Submissive Urination in Dogs

Submissive urination plagues about one in ten dog owners (the dogs don’t know it’s a problem), and is essentially a personality trait. This is not a housetraining problem, and should not be treated like one.

Dogs, like humans, are social animals. Similarities in human and canine social structure (e.g., living in groups, extended care of the young, communal hunting) have contributed to dogs becoming “man’s best friend.” A complex communication system has evolved among dogs to help establish and maintain stable pack dominance hierarchies, which are essential for a pack to work together in caring for young, hunting, and defending territory. Dominant animals use vocalizations, gestures, and postures to communicate their status. Subordinate animals use submissive displays to turn off these dominant social threats. When dogs live in “packs” made up of their owners and other humans, they use the same gestures to communicate. Problems arise when humans do not understand these gestures or expect dogs to understand things about human society that do not come naturally.  The many differences between canine and human social behavior and communication can lead to miscommunication, misunderstandings, and what humans consider “behavior problems.”  From a dog’s perspective, for example, submissive urination is perfectly normal; but owners have real concerns about this behavior.

Submissive urination is the ultimate gesture of submission. Submissive urinators communicate that they are absolutely no threat to other dogs. In response to the submissive signals, dominant dogs stop their display.

Your Dog May Be Submissively Urinating If:

  • Urination occurs when he’s being scolded.
  • Urination occurs when he’s being greeted.
  • Urination occurs when someone approaches him.
  • He is a somewhat shy, anxious or timid dog.
  • He has a history of rough treatment or punishment after the fact.
  • The urination is accompanied by submissive postures, such as crouching or rolling over and exposing his belly.

Common situations where dogs get excited or fearful, and urinate are:

  • over affectionate greetings
  • when you arrive home
  • guests entering your home
  • arguments between people
  • scolding
  • loud noises

Submissive urination can be seen in dogs of any age or sex. It is most common in puppies, which makes perfect sense because they are automatically subordinate to all the adults in the pack. It is also more commonly seen in females and smaller breeds. Many puppies experience submissive urination either due to a lack of neuromuscular control over the bladder or by previous treatment that frightened or intimidated the puppy.  Submissive urination occurs when dogs are confronted with facial expressions, body postures, or gestures that they perceive as a threat including humans reaching for them; petting them on the head; leaning over them; talking to them in excited, deep, or harsh tones; making eye contact with them; or punishing them verbally or physically. In canine communication, dominance gestures include staring, standing over, putting a paw across the back of another dog’s neck, and low growls. Dogs simply interpret human actions as they would another dog’s actions.

While submissively urinating, dogs usually show other submissive signs, including laying their ears back, tucking their tails, cowering, and avoiding eye contact. They may also give a submissive “grin” in which the corners of the lips are pulled back, exposing molars and premolars. This should not be confused with an aggressive lip lift, which shows the incisors and canines. Some dogs roll onto their sides, exposing their bellies, while giving these signals and urinating. This is not a request for a belly rub; it is a request to be left alone.

Dogs that submissively urinate expect that their behavior will stop “threats” from humans, but well meaning humans continue leaning over, petting, and trying to comfort these dogs as they would another person. Dogs see this as a continued threat rather than a comforting gesture. Punishing these dogs will only exacerbate the situation. A typical scenario is the owner who is frustrated because his dog urinates on the carpet every time he comes home. Believing that he has “caught the dog in the act,” the owner scolds or otherwise punishes the dog for what he believes is a housebreaking lapse. Thus a dog that is already intimidated and trying to say with its only “words” that it respects the owner’s authority is met with further threats, resulting in more frequent and intense displays of submission.  It’s important to remember that this response is based on the dog’s perception of a threat, not the person’s actual intention. Submissive urination may resolve as your dog gains confidence. You can help to build his confidence by teaching him commands and rewarding him for obeying. You should also gradually expose him to new people and new situations and try to make sure all of his new experiences are positive and happy.

Excitement Urination

Excitement urination, a variation of the submissive form, usually occurs during greetings. Dogs with this behavior often do not show other signs of submission. Instead, they seem happy and excited to be greeted by humans. These are the puppies that urinate when greeted and then wag their tails and jump on humans, splashing urine all over.   Excitement urination occurs most often during greetings and playtime and is not accompanied by submissive posturing.

During excitement, young dogs often spontaneously urinate. They have no control over this and sometimes do not even realize it has occurred. Other dogs may urinate as a sign of submission in the presence of another animal (or person) that they consider dominant. Submissive urination is sometimes seen in puppies or young dogs that have been abused. However, many puppies that have submissive urination are perfectly normal and from good backgrounds. These types of urination problems seem to be caused by either a lack of neuromuscular control over the bladder or by previous treatment that frightened or intimidated the puppy.

You should try to determine what actions or events cause the involuntary urination to occur. For some, this will be easy. Excitement or sudden movement toward the puppy may cause her to urinate. For others, it might be something as simple as direct eye contact. Many puppies urinate when you bend over them, so instead, kneel down to their level. Whatever the cause, do your best to eliminate these situations or actions. Most puppies will outgrow this behavior by six months to a year of age, especially if we let them mature through this stage of their life in a gentle and calm environment. Be patient. When an accident occurs, do not make a fuss. Clean it up and forget it.

Excitement urination usually resolves on its own as a dog matures. In some cases, however, the problem can persist if the dog is frequently punished or if the dog’s behavior is inadvertently reinforced—such as by petting or talking to your dog in a soothing or coddling tone of voice after he urinates when excited.

Your Dog May Have An Excitement Urination Problem If:

  • Urination occurs when your dog is excited, for example during greetings or during playtime.
  • Urination occurs when your dog is less than one year old.

Changing the Behavior

The prognosis for dogs with submissive urination is good: most puppies and young dogs outgrow the problem as they mature and gain confidence in social situations. Treatment relies mainly on owner education and patience. You must learn to accept submissive urination as a normal part of canine social behavior. The battle is half won when you accept that your dog has not lost their housebreaking skills and is not being spiteful.

The next step is identifying and avoiding the stimuli that lead to submissive urination. Everyone (e.g., owners. their friends. veterinary caregivers) who interacts with dogs that exhibit this behavior should avoid doing anything that causes urination. For example, dogs with submissive urination should not be rushed toward when greeted; instead. they should be allowed to approach on their own. Humans should speak softly, avoid prolonged eye contact, and kneel down to avoid towering over these dogs. Ignoring these dogs for the first 5 minutes after arriving home may prevent overexcitement. These dogs should not be reached for, especially over the head; they should be petted under the chin, on the chest. and on the side of the neck.

Dogs with submissive or excitement urination may be helped by being taught an alternate greeting behavior or to associate greetings with a different set of emotional responses. These are forms of counter conditioning. Meet your dog at the door with a treat or toy. The dog will learn to anticipate food or play when you come home and be less likely to urinate. You can shape your dog’s behavior from an excited or submissive greeting to a calm one. When the dog begins looking for the treat, you should wait for them to sit calmly before giving it. Later, a treat should be given while their dog is sitting calmly, being petted, and not displaying any submissive gestures. Dogs with submissive urination should not be punished. Some dogs are so sensitive that even upset facial expressions or tense body language from owners is enough to elicit urination. The best way to avoid punishing dogs is to guide them toward appropriate behaviors. For example, instead of yelling “no” when your dog jumps on you, teach them to sit. Dogs should be told the right thing to do, something that will result in praise and a reward, rather than being allowed to decide what to do, potentially resulting in scolding and punishment. Reducing the amount of punishment will help build the confidence of submissive dogs and reduce their tendency to show such exaggerated submissive behaviors as urination. Other good confidence builders for dogs include basic training for obedience or dog sports (e.g., agility, fly ball). These activities also help strengthen the owner/dog bond, which may have been damaged by frustration over urination.

What To Do If Your Dog Has A Submissive Urination Problem:

  • Take your dog to the vet to rule out medical reasons for the behavior.
  • Get cooperation from all members of the family.
  • Keep greetings low-key. When you first get home, quietly walk in the door and go about your business. Let your dog outside to pee as usual, but without any fanfare. If you talk to him at all, just say “Hi Rover” in a calm, casual tone of voice. Don’t make eye contact with him or pet him. After he settles down, very gently crouch down to his level presenting to him sideways (this makes you very non-threatening), then calmly and quietly praise him and tell him he’s good. Be sure to tell your family and visitors to do the same.
  • Dogs, especially shy or submissive ones, are very sensitive to body language and tone of voice.  When speaking to your dog, use a calm, confident, moderate tone of voice. Avoid very high or low extremes in pitch. Don’t “coochy-coo” or babytalk to your dog either. These tones can create excitement that results in submissive urination.
  • Bending over a dog is a “dominant” posture that may provoke an accident. Get down on his level by bending at the knees rather than leaning over from the waist and ask others to approach him in the same way.
  • Pet him under the chin rather than on top of the head.
  • Approach him from the side, rather than from the front, and/or present the side of your body to him, rather than your full front.
  • These dogs are often intimidated by direct eye contact as well. Look at your dog’s face without looking directly into his eyes, and only for very short periods. Avoid direct eye contact — look at his back or tail instead.
  • Give him an alternative to behaving submissively. For example, if he knows a few commands, have him “sit” or “shake” as you approach, and reward him for obeying.  Obedience training does wonders for a dog’s confidence! An untrained dog is doesn’t know how to communicate with humans or how to behave, but the trained dog understands what’s expected of him, and the words you say to him. He’s confident because he has the tools with which to please his superiors.  It also can open your eyes to the ways that you can unconsciously reinforce a negative behavior, and teaches you the importance of praise in a healthy relationship with your dog.
  • Incorporate basic obedience (Sit, Stay, Fetch, Come, etc.) into your daily life and when your dog obeys, he gains confidence through your praise. Just don’t overdo the praise (this can result in a puddle!). A simple “Good boy” and gentle pat is enough.
  • Minimize the occasions your dog makes you want to scold him; think about what your dog does that causes you to scold him. For example, does he get into the trash, steal your children’s toys or chew on your sneakers? By simply putting a lid on the trash can or putting it into a closet and requiring your family to pick up after themselves, these situations can be eliminated. The easier you make it for your dog to do what you want, the quicker he’ll learn and his confidence will grown. On the other hand, discipline, scolding and physical punishment will simply reduce his confidence and worsen your submissive urination problem.
  • Encourage and reward confident postures from him. Do everything you can to boost your dog’s confidence.  Always encourage and PRAISE the dog for what it does right. This helps to build self confidence and cements the bond between you and your pet.

What To Do If Your Dog Has An Excitement Urination Problem:

  • Take your dog to the veterinarian to rule out medical reasons for the behavior.
  • Keep greetings low-key.
  • Don’t punish or scold him.
  • If you are expecting guests, take your dog for a walk and get his bladder emptied ahead of time, and restrict water consumption for an hour before your guests are to arrive.
  • To avoid accidents, play outdoors until the problem is resolved.
  • Take the excitement and stress out of the periods that previously triggered submissive urination.  You should also gradually expose him to new people and new situations and try to make sure all of his new experiences are positive and happy.  Socialization at training classes, dog daycare, at the park, or just going with you on errands and to visit friends can do wonders for your dog’s confidence. Have guests over who are willing to help out with this problem.  Agility training is another wonderfully fun way to boost your dog’s confidence using physical obstacles and mental stimulation as well as new human words to understand and obey.
  • When he’s excited, ignore him until he’s calm.


Submissive urination is a commonly encountered, normal canine behavior. It is considered a behavior problem because humans do not want their dogs to urinate in socially unacceptable locations and situations. Submissive urination plagues about one in ten dog owners.  However, it is easily manageable. By learning a little about canine social systems and communication, you can understand your dog’s behavior. After you understand and avoid eliciting the behavior, the submissive urination stops. Confidence building activities between you and your dog can help end submissive urination and strengthen the owner/dog bond.  How long will it take? Every dog is different and it’s impossible to say for sure. With most dogs, following our directions will show a noticeable difference within a short time. Solving the problem altogether depends on your hard work, patience, consistency and willingness to stick with it. If you find that your dog’s problem can’t be remedied by changing your interactive behaviors, there may be other options which can be discussed with your veterinarian. For example, drugs can sometimes be given to very excitable, hyper dogs to calm them down.


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Beaver B: Canine Behavior: A Guide for Veterinarians. Philadelphia, WB Saunders Co, 1999.


Blackshaw, J.K. “Case Studies of Some Behavioral Problems in Dogs”, Australian Veterinary Practitioner, 1988,18:3,101-104.


Campbell, W.E. Behavior Problems in Dogs, 2ed. American Veterinary Publications Inc., Goleta, California, 1992. Evans, J.M. People, Pooches, and Problems, Howell Book House, New York, NY, 1991.


Steve Feldman, DVM 8119 Beechwood Lane Clinton, MD 20735 Fax: 301?868?5436. Email: avsabe[ Web site:


Hens S: Pet Behavior Protocols. Lakewood, CO, AAHA Press, 1999.


Landsberg G, Hunthausen W, Ackerman L: Handbook of Behaviour Problems of the Dog and Cat. Woburn, MA, ButterworthHeinemann, 1997.


Overall K: Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals. St. Louis, Mosby, 1997.


Serpell J (ed): The Domestic Dog: Its Evolution, Behaviour, and Interactions with People. Cambridge, MA, Cambridge University Press, 1996.


Turner DC, Bateson P: The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behaviour. Cambridge, MA, Cambridge University Press, 2000. Vet Clin North Am 12(4), 1982; 21(2), 1991; 270), 1997.


Voith V, Borchelt P: Readings in Companion Animal Behavior. Trenton, NJ, Veterinary Learning Systems, 1996.



Dog Food Reviews

this was originally posted on

In early 2015, the law firm of Morgan and Morgan filed a class action lawsuit against Purina over ingredients found in its line of Beneful dog food. Despite this lawsuit — and the thousands of complaints of kidney failure that led to it — the products remain available to purchase at a store near you.

Of the pet owners we surveyed, 70 percent admitted that they didn’t know all of the ingredients in their dog’s food — including the very ingredients at the heart of the Purina lawsuit. All dog foods claim to be “premium” and “all natural,” but with very few regulations on what it takes to meet these qualifications, many of these claims are little more than flashy marketing gimmicks and false advertising. So, we dug behind the label to sort out which ingredients make an excellent dog food and which ones should be avoided.

At the end of the work, we settled on 134 formulas across 29 approved brands.


5 Pet-Friendly Summer Vacation Spots

by Catherine Workman

Leaving your four-legged family member home while you vacation can be stressful for both you and your pet. Of course, wonderful boarding facilities exist, and freelance pet sitters are always an option as they allow your pet the comfort of living at your or a sitter’s home while you are away. Some will even perform check-ins and daily walks. Yet as a pet parent, the ideal vacation will allow you to bring your pet along for the adventure. Here are a few great destinations for you and your pet.

  1. Doggy Kayaking in Key West

Key West, Florida is a great place to go if your dog loves water. Doggy kayak services are available to take you and your dog to a private dog park located on a sand bar where they can romp, splash, and dig with other vacationing dogs. The surrounding dog-friendly beaches are guaranteed to make you and your dog’s summer vacation great.

  1. Leash-Free Carmel Beach City Park

In California, a little place called Carmel has been referred to as “dog heaven.” With no restrictions on leashes, numerous dog-friendly sites, and beautiful beaches, Carmel is one the best beach vacation getaways to bring your pup to, particularly if he is a water-lover.

  1. Los Angeles for Big and Small Dogs

City life may be what’s comfortable for some of the smaller dogs out there. Strolling through the city, exploring dog parks, and doing some shopping can be a dream vacation for some. If urban streets aren’t your thing, Los Angeles also boasts beautiful nature reserves and hikes that are mostly canine-friendly. Bigger dogs might enjoy barreling along a California trail rather than meandering through the city itself. Just be sure to bring plenty of water.

  1. Cruises are Always an Option

Seattle, Washington is the location of Dog Day on Elliot Bay. This scenic day trip takes you to an uninhabited island off of Elliot Bay with acres and acres of dog-friendly beaches. They even provide meals for both you and your canine companion. Unfortunately, this is not a regular event. It occurs once a year in the summer. Check online for the upcoming date!

  1. San Diego and Dog-Friendly Dining

Not only can San Diego offer beautiful beaches and a sprawling city but San Diego can also offer numerous off-leash parks, dog-friendly restaurants, and doggy ice cream shacks. Regardless of your kind of vacation, odds are San Diego has it. Take your pup to an off-leash beach and top the day off with a treat from the doggy bakery. They will love you even more by the end of your San Diego vacation.

Leaving your furry friend behind for a summer getaway can really put a damper on the excitement of vacationing. Instead of struggling with worry and guilt over your pup, take him with you! There are countless vacations across the U.S. and even internationally that are family-friendly, even when your family members have four legs. Remember, it’s not easy barking at cars, napping all day, and begging for food. Your pet probably needs the vacation just as much as you do!

Catherine Workman grew up in a small town where she yearned to stretch her wings. Now that she’s left the nest, she spends every available weekend exploring different cities across the country and someday, across the world. She started with her friends to share her travels and experiences and hopes to inspire others to embrace the hidden gems of the world.

Image via Pixabay by aihaaihaaiha2

Keeping your dog cool with The Green Shop Cool Pet Pad

Summer is usually hot.   During this season it is hard for dogs to be comfortable.   In order to help them we can provide shade and water as well as change when we go for walks.   Another means is providing them a cooling mat.

We tested the Green Pet Shop Cool Pet Pad since it had quite a few positive reviews on Amazon.

The Cool Pet Pad is pressure activated; as soon as the dog lies down, the cooling effect starts. It cools for up to 3 hours of constant use and recharges itself automatically after 15-20 minutes of non-use.  It works without refrigeration, water, or electricity.  This particular mat also doesn’t require the use of water which means no mold or leaks.

We use the pad in our car to keep the dogs cooler during their commute to Acme.  The pads tend to heat up a bit in the car.  It is amazing to feel how fast they cool down when you add pressure to the mat.  Both Autumn and Penny enjoy the coolness on their bodies .  Unfortunately the easy to clean surface doesn’t have much traction so the dogs learned to adjust their balance to compensate for this.

Penny has a tendency to be part Beaver.  One of the factors we looked for in the cooling mat was a tough covering.  After 3 months of use the Cool Pet Pad has not been punctured or cut.

The Cool Pet Pad is easy to fold up and fairly light weight.   This convenience is a plus when you need to transport it.

Although a bit expensive (ranging from $30 to $70) we feel the Green Pet Shop Cool Pet Pad is deserving of 4 paws for durability and purpose.

Useful Tricks to Teach your Dog

Useful Tricks

  • If your dog already knows how to heel on your left, teach him to heel on your right or to walk right behind you. These may be useful in crowds, narrow corridors, etc., and heeling on the right is also needed in Agility. Remember to use a new command for heeling on the ‘wrong’ side!
  • Teach your dog to lift up each of his feet on command (‘right-front’ etc.) This is useful when you clip his nails, or need to wash or wipe him, etc.
  • Are you tired of collecting all of your dog’s chew toys, tennis balls, squeaky toys, teddy bears etc. when your parents-in-law or your non-dog-loving boss is coming for dinner? Teach your dog to do it himself! He can learn to pick up all of his toys and put them into a box on command.
  • If you live somewhere where it rains frequently, you probably already hate the way your dog shakes his coat dry when he is close to you or your clean laundry etc.? You can teach him to do that on command so that you can ask him to ‘shake!’ or ‘rock’n’roll!’ when he is standing a little bit further away.
  • Is your duty in the family to wake everybody up in the morning — a routine which often requires lots of time and effort, and is never appreciated? Teach your dog to do it for you! “Go wake up Jane!” “Go wake up Daddy!” and your dog licks their faces or pokes them with his nose until they are awake.
    Another version of this: The dog ‘digs’ in the morning: on command, she rips back the covers from around a malingerer and drags them (the covers) back to the foot of bed, exposing said body to cold air and (ostensibly) motivating rising.
  • If you live alone and sometimes fall asleep again after turning off the alarm clock in your sleep, you can teach your dog to start licking and poking you at the sound of your alarm clock.
  • Everybody’s heard of the classical trick where a dog fetches slippers or a newspaper, but what about letting your dog ‘answer the phone’ (lift up the receiver for you), put an empty beer bottle back in the box, or carry some other things on command? (It’s possible to teach a dog to identify a very large number of objects by names).
  • When you go out for a walk, let your dog fetch his own collar and/or leash. Have him get his collar from the shelf when you say “collar!”. Some people also use this in Agility, when they finish their run the dog goes to get his leash instead of jumping around the handler demanding for more action.
  • Teach your dog to ‘finds your keys’. Also good for accustoming dogs to metal articles in mouth for utility work. You can also teach your dog to bring the box of Kleenex when you sneeze.
  • Teach your dog to stop and look before crossing a road. You can first teach your dog the directions (“look right” and “look left”), and then combine the commands to sit and to look left-right-left! before given the permission to cross. Add the command “Any cars coming?” for the entire trick.  If you are consistent with your training, you can possibly condition your dog not to start crossing the road as long as he sees cars approaching, which would make this trick also extremely useful.
  • Teach your dog to “back up”. With this command, you can give him a simple command to “back up”, which gets him out of the way and also earns him some praise — instead of him receiving human “growls” because he’s in the way.

7 steps to protecting your dog this summer

Summer is here, and so is the heat.  You can help prevent several heat related dog issues by just following these steps.

1. LEARN HOW TO CHECK YOUR DOG’S TEMPERATURE. Learn how to check your dog for a rough temperature by sticking your finger down inside of the ear. Feel the inside of the ear at different times, after you’ve been inside, in the evening, am, and then feel it after you’ve been out walking for a while. If it’s tangibly warm to the touch, the dog is too hot.

2. LEARN WHAT YOUR DOG’S NORMAL HEART BEAT AND RESPIRATIONS ARE. Buy a stethoscope from your local pharmacy. Listen to your dog’s heart (left side of the rib cage). Count the beats over a 15 second count and multiply by four. Count your dog’s respirations by looking at his side go in and out. Count pulse and respiration after a walk. Check it 15 minutes later, 1/2 hr., 1 hr…..learn what your animal’s rate of cool down are. Heartbeat and respiration should not be hanging high an hour later.

If you want to get fancy, learn what normal capillary refill time is in the gums of your dog. Normal is usually one second. Open the mouth, press your
thumb to the gum, let go, count how long it takes for the white where you pressed to disappear. A two or 3 on capillary refill time indicates sluggish circulation and overheating.

Also check what’s normal in their eyes — red eyeballs may be a capillary response, again the body’s attempt to cool down.

If you have a slick coated dog you can pull skin away from the neck and count how long (right away) it takes to spring back. If skin starts tenting
and not springing back — you’ve got a serious dehydration problem.

3. LIMIT TIME IN THE SUN. A half hour is a lot depending on how hot it is. An hour of rambunctious activity in the heat can really push a dog to
needing 3-4 hours to cool out, depending on their level of fitness. Even if you have a dog that thinks baking outside is just fine, still override them and bring them in.

4. KEEP A WATER SUPPLY OUTSIDE. Lots of water is also important. If the dog MUST be outside, lots and lots of water and shade is vital. You can leave a bowl of water or a kiddie pool outside. Some people carry a spray bottle to wet down mouths, paws and heads of the dog. Even with a water supply and shade, I recommend that the dog be kept inside or at least have access to the inside or air conditioning somehow.

5. COOL DOWN YOUR DOG. Animals disperse heat through the venal return system of the blood. (Think, inside of the legs and belly, and underside of the neck.) Part of the dog’s thermostat mechanism is at the base of the brain. What does this mean, and how does this into summer protocol? After a walk hose down your dog. Starting at the back of the head and top of the head go down the spinal column and then a quick spray down the belly and the inside of the legs, and under the tail. I’ll leave the danger warning signs to the vets and their recommended protocol for heat stroke.

6. DOGS CAN BURN THEIR PAWS. Feel the pavement or surface your dog is going to be on. Don’t put your dog into a metal pick-up bed. Check the temperature of the pavement. Many times the pavement is just too hot for dogs. Walk your dog early in the morning or late in the evening. There are booties for all sizes of dogs. If you’re going to be doing a lot of pavement walking in summertime — use them. You can also coat your dog’s paws with a product like Musher’s Secret to help protect them.

7. CONSIDER YOUR DOG’S COAT. Some people think they should shave the dog for comfort. Care must be taken that they don’t end up with a sunburned dog. If the dog is matted, or if the dog has a lot of dead undercoat, it will make the dog hot. If the undercoat is kept thoroughly brushed out, and the coat is kept matt-free, then it can act as insulation from both the heat and cold.
Heat is something we have to deal with in dogs. Pretty much whatever you’d do for a human, you should double for the dog because dogs are not very efficient at getting rid of heat or cooling off easily.
Thanks to: Kim Walker
Cactus Canine Center &
Tucson, AZ

Andrea Eardley, MA
Canine Behavior Modification
Columbus/Plain City, Ohio

Tawni McBee, PDTI
Senior trainer, Animal Attitudes Dog Training

Acme Canine’s new blog

canisLupusCMYKIf you’re a dog lover, your browser probably has a fair share of bookmarked dog blogs that you visit on a regular basis. Acme’s Blog will be a refreshing change to your reading repertoire when it comes to all things canine… your hearing it from the dog himself. Great training tips, health info and all you need to know about the canine world.

Thanks to local illustrator, Davide Cuccia, we have a new logo for our blog.  “Karen Powell is the owner of this mischievous mama named Marlee … when I saw those adorable Marty Feldman eyes I knew she’d be perfect for my concept! ” Davide commented. And she turned out perfect for our blog.

Start following news from canis lupus familiaris today!

For more information, contact your favorite Columbus dog training facility at 740-548-1717 or

Virtually Indestructible Dog Toys

After years of research and tons of happy pups, Dogify gives us one of the best, most indestructible dog toys around. The Virtually Indestructible Ball.  All of the balls are guaranteed to stand up to the toughest dogs. Not only do they roll and float on water, but your dog will love playing with them.

Our dog testers found the toys to be really tough.  They did their best to dig their teeth into them but only scratched the surface.  Many of these heavy destroyers played for hours with the toys, mostly rolling and chasing them.

We found these hard plastic toys make a good deal of noise on the hard floors of the training room and suggest they would be best for outdoor use.  One comment made suggested not to use these toys on sharp gravel.  They will get scratched up and becomes a sort of very coarse sandpaper. Although it doesn’t seem to bother the dogs, they are rough on feet and legs of humans.

Size matters greatly with regard to these toys.  The smallest ball was destroyed immediately by the larger dogs but the extra large ball was perfect to chase and play with like a soccer ball.  One dog found the large ball small enough to stretch his mouth over which didn’t provide much stimulation.

Don’t think of these toys as balls that bounce.  These are hollow, HARD plastic balls.  They work best if you throw it like a bowling ball so the dog will chase it and roll it around.  Being light weight they are perfect for high energy dogs.

These toys are truly indestructible, clean easily and never need repair.

Acme Canine approves the Virtually Indestructible Toys for heavy chewers and herding dogs and give the product a 5 paw rating for quality and durability as well as good fun.


Fire Safety for your Dog

Prevent your pet from starting fires 

Extinguish open flames – Pets are generally curious and will investigate cooking appliances, candles, or even a fire in your fireplace. Ensure your pet is not left unattended around an open flame and make sure to thoroughly extinguish any open flame before leaving your home.

Remove stove knobs – Be sure to remove stove knobs or protect them with covers before leaving the house. According to the National Fire Protection Association, a stove or cook top is the number one piece of equipment involved in your pet starting a fire.

Invest in flameless candles – These candles contain a light bulb rather than an open flame, and take the danger out of your pet knocking over a candle. Cats are notorious for starting fires when their tails turn over lit candles.

Beware of water bowls on wooden decks – Do not leave a glass water bowl for your pet outside on a wooden deck. The sun’s rays when filtered through the glass and water can actually heat up and ignite the wooden deck beneath it. Choose stainless steel or ceramic bowls instead.
Keep your pets safe

Keep Pets Near Entrances When Away From Home – Keep collars on pets and leashes at the ready in case firefighters need to rescue your pet. When leaving pets home alone, keep them in areas or rooms near entrances where firefighters can easily find them.

Secure Young Pets – Especially with young puppies, keep them confined away from potential fire-starting hazards when you are away from home such as in crates or behind baby gates in secure areas.

Since Pets Left Alone Can’t Escape a Burning Home – Consider using monitored smoke detectors which are connected to a monitoring center so emergency responders can be contacted when you’re not home. These systems provide an added layer of protection beyond battery-operated smoke alarms.

Affix a Pet Alert Window Cling – Write down the number of pets inside your house and attach the static cling to a front window. This critical information saves rescuers time when locating your pets. Make sure to update the number of pets listed.

Dog’s Fear of Loud Sudden Noises

Firecrackers, thunder, and other loud, out-of-nowhere sounds often leave dogs frightened and wanting to flee to a safer place. These types of fears may develop even though your dog has had no traumatic experiences associated with the sound. The good news is that many fear-related problems can be successfully resolved. However, if left untreated, your dog’s fearful behavior will probably get worse.

The most common behavior problems associated with fear of loud noises are destruction and escaping. When your dog becomes frightened, she tries to reduce her fear. She may try to escape to a place where the sounds of thunder or firecrackers are less intense. If, by leaving the yard or going into a certain room or area of the house, she feels less afraid then the escape or destructive behavior is reinforced because it successfully lessens her fear. For some dogs, just the activity or physical exertion associated with one of these behaviors may be an outlet for their anxiety. Unfortunately, escape and/or destructive behavior can be a problem for you and could also result in physical injury to your dog.

Things that are present in the environment whenever your dog hears the startling noise can, from her viewpoint, become associated with the frightening sound.  Over a period of time, she may become afraid of other things in the environment that she associates with the noise that frightens her.  For example, dogs who are afraid of thunder may later become afraid of the wind, dark clouds, and flashes of light that often precede the sound of thunder. Dogs who are afraid of firecrackers may become afraid of the children who have the firecrackers or may become afraid to go in the backyard, if that is where they usually hear the noise.

What you can do to help

Create a safe place

Try to create a safe place for your dog to go to when she hears the noises that frighten her. But remember, this must be a safe location from her perspective not yours. Pay attention to where she goes, or tries to go, when she is frightened, and if at all possible, give her access to that place. If she is trying to get inside the house then consider installing a dog door. If she is trying to get under your bed then give her access to your bedroom.

You can also create a “hidey-hole” that is dark, small, and shielded from the frightening sound as much as possible (a fan or radio playing will help block out the sound). Encourage her to go there when you are home and the thunder or other noise occurs. Feed her in that location and associate other “good things” happening to her there. She must be able to come and go freely from this location. Confining her in the “hidey-hole” when she does not want to be there will only cause more problems. The “safe place” approach may work with some dogs but not all dogs. Some dogs are motivated to move and be active when frightened and “hiding out” will not help them feel less fearful.

 Distract your dog

This method works best when your dog is just beginning to get anxious. Encourage her to engage in any activity that captures her attention and distracts her from behaving fearfully. Start when she first alerts you to the noise and is not yet showing a lot of fearful behavior but is only watchful. Immediately try to interest her in doing something that she really enjoys. Get out the tennis ball and play fetch (in an escape-proof area) or practice some commands that she knows. Give her a lot of praise and treats for paying attention to the game or the commands.  As the storm or other noise builds, you may not be able to keep her attention on the activity but it might delay the start of the fearful behavior for longer and longer each time you do it. If you cannot keep her attention and she begins acting afraid, stop the process. If you continue you may inadvertently reinforce her fearful behavior.

Behavior modification

Behavior modification techniques are often successful in reducing fears and phobias. The appropriate techniques are called “counter-conditioning” and “desensitization.” This means to condition or teach your dog to respond in non-fearful ways to sounds and other stimuli that have previously frightened her. These techniques must be implemented very gradually. Begin by exposing your dog to an intensity level of noise that does not frighten her and pair it with something pleasant like a treat or a fun game. Gradually increase the volume as you continue to offer her something pleasant. Through this process, she will come to associate “good things” with the previously feared sound.


  • Make a tape with firecracker noises on it.
  • Play the tape at such a low volume that your dog does not respond fearfully. While the tape is playing feed her dinner, give her a treat, or play her favorite game.
  • In your next session, play the tape a little louder while you feed her or play her favorite game.
  • Continue increasing the volume through many sessions over a period of several weeks or months. If at any time while the tape is playing she displays fearful behavior at any time while the tape is playing, STOP. Begin your next session at a lower volume — one that does not produce anxiety — and proceed more slowly.

If these techniques are not used correctly, they will not be successful and can even make the problem worse.

For some fears, it can be difficult to recreate the fear stimulus. For example, thunder is accompanied by lightning, rain, and changes in barometric pressure and your dog’s fearful response may be to the combination of these things and not just the thunder. You may need professional assistance to create and implement this kind of behavior modification program.

 Consult your veterinarian

Medication may be available which can make your dog less anxious for short time periods. Your veterinarian is the only person who is licensed and qualified to prescribe medication for your dog. Do not attempt to give your dog any over-the-counter or prescription medication without consulting your veterinarian. Animals do not respond to drugs the same way people do and a medication that may be safe for humans could be fatal to your dog. Drug therapy alone will not reduce fears and phobias permanently, but in extreme cases, behavior modification and medication used together might be the best approach.

What not to do

  • Do not attempt to reassure your dog when she is afraid. This may only reinforce her fearful behavior. If you pet, soothe, or give treats to her when she is behaving fearfully, she may interpret this as a reward for her fearful behavior. Instead, try to behave normally, as if you do not notice her fearfulness.
  • Putting your dog in a crate to prevent her from being destructive during a thunderstorm is not recommended. She will still be fearful when she is in the crate and is likely to injure herself, perhaps even severely, while attempting to get out of the crate.
  • Do not punish your dog for being afraid. Punishment will only make her more fearful.
  • Do not try to force your dog to experience or be close to the sound that frightens her. For example, making her stay close to a group of children who are lighting firecrackers will only make her more afraid and could cause her to become aggressive in an attempt to escape from the situation.
  • Obedience classes will not make your dog less afraid of thunder or other noises but could help boost her general confidence.

These approaches do not work because they do not decrease your dog’s fear. Merely trying to prevent her from escaping or being destructive will not work. If your dog is still afraid, she will continue to show that fear in whatever way she can (digging, jumping, climbing, chewing, barking, howling).

©2004. Adapted from material originally developed by applied animal behaviorists at the Dumb Friends League, Denver, Colorado. All rights reserved.