Stress Signs - Calming Signals

I previously stated that stress signals are not calming signals because while dogs may use them to calm themselves, they don't usually have the effect of calming dogs around them. However, dogs can use calming signals in an attempt to calm themselves down when stressed. In that case they are also stress signs.
Max licks his paws when he is stressed to calm himself. He will do this when stressed even if there is no dog or person to see. (He leaves evidence in the form of missing hair on the tops of his paws.)
Like other stress signs, our dogs need us to pay attention to them and intervene.

Excitement Urination

Excitement Urination, also called Submissive or Submission Urination, is when a dog gets so stimulated from positive or negative stress that they pee. Often it is only a small amount of urine, but that is influenced more by what is in their bladders than anything else. It is usually more common in small dogs and young dogs, but it is not exclusive to them. Sometimes you will see a dog cower and pee, but I have also seen dogs jump up and down with excitement and pee at the same time.

Excitement urination, like so many stress signals, can be a sign of a medical problem, so it is a good idea to check with a vet - particularly if it is a new behaviour. Punishment never helps with excitement urination, because it just ups the stress level and makes it worse. Decreasing the stress level can help a lot. For dogs who get over excited, this means controlling the excitement. Max used to excitement pee when I came home sometimes. We have reduced the excitement by creating a protocol where he doesn't get any attention when I come home until he sits. He's still allowed to run into the back yard and run in circles (this works well for me as then he pees while outside), but he has to sit to be acknowledged. He doesn't always automatically sit and he's way to excited to do it right away, but after less than a minute of excitement on his behalf, a simple "sit" from me almost always works. If not, I ignore him for a while and repeat until he does sit. After he sits, we can both be excited to see each other.

For dogs who exhibit excitement urination from fear or other negative stress, you need to not only not punish them, but ideally hide your stress and negative feelings about having to clean up. For me, that means trying to figure out where they are likely to be when that happens and making that spot as easy to clean up as possible - an easy to clean surface like potty pads or flooring scraps and a handy clean up kit.

Stress Signs - Chasing the Tail

Dogs chasing their tail are a staple of humor. However, it isn't always funny. It can be a sign of pain in the back and tail area. Max has structural issues around the base of his tail and will pull on his tail when he is overdue for a chiropractic visit. More often it is a sign of stress. It is possible that there is truth to some of the jokes and that stress may be due to boredom. But it is stress none the less.

As far as I have seen, some dogs may use chasing their tail to comfort themselves, but it doesn't seem to de-escalate or calm things with other dogs, so I would not consider this to be a calming signal.

So, check for health issues (including fleas and ticks!), but consider tail chasing another sign of stress.