of time, and restrict water consumption for an hour before your guests are to arrive.

When speaking to your dog, use a calm, confident, moderate tone of voice. Avoid very high or low extremes in pitch. Don't baby talk to your dog either. These tones can create excitement that results in submissive urination.  


Don't scold or punish your dog for urinating submissively. It will only make things worse. They can't be held responsible for something they don't understand or even know they’re doing. Instead, use these methods to get to the root of the matter: basic insecurity and lack of confidence. When progress is made in these areas, submissive urination often disappears on its own. How long will it take? Every dog is different and it's impossible to say for sure. With most dogs, following our directions will show a noticeable difference within a short time. Solving the problem altogether depends on your hard work, patience, consistency and willingness to stick with it. Good luck!


2.  Breaking the Barking Cycle


Fact: all dogs bark, some more than others. The key to stopping your dog from barking is to break the barking cycle. Many dogs respond to the command “NO BARK” and you give the dog a cookie to chew on. Since your dog can’t eat a cookie and bark you have broken the cycle. The cookie is positive reinforcement of your command. The theory is your dog hears your “NO BARK” command, stops barking, waits for his cookie and the nuisance barking cycle is broken. With training, your command should consistently break nuisance barking and you don’t have to follow with a cookie except occasionally to reinforce the training.


Assuming that you have not had success with training to curb unnecessary barking, bark collars provides a trouble-free solution to problem barking. Surprisingly, not all neighbors find your dog barking as music to their ears. A bark collar is a very effective method, at a reasonable cost, to control unwanted barking. If the alternatives are to surgically de-bark your dog, or have to move or the unthinkable, that you’d have to part with your dog, this is a very easy solution to a problem that can be frustrating.


There are a few collars on the market. What you must know up front is that they are safe, simple and effective. Believe it or not but I have tried a collar on myself to make sure that it is humane. It is nothing more than a static shock that breaks the bark cycle. Please note that bark collars should not be left on your dog all the time.


How most of the collars work. The collar responds only to the vibration on the neck generated from a bark. Your dog barks and an audible “beep, beep, beep” warning goes off. If your dog barks a second time within 30 seconds from the initial bark there is a static shock from a 6-volt battery. The collar resets itself after 30 seconds of no barking, back to the warning beep for an initial bark. You can adjust the bark collar to the necessary sensitivity of the bark as well, since all dogs are somewhat different. Some models have levels of correction. The model we used only had one level. Again, I have tried it on myself and the correction will not hurt or endanger your pet in any way. The only problem we had was the adjustable collar was not adjustable to the small neck of a Norwich. To work properly the collar must be snug, not tight. We simply re-stitched the collar in a few minutes work to make it the right size. After the dog has had the collar on a few times you don’t even need to have the battery in anymore!


There are other collars available (but I have not personally tried them all). A different brand bark collar, the “HUSH! PUPPY,” emits a safe, high frequency sound pulse, which disrupts your dog’s barking sequence. An electronic timing circuit ensures that it doesn’t go off at rapid alarm or intruder-type barking. You can adjust sensitivity and stimulus controls to meet your dog’s individual needs. The manufacturer claims it is approved by veterinarians and animal behaviorists as one of the safest and most effective methods of controlling barking. It uses a 9-volt battery which of course is not included and is recommended for dogs under 40lbs. Collar fits all sizes 2 3/4"w x 1 1/2"h x 1 1/4"d.


The last type of bark collar emits a citronella smell when barking is detected. Dogs are not supposed to like the smell and as a result it is suppose to break the cycle of barking once the smell is released. I’m not sure how effective this is and more important, I have strong reservations about spraying any dog with a foreign substance.


3.  Digging 


Digging is a very natural behaviour for Terriers. Not only are they genetically predisposed to digging, some do it out of boredom,anxiety or simply to find a cool spot in the earth on a hot day. While this is a very normal behaviour you may consider it unacceptable in your back yard, flower gardens or under fences.


Dogs left outside for long periods of time on their own will dig out of boredom or to burn off energy.  More often than not, they are not interested in exercising on their own nor are they interested in playing on their own. So they dig. If your dog is digging under the fence to escape, either the environment outside your yard is much more interesting to your dog than the yard or he is attempting to escape the isolation of the yard and get to you, the owner. Your dog may also be digging simply to find a cool spot to lay in the hot summer months or he may find interesting things buried. Sometimes it is just plain fun.


If your dog usually starts digging after half an hour on his own, bring him inside after 25 minutes. It’s often easier to teach a dog appropriate behaviour in the house than to correct the problem behaviours, like digging, which occurs when you are not present.


You may wish to provide your Terrier with an acceptable area to dig, satisfying the dog and saving the rest of your yard. The designated digging area can be a sandbox or plastic kiddie pool filled with dirt. Teach your dog to dig in the designated area by showing him the area and have him watch you bury some treasures (treats, food, toys) there. Bury them shallow initially and help your dog dig them up. Once he gets the idea you can bury them deeper and eventually he’ll go to his digging spot as a matter of habit. The key to keep him out of digging up the rest of they yard is by keeping the digging area stocked with treasures so he’ll have no reason to dig elsewhere.


You should also be prepared to spend some time with him outside to redirect him so that he does not return to his old stomping ground. If you actually see him digging in an inappropriate area, you can give him a verbal command such as, “Sandbox” and direct him to his treat filled area. Don’t forget to praise him when he is excavating a treasure you have buried for him in an appropriate area.


Never punish your dog for digging. Never show him the hole and punish him. He will simply not understand why he is being punished and you may ruin your opportunity to encourage appropriate digging in his sandbox. What he may do is simply dig when you are not around to watch. Reward the positive behaviour and ignore the negative actions.


If your dog is digging under fences or by doors to escape the yard, the sandbox may not work. An in tact male may be searching for a female in heat. The neighbourhood may be more interesting than your back yard. Try taking him on regular walks. It will expend some energy and he may be more content to stay at home. Playing games with your dog in the yard will also exercise your dogs muscles and mind. Contrary to popular belief, dogs generally do not exercise on their own in the back yard…they need interaction with you.


Some dogs dig thinking that they will get to you. This is separation anxiety. In this case do not leave your dog alone in the yard if you are not at home. Bring your dog inside before the digging behaviour starts.


When all else fails, you can try and make the areas where you don’t want your dog to dig as unpleasant as possible. Try burying pinecones or something that will not feel pleasant on the dog’s feet when digging, but will not hurt him. Burying your dog’s feces in the holes will likely discourage digging since dogs are generally clean animals and do not like to touch their feces.

With a little time and consistency in training you should be able to share your yard in harmony with your dog.