K9 Corner, Nov. 29
By HELEN PALMER
Two of the most difficult human behaviors I have had to work with are really instinctive to humans and have the opposite meaning to dogs. This involves looking at the person or animal you are talking to. However, a direct stare to a dog means dominance and if the stare continues, it means “Warning!”
The second difficult reaction a human has to learn is to stay calm if the new dog or puppy urinates when you arrive home.
“My dog holds it until the moment I walk in the door.” I’ve heard that lament over and over. But this is not a lapse in housebreaking, especially if it starts when the pup is around six months old or if the adult dog is new to the family. This sounds more like submissive urination and you treat the problem completely differently than you do when you are trying to teach manners.
There are several body language postures a dog can perform to indicate submission. The animal can lay his ears back, squint his eyes, lower his head, tuck his tail, crouch to make himself look smaller, creep toward you, roll over on his back to expose his throat and belly, or urinate which is really the ultimate in submission in the dog’s eyes.
Some dogs give the “submissive grin” which often exposes all the front teeth and which is hard to interpret if you haven’t been around dogs a lot. I used to counsel young people in my classes not to try to interpret the submissive grin unless the owner is around and verifies the behavior.
If your dog starts to show excessive submissive behaviors, change yours. When you come home, ignore the dog until you are able to sit on the floor and call him to come for a treat. Even as he comes you should not look at him directly, turn your head slightly and watch him out of the corner of your eye. If he needs to relieve himself before you greet him, walk toward the door saying in a cheery voice, “Let’s go out,” but don’t look directly at him.
If your pet urinates as you enter the house, don’t pick him up by the scruff of the neck or yell at him, it will only make things worse. Instead turn and walk away, if he follows, don’t look directly at him but encourage him to go out and then you should clean up the puddle.
When petting a super submissive dog, avoid cupping the hand over the muzzle, or over the back of the neck, both of these gestures tell the animal that you are super dominant and he had better mind his P’s and Q’s. Instead, stroke under the chin bringing the head upward. Stroke the cheek with a finger, use treats. Talk to him, look at the treat, and then toss it as you briefly glance his way.
If you will take the time to build his confidence, he should grow out of his fear by his first birthday or if an adult rescue, in a month or two.