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Dog Pees When Nervous

We have a 3 year old dog with a great temperament but he pees when nervous. We moved into an apartment about 7 months ago and since have had a huge problem develop. He’s always been a bit anxious, but now every time we take out the leash he lowers himself at the door and empties his bladder (and lays in it) then continues to leave a trail down the hallway and stairs of the building. I am at my wits end. He can stay in the house for the entire day while we are at work with no accidents, but as soon as the leash comes out he lets go. We have tried not showing him the leash, but as soon as the door is opened it happens.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated as he has two paws out the door.



Hi TC,

When a dog gets a little nervous, stressed or annoyed and leaves a squirt here and there in the house, I call it “doggy pee-mail” but what you’re describing is more in keeping with fear if not abject terror. Either something really big and bad happened or he’s by nature a tightly wound dog that has got fearfully fixated on very likely some small thing he encounters each and every time he goes out the door that he has blown out of proportion. If it were big and bad you would have noticed a sudden change so it seems the latter is more likely, particularly as you note that he’s always been a bit anxious.

I don’t think the leash is the problem he’s just connecting dots and the first dot is the leash which in his mind always leads to something horrible. At this point, the anticipation is as bad if not worse then whatever it is that kicked this off. For a dog anxious by nature it could have been, or still is the sound of people in a moving elevator, echoes in a stair well, or open ended stairs.

Your real problem isn’t identifying the trigger or triggers. It’s how realistic it is in your living situation to work him through it. If this were a type of phobia we could work around and ease him into we’d have a shot. Even if it were only a fear of leashes, that’s a pretty essential part of any dog’s day if we’re to keep them safe in an urban environment.

If we could let him straight out into a fenced yard, we could stop taking the “leash out” while we peripherally worked on more positive leash associations. In a perfect world over time a lot of phobic dog might be positively impacted by a combination of some careful operant conditioning, the mental benefits of serious exercise, constructive chewing and sometimes medication.

Your situation is on the far side from perfect. You simply don’t have that degree of latitude and you can’t desensitize someone afraid of spiders by dropping a cluster of tarantulas on their head every time they walk out the door.

Considering your lack of wiggle room and the awful extent of his fear I think you’re faced with considering what’s best for him. I hate to say it but he may be a much happier dog with all four paws out the door instead of two. If he was fine before the apartment living started than I’d start looking for people with a place for him to live where he could better cope and enjoy what life has to offer a dog.

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade

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