Behavioral problems

Why Does My Dog Pee When I Try to Pet Them?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: May 13, 2018
Why Does My Dog Pee When I Try to Pet Them?

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There are many reasons a dog may need to pee. Of course, needing to empty their bladder is the most obvious one. However, the way a dog pees speaks a lot about their well-being and personality. As territorial animals, dogs will urinate in an area they want to dominate. This is controlled and is natural behavior in canines. On the contrary, if a dog pees when you try to pet them, you should know that this is not typical and there will be a reason behind it which will need to be addressed.

If you want to know why your dog pees when you try to pet them, you need to consider all factors. It could be a sign there is a physiological problem. However, mental stress may also contribute to the problem. AnimalWised sets out the possible causes to help you know what to do to stop it happening in the future.

You may also be interested in: Why Does My Dog Pee When Is Scared?


  1. Why do dogs wet themselves?
  2. What can I do if my dog urinates when I pet it?
  3. How to prevent your dog from urinating when you pet them

Why do dogs wet themselves?

As we said in the introduction, urination is a natural process for dogs. However, if you are worried about a puppy peeing when you pet them, this is different. They are still getting to grips with their world and their bodily functions. Puppies begin to have bladder control at around 15 to 20 days. However, it will take between 4 and 8 weeks to learn how to pee on newspaper. Between 3 and 6 months of life they will be able to go outside and being toilet training properly. This is in part out of a need to wait for their initial vaccination schedule to be completed.

Incontinence in dogs

There are different disorders which manifest themselves in inappropriate urination. Urinary tract infections such as cystitis and urethritis can lead to incontinence directly. However, there are less obvious problems which may also be the cause.

This is why it is important to make the distinction between general incontinence and peeing only when you pet them. If your dog exhibits the former, it is important to see a veterinarian. They will be able to prepare the right tests and create an accurate diagnosis. Following this they will also provide the correct treatment options. The most common test will be a blood test or ultrasound.

Lack of handling during socialization

As a dog grows and develops, socialization needs to occur for a healthy adolescence and later life. This is a stage where puppies learn how to be with other dogs, other animals and human beings. If this process is missed or is inadequate, it can lead to multiple behavioral problems later in life[1]. If the dog suffers abuse during this time, then the likelihood is increased further. In terms of petting your pooch, if they have not gone through the necessary socialization, they will likely develop a fear of being touched. One manifestation of this might be peeing in fear when petted.

If we adopt an adult dog, it is often impossible to know the quality of their socialization, if there was any to begin with. It is not uncommon for rescued dogs to be incontinent, especially when faced with a stressful situation. Equally, their lack of socialization can lead to peeing when they are excited or happy because they have not had the proper training to control it.

Sensory deprivation syndrome

Socialization is not just in terms of handling. There are also environmental factors to consider. If a dog has not been let out of the house when they are younger, they may develop sensory deprivation syndrome. Not being allowed out early enough can lead to an inability to adapt to new situations and environments. Dogs kept for breeding or those locked away in cages may suffer in particular. It is also a frequent cause of Noah's syndrome.

In general, dogs which suffer from sensory deprivation syndrome are unable to relate naturally to strangers and may panic in the face of certain stimuli. The dog may even urinate when not touched.

Negative experiences, fears and phobias

As we have commented on previously, dogs may develop fears after the initial socialization process ends. From then on, these negative experiences may begin to effect them emotionally. They can develop behavior as a response to these fears, urinating when you pet your dog being one of them. These fears may develop into phobias which are especially complicated to treat and may be permanent.

It is also important to consider the possibility of genetic influences on this behavior[2]. If the parental dogs of your dog had phobias and fears which cause difficulty, it is more likely your dog will also have inherited them.

A dog which experiences acute fear will try to avoid conflict. This may mean fleeing a situation, remaining completely motionless or attacking out of confusion. These are indications of fear, but there may be other factors to consider.

Scolding our dogs when they pee may not be an effective way to stop this behavior. In fact, it is more likely to aggravate the situation. It has been demonstrated that these harsh techniques cause fear and stress in dogs. This can lead to them peeing when you pet them because you have put the fear into them. The use of positive reinforcement will not only help prevent incontinence, but also strengthen the bond between you[3].

Emotional factors

Conversely, it is sometimes a strong bond which can lead to peeing when you pet them. Our dogs can create a strong emotional attachment which we may think is healthy, but which may actually be an unhelpful dependence. This is often the case with dogs who develop separation anxiety. You can see this if your dog gets overexcited when they see you and pee when you pet them. In these situations, it is important to maintain calm, reduce their anxiety and normalize your coming and going.

Why Does My Dog Pee When I Try to Pet Them? - Why do dogs wet themselves?

What can I do if my dog urinates when I pet it?

If you have ruled out any disease, it might be necessary to go to a canine behavior expert or ethologist. Their advanced knowledge of canine behavior as well as their advanced ability to communicate with them allows them to better assess their emotional and psychological state. They can also advise on ways to prevent incontinence or provide specialized training sessions to deal with the problem.

It is important to note that not all dogs will be able to overcome these fears. Unfortunately, a combination of genetic predisposition and neglect/inappropriate education can lead to permanent incontinence problems. With others, however, you may see that dealing with the problem is relatively simple.

How to prevent your dog from urinating when you pet them

Here we will provide 10 basic tips to help your dog urinate correctly. It is important to show a confident yet relaxed front when training your dog. However, this is not a definitive therapy. Seeking professional help is going to be the most effective way of dealing with the problem (if at all possible). Still, these tips are worth a try and may be effective if the problem is not acute:

  1. Start by not forcing the dog to interact with people, they must always be the one to take the initiative.
  2. Avoid punishment, even if your dog urinates in front of you. It can exacerbate the situation.
  3. Ensure your interactions are predictable and repetitive, otherwise they may become confused more easily.
  4. Respect the dog when they hide, be patient and not overbearing.
  5. Incorporate synthetic hormones into the training to help with anxiety.
  6. Maintain a relaxed posture so as to not be overbearing. Approaching them sideways can also be helpful.
  7. Avoid looking at them in the eye, chasing or yelling at them.
  8. Offer treats or toys and use a soft, relaxing voice.
  9. Place a carrier or dog bed near where you train them to provide a safe space if they need to get away.
  10. Keep up their routine, provide an enriched environment, take them on walks and take gradual steps.

If it is not you who your dog is scared of, perhaps you will need some info on how to deal with a dog's fear of other canines.

Why Does My Dog Pee When I Try to Pet Them? - How to prevent your dog from urinating when you pet them

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does My Dog Pee When I Try to Pet Them?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

  1. A. Gazzano, C. Mariti, L. Notari, C. Sighieri, E. A. McBride,; Effects of early gentling and early environment on emotional development of puppies, Applied Animal Behaviour Science Volume 110, Issues 3–4, April 2008, Pages 294-304
  2. J.P. Scott,; Genetics and the develpment of social behavior in dogs, The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and The Jackson Laboratory, Am. Zoologist, 4:161-168, 1964
  3. F. Gaunet, S. Deldalle,; Effects of 2 training methods on stress-related behaviors of the dog (Canis familiaris) and on the dog-owner relationship, Laboratoire d'Ethologie Expérimentale et Comparée, Université Paris-Nord, CNRS and Aix-Marseille Uiversity
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Why Does My Dog Pee When I Try to Pet Them?