Q2 – We have a young 15 week old spaniel who always urinates with excitement when anyone comes to visit and we don’t know what to. Will she grow out of it or is there something wrong with her can you help?
The first thing I would suggest is to get your puppy checked by your vet to make sure there is no medical cause for her to have a weak bladder. Secondly, well done if you have got her reliably house trained at all other times! Urinating at times of high excitement is quite a common behaviour problem, but if and when all medical causes have been ruled out there are still a few questions to answer. You need to decide if your puppy is struggling to control herself because she is so pleased to see her unexpected visitors, or because she is frightened. If you are unsure about this in any way I would suggest talking to a reputable trainer for help.
If your pup seems very happy to greet people then you probably need to work on making times of greeting less fun. Ask everyone in the house to ignore her when they first come to the house, this means no touching, no talking to her and no eye contact! Instead quietly and discreetly allow her access to the outside and wait for her to perform where she is supposed to. When this is done, let her know she has done the right thing with whatever reward works for her but try not to get her too hyped up! Allow your visitors to interact with her when she is calm – or as calm as a spaniel can be! Ask them not to fuss or overcrowd her and keep everything quite low key. To start with, visitors may have to meet your pup outside as she is likely to have a lot of setbacks while she learns to relax and realises that people coming round are just a part of everyday life. You can certainly help the process by remaining calm yourself whenever you enter and leave the house. Ideally, you leaving your dog shouldn’t be a big deal, making a fuss of her before you go makes it more distressing when you have gone, Equally when you get back you shouldn’t give too much attention as it focuses your dog on waiting for your return. If you can, you should try and avoid making either a significant event to your dog. If she has an accident, do not punish her as this may cause a fearful reaction to visitors, which is the last thing you want.
If you suspect that your dog is shy of visitors this needs careful assessment and training over a longer period of time. I would advise that you seek professional advise and your vet should be able to help you find a qualified reputable trainer or behaviour counsellor. In the short term, if you have an anxious or fearful dog give her somewhere to hide when people come to the house and ask visitors not to interact with her. Do not try to force the issue as this may be counterproductive. Over time, you can aim to changer her emotional state from fear to pleasure, but this requires time and patience and proper assessment of you and your dog as individuals.
Written by Miss Gemma Clark BVSc, PG(Dip), MRCVS.