Dog squats on rug in annoying show of submission

PETS AT HOME

March 12, 1994|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

Q: Will we ever be able to completely housebreak our cocker spaniel? She's such a sweet dog, but we don't understand why she can't understand it's not OK to go in the house. In fact, when we come home she'll run up and squat right in front of us! This is the only problem now, really, but spanking her for it has not helped.

Is she spiteful, stupid or both?

A: Actually, neither. Believe it or not, her behavior -- called "submissive urination" -- is sort of a canine compliment, an acknowledgment of you as her leader. The problem is not house-training; in fact, it sounds as if she is trained already if this is the only time she urinates in the house. Her actions -- squatting in front of you when you first come home -- are intended to send a message that you haven't been able to understand, because you don't speak "dog."

Let me translate.

Dogs and wolves use rituals to settle questions of leadership within the pack. To avoid conflict, animals with low standing are constantly acknowledging the position of high-ranking animals.

Rolling over to expose the underbody and urinating are ways of saying, "Yes, I know you're boss. Please don't hurt me." In this way, disputes are settled without injury, and the animals can use their formidable weapons on prey, instead of on each other.

When a puppy becomes a member of a human family, the family itself becomes the pack, in the eyes of the dog. Unfortunately, communication between species is far from perfect, and messages can be completely misinterpreted.

Such is the case with you and your dog.

The first step to solving this problem is understanding that it has nothing to do with house-training. The way to cure this behavior is to stop punishing the dog and build her confidence to the point where she greets you without such a display.

rTC You mentioned she urinates when you come home. Are there other times, too, such as when you lean over her, pick her up or scold her? She might find any or all of these experiences threatening. Does she behave this way with all family members, friends and family, or just with a single person? Make a mental list of the situations that contribute to the problem.

The next step, according to animal behaviorist William Campbell, in his book "Owner's Guide to Better Behavior in Dogs and Cats" (Alpine Press), is to alter your behavior to eliminate the actions that set your dog off. If, for example, your dog urinates when you approach, don't come near. Crouch down and remain silent while letting her come to you. If she's calm, gently pet her under the chin. Campbell says four days usually are required at this level for submissive urination to stop. As the dog gains confidence, add a softly spoken "good dog," and later, stand while greeting your dog.

*

Job Michael Evans, a noted dog trainer and author, died of AIDS at age 44 last month at his home in Key West, Fla.

His books "People, Pooches and Problems" and "The Evans Guide to Civilized City Canines" are among the best-regarded training manuals.

As a young man, Evans became Brother Job at the New Skete Monastery in upstate New York, a religious order that supported itself by raising German shepherds and dog-training. Evans became the lead writer on the monks' book, "How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend," a volume that has attained near-cult status. .He later moved to New York City and became a private trainer.

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