Submissive Urination


By James Leung

James - Managing Director

Submissive urination is not an abonormal behaviour. In the canine world urinating in the presence of other dogs is one way to communicate that she is not a threat. Submissive behaviour usually involves a combination of submissive actions and distinct body postures. However, not all dogs will include urination in their repertoire. For those that do, it usually occurs when greeting other animals or people and in situations that involve any physical contact, verbal punishment and/or excitement. During these events it's suspected control of the bladder is partially or totally lost.

Submissive urination occurs most frequently in puppies and adult dogs lacking in confidence. Certain breeds, such as retrievers, are more prone than others. In some cases it only occurs when the dog interacts with either a specific person or animal, while with other dogs it can happen with nearly everyone they meet.

Before consulting a dog trainer or any canine behaviorist, check with a vet to rule out potential medical conditions that are common causes for inappropriate urination. These include: gastrointestinal upset, urinary tract infection, change in diet, spay/urinary incontinence and genitalia abnormalities.

Other potential causes for inappropriate urination to be considered include puppies and adults that have not been house trained or are partially house trained. Generally, for puppies 12 weeks and younger, full bladder control has still not developed. Urine scent marking and separation anxiety are other common causes.

How to Treat Submissive Urination

Once dogs reach 12 months, submissive urination often resolves itself and becomes a thing of the past. If the owner is unwilling to wait until full bladder control has developed or if the behaviour still continues thereafter, the following strategies can help and are often used by dog trainers.

  • When arriving home ignore your dog until he has calmed down. Never reward, praise or give attention when your dog is excited. Exude a calming energy. Only reward him, in a calming way, once he matches your energy. At the start it might be best to do this outside to avoid any accidental urination.

  • Use toys and food as a distraction and throw them in his direction as he approaches you.

  • When greeting him do not look directly into his eyes and do not stand over him, this can be intimidating. Instead stand sideways and glance over making sure to blink a lot when making eye contact. Look away frequently and do not stare.

  • do not pet him on the head but under the chin or on the chest.

  • Ensure play time with your dog remains gentle and focuses on toys rather than bodily contact.

What to Avoid

  • Back away and avoid looking, touching and speaking to him if he starts submissive urinating or if you think he might.

  • Avoid scowling, frowning or punishing your dog either verbally or physically. This will only worsen the situation.