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Ask a Vet: How can I help my dog to control his bladder when he's excited or nervous?

January 24, 2010 |  1:00 pm

Have a non-emergency question about your pet's health?  Dr. Heather Oxford of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) is here to help!  In this installment of Ask a Vet, Dr. Oxford has some tips for reader Steph on helping her dog to overcome bladder-control problems.

Don't let this happen to your carpets! Steph's question: I have a 2-year-old male (neutered) golden retriever. He wets on the floor every time he gets excited or if he does anything wrong. It is awful! I can't have company over without worrying about my dog wetting on the floor. Will he ever outgrow this, or is there any medication that I can give him to help him control his bladder?

Heather Oxford, DVM: Your dog may be experiencing urinary dribbling due to overly submissive behavior, which is not easily corrected with medication. He will likely not outgrow this, and it may worsen if not addressed appropriately. The problem is that you cannot correct this by verbal reprimands because this will actually trigger more fear and anxiety, making the problem worse. The key is prevention. 

First, maintain a calm, soft vocal tone when addressing the dog in any way to avoid hyper-excitation for good behaviors or overly submissive, fear-based reactions to bad behaviors. Second, ignore the dog when you first come home while he is overly excited and pay him attention only when he has calmed down. This should help to discourage him from becoming overly excited in the first place, since he gets the reward of your attention only when he displays the desired behavior.

Finally, if you catch him in the act of an undesired behavior do not punish him; simply redirect his attention to a more constructive activity. For example, if you catch him chewing on a shoe instead of yelling "No!" or "Bad dog," remove the shoe and replace it with a chew toy. After following these guidelines, if your dog shows no improvement, consult with a veterinary behaviorist. Good luck!

To submit your question for Dr. Oxford, just leave a comment on this post and look for her answer in an upcoming installment of Ask a Vet!

About our vet: Dr. Oxford received her bachelor of science degree at Bowling Green State University, Ohio.  She also received a master's of public health degree in epidemiology from Emory University and went on to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. She then went to the University of Tennessee, College of Veterinary Medicine, where she received her doctor of veterinary medicine degree.  She practices at California Animal Rehabilitation and is also certified in veterinary rehabilitation and acupuncture. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Wade, and German shepherd, Tess.

Photo: Just a hunch, but we suspect reader Steph would like to cut down on the number of times she has to hire an outside carpet cleaner like this fellow to help clean up her golden retriever's mess.  Credit: Los Angeles Times

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