We’ve all encountered them—the dogs that pee when they’re afraid. This isn’t a behavior that is relegated just to German shepherds or even just to dogs in general. Wetting your pants is something that many young children do when they are frightened.
Plenty of animals have this behavior. That doesn’t mean, however, that it cannot be fixed. Keep in mind that your German shepherd wants nothing more than to make you happy, and once he understands that cutting out this behavior will help him make you happy, it will be very easy to train him not to pee when he is afraid.
How Do I Know If He Is Submissively Urinating?
There is a big different between a dog who is simply not housebroken and one that pees when he is afraid. A German shepherd who is not housebroken will simply go to the bathroom when he needs to in whatever part of the house he has identified as his bathroom. A dog that submissively urinates does it only when he is afraid or is otherwise trying to show that he is being submissive (hence the name).
If your dog pees when he is scolded, when a stranger approaches him, when someone is greeting him, when he hears sirens, when there is an argument, when the phone rings, or when otherwise making submissive body language (like tucking his tail or rolling onto his back), this is behavior that can be corrected.
Why Does He Pee When Afraid?
An anxious or shy German shepherd pees to show that he acknowledges he is lower on the ladder than the dog or person approaching him. Dogs who do this may have been treated poorly in a previous home, or they simply may be nervous animals, by their very nature.
Dogs who also do not have a good understanding of what the rules in a house are (these dogs tend to be very insecure), will pee simply because they are confused and unsure of what is expected of him.
What Can I Do?
If you have a German shepherd who is taking part in this behavior, the first thing you want to do is take him to his veterinarian. You should make sure that he is not peeing because of a physical condition before you start training him and working with him to stop this behavior. Here are a few other things you can do to help mollify your dog and correct this behavior:
Make sure that he learns the house rules—that you are the leader of the pack and that he has a specific job. Use commands and training to make sure he fully understands what is expected of him and his place in the pack.
Keep his life consistent. Especially if your dog is a nervous one, making his environment and routine as consistent as possible will help to stabilize him and help him understand that he does not have to be afraid.
Socialize him. The more socialized he is, the less likely he is to be afraid of new people and new situations. Do this gradually, especially if he is an adult, but do not be afraid to do it.
Ask guests to be as non-confrontational when approaching your dog as possible. Especially ask them to avoid making direct eye contact or approaching him fully standing. Eye contact establishes dominance immediately and height can confuse and frighten a dog. Instead, have them look at his back and when interacting with them, ask that they bend at the knees to pet him under his chin.
Something else to do
Give him something else to do. If your dog often pees when meeting a new person, instead of having that person approach your GSD cold, have them give him a command that he knows well. Asking him to shake or sit gives him something else to do and the praise that he receives for doing that task well will help to reinforce not urinate and the idea that strangers are friendly and will give him praise.
Do not punish!
Do not punish him for urinating. Just as with house training, if you punish your dog for peeing, he will not understand what he is being punished for. Instead, he is likely to become even more afraid and confused.
Stay relaxed. If you are relaxed, he is more likely to be relaxed. While you are training him, avoid making boisterous greetings or talking loudly when you greet visitors. Instead, keep things cool and casual. If he does not feel the tension in the air, he will not feel afraid or the need to show his submissiveness by peeing.