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Submissive Urination


Submissive urination is a dog’s uncontrollable instinctive reaction to the presence of another dog or human that they feel is superior or is intimidating to them. It is a subconscious response that they cannot control – it is not done on purpose. Neither is it a housebreaking issue although it is more likely to happen when the bladder is full. It can be a reaction to a specific action such as putting a leash on the dog, or leaning down simply to stroke him.

Excited urination is different in that as they get older a puppy usually grows out of this. It occurs simply through over excitement where the dog looses control. Submissive urination often has to be overcome though training. Dogs read body language extremely well and we as owners sometimes give off the incorrect signals resulting in the dog offering submissive gestures such as urination. Fear, lack of confidence, sensitivity, confusion and nervousness can result in submissive urination in older dogs not only puppies. It can be created through inappropriate punishment although this does not always have to be the case. Punishing Submissive Urination is something that should never be done. It will only make it worse. There are other ways in which dogs may show subordination but because of the results of this particular submissive action many owners find it most disconcerting and annoying. Plus the owners are not acting in a way that should create a submissive behavior and this creates frustration and annoyance. Unfortunately their reaction and resultant body language to it, can often make it worse and it becomes a downward spiral. .

There are many things we can do to minimize submissive urination. The main aim in our training to do this, is to build confidence and to redirect the dog’s mind to other actions than urinating when concerned or excited.

Here are a few things that can help.

  • Don’t punish your dog for urinating.
  • Don’t attempt to reassure your dog or reinforce his actions by saying “Its Ok” or talking in a sweet voice. Keep quiet but relaxed. Ignore his body posturing behavior.
  • Familiarize him gradually in small stages with noises, people, and other dogs. Don’t rush him into situations and experiences. Move closer to situations that may concern him only as he shows confidence. The same with noises or any other stimulus that may concern him. Build up gradually.
  • Do basic obedience training and do it in a way that is not confrontational. Make it fun and build a confidence in you. In doing so you will build a confidence in your dog.
  • Use a crate for when you cannot supervise or when you are away. Put his crate near a door that allows him quickly outside to an enclosed area. In this way you can get him outside to go to the bathroom with the potential of avoiding an accident.
  • Take him out regularly to do his business. In this way his bladder will not build up pressure.
  • Do not go straight to his crate when entering a room.
  • When arriving home do not go straight to him and let him out. Allow him to calm down first.
  • If he has been out and done his business and is once more back in the crate, smile and wave at him in the crate occasionally as you walk past.
  • When you go to the crate to let him out do so quietly and don’t talk to him.
  • Bend down at the knees to undo the crate and do not lean over it or your dog. .
  • If he urinates don’t say anything, get him outside and then clean up without him seeing you do this.
  • When out in the yard do not call him up to you but walk slowly around with him. Give him a command to urinate and praise him calmly using voice only when he does.
  • Do everything slowly and work at making your body language calm and unconcerned. Keep verbal volume low.
  • Be non-threatening. Don’t lean over him but get down to his level kneeling or sitting on the floor. Don’t stare at him or show displeasure no matter how you feel. If he is a naughty dog and is not very obedient put him on a leash the moment he has urinated outside. Find ways to avoid him doing wrong and help him to do right so he can be praised and then gain confidence in you and himself. If you can avoid the situations where he does wrong and put him in situations to do right then you can build more praise into the day and his confidence will grow.
  • Spend time sitting with him by your side on a leash.
  • Take him for walks where he can gradually be exposed to the situations that trigger his urination.
  • Train friends and people you meet to train him. Ask them to only calmly smile and slowly wave. They are to remain calm and quiet, don’t stare, stand sideways to him (do not directly face him) and talk in a calm voice with you. If they have dogs then they should keep their dog under control and at a distance. Their dog does not need to greet yours.
  • Avoid situations and people that you cannot control until your dog is learning to control himself and gain confidence.

Submissive urination is annoying and frustrating but showing it only makes it worse. With a little planning regarding your routines and adjusting your attitude then you can minimize and overcome the problem.