In the last year or so I’ve seen something rather odd: Little dogs wearing bandanas around their pee-pees.
The first time I saw this was in one of my favourite pet supplies shops. I thought the dog had an injury of some kind and didn’t think anything of it. But when I saw him a few weeks later, he was still wearing it. So I asked his “mum” what was going on.
“He gets excited and wees everywhere,” she said. “The nappy stops him doing that.”
It was the first time I’d seen a healthy dog in a nappy, but when I looked into it, I saw ads in online stores for nappies of all kinds, labelled as “ideal for excitable urination”. Since then, I’ve seen several dogs wearing them.
Although it’s not much talked about, excitable urination is actually a very common canine behaviour. The little one I mentioned earlier, a Yorkshire terrier, is a classic example.
The pet was rushing around, excited but also giving out lots of submissive signals. He was tucking in his tail, lowering his head, and putting his ears back. Funnily enough, although he was clearly nervous, he wanted to “talk” to me. He came rushing over and was rolling on his back the second I petted him. And yes, the bandana was dampening as we spoke.
This kind of behaviour is most often seen in puppies. When they are being socialised, they are excited at meeting new dogs and people, but they’re also a bit afraid. So they frisk around and pee – out of nerves and also because they’re still learning to control their little bodies.
Most dogs grow out of it. At about a year old, most pets are fully in control of their bodies. For many dogs, this is also an age when they are in a routine where they live with the same people and meet the same dogs over and over again. As there are no surprises, the dogs know what to expect. This gives them confidence, too.
But some dogs are much more nervy than others. Dogs who have been abused will very often pee out of sheer fright, if upset. People who hit their dogs often don’t realise that it’s their own violence that’s causing these accidents.
Some breeds are also more nervy than others. Generally speaking, little dogs are more likely to have pee issues than big dogs. This has given rise to some people talking about “small dog syndrome”. This is where little dogs become nervous, typically when around bigger dogs and people. Some snap, some cry in fear, and others pee.
So is the nappy a solution? For my furry pal in the shop, his bandana means he can go out with his mum, which he loves, while controlling accidents. However, she was carrying spares with her, and she was limiting his outings to certain places where she knew he’d be safe and welcome.
But as all mums know, wet nappies are generally more likely to cause problems than offer solutions. As dogs have furry tummies, is it a safe solution?
“It is not normal for dogs to poop and pee in a diaper, and I’d not recommend it,” says Dr Loqman, a veterinary surgeon at UPM. “Dogs need to run outside, and do their business naturally.
“Diapers are used for pets in hospitals but only under certain special conditions. It’s not good to have pee and poop on the skin, so on the few occasions we do it, we have to manage it carefully to avoid urine burns and infection.”
If your pet has this problem, then the first thing to do is consult a vet to rule out issues. Prostate problems and urinary tract infections, for example, are just two invisible health issues that can cause this kind of problem.
When your pet has the all-clear, lifestyle issues may be another cause. Once that is cleared, too, then careful training is the answer.
“We’ve just taken Miah, a five-month-old mixed breed dog through that,” says G, Kogi, a shelter assistant with SPCA Penang.
“Miah is small. When she first came here, she was very nervous. She’d pee when seeing people and other dogs.”
Kogi uses systematic training centred on taking your time and empowering the dog.
“I got the volunteers to help me with this. I put Miah on my lap and then they would come and talk to me – but ignore Miah completely. They’d pretend she wasn’t there.”
Kogi just waited until Miah began to relax.
“After a while, Miah began to sniff at the volunteers. This meant she felt safe.
“From there, we let her take it step by step, until she was confident of saying hello.”
Miah was also scared of other dogs, especially big ones.
“I picked a big dog with a mild character, and put him on a leash. Then we let Miah decide when she wanted to go over. It took her some time, but she learned eventually that she was safe, became more confident and the scared peeing stopped.”
There’s no doubt that feeling safe and secure will minimise issues but I suspect that, for some little dogs, the world will always be frightening.
Considering it all, I’m on the fence about nappies. I suspect that a dog wearing one for an hour or so when out visiting is OK, as long as the enjoyment the dog experiences outweighs the stress.
What do you think?
Lifestyle and incontinence
It’s an odd thing but big dogs tend to get more and better training than little dogs. Why is uncertain. It may be that we think big dogs “need controlling” whereas little ones don’t. Or perhaps it is because little messes are easier to tidy than big ones.
Given the common prejudice, when your pet is peeing at odd times, do have a good think about its training.
Ask yourself, “If I were talking to a Doberman or a Great Dane, would I be doing something more or something different?”
Training can take place at any age, so don’t worry that you’ve missed the boat. You can simply fix it.
Assuming your pet is properly toilet-trained, there are several other issues that can lead to accidents.
Most commonly, it is because a pet doesn’t get out enough. All dogs need the opportunity to go potty four times a day. If you work, and your pet lives indoors, set up a litter box or doggy loo.
Timing walks is critical, too. Understand your pet’s natural elimination cycle and schedule walks accordingly.
Also factor in that they’ll need to pee after they’ve been asleep for several hours.
For emergencies, it helps to train your pet to learn to “ask” to go out. If you’re not good at training, consult a professional for tips.
Finally, dogs are often expected to be available for play at any time. And with kids or visitors, family pets may have to put up with teasing, too.
In a happy, confident dog, any kind of social interaction can be seen as fun. However, do watch your pet’s emotions. If having an ear tugged is seen as hostile instead of a playful overture, then protect your pet and make sure everyone understands house rules.