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Subissive Urination:


Subissive Urination:

Puppies that are not properly socialized can develop the habit of submissive urination.  This is what happens when the dog meets a stranger or is exposed to a new situation and he begins to "tinkle".  An owner being too harsh when disciplining the puppy can cause submissive urination with family members.  Humans must be the dominant "leaders of the pack" but you don't want to destroy the puppy's self-confidence by being overly demanding or threatening.  Keep in mind that there is a fine line between establishing your position as pack leader and being an over-bearing dictator!


Submissive urination occurs when a puppy or dog FEELS threatened.  This can occur when he’s being punished, verbally scolded, or when someone approaches him he believes is threatening.  Remember that the response is based on the puppy’s perception that he's being threatened, not the actual intent of the person.


Submissive urination is generally accompanied by submissive postures: crouching, rolling over and/or exposing the belly.  You can help your dog overcome submissive urination by helping to build his confidence: 

  • Teach him commands and reward him for obeying. 

  • Go slowly when exposing him to new people and places. 

  • Encourage and reward your puppy for confident postures and actions.

  • Give your puppy an alternative to behaving submissively - ask him to "sit" or "shake" as you approach.  Reward him immediately in a low-key fashion when he obeys.

There are also a number of things you can do to minimize your "threatening" appearance:

  • Avoid direct eye contact, look at his back or tail instead;

  • Bend down at the knees to get on his level instead of leaning over from the waist;

  • Pet your puppy under the chin rather than on top of his head;

  • Approach him from the side and/or present your body to him sideways rather than your full front;

  • Ask others to use these same techniques to approach or greet him.

Try to make sure all of your puppy's new experiences are positive and happy.  Arrange greetings so that they are as non-threatening as possible and so that your puppy is not in a place that you will have to make a fuss if there is an episode of submissive urination.  Above all, DO NOT scold or reprimand your dog for this behavior.  Making a scene, showing your irritation or making the dog feel he has been "bad" will only reinforce his need to let you know he is submissive to you (or visitors or whatever the situation may be).  In other words, reprimanding the dog for submissive urination will actually "teach" him that you WANT him to do this!


Excitement Urination:

Excitement urination is another problem altogether.  Excitement urination generally occurs during greetings and playtime and is not accompanied by submissive posturing.  This behavior can sometimes be attributed to an owner's over-zealous greetings after being gone for a period of time.  A young puppy will REALLY need to go to the bathroom after being locked in the kennel for several hours.  You should quickly and quietly remove the dog from the crate, take him outside and then, after he's relieved himself, you can praise and greet him effusively.


If you greet the dog in the crate with a high-pitched voice while making a fuss over getting him out, he will get very excited and may not be able to control an overly full bladder.  If he begins to urinate while you are praising and petting him, you are reinforcing that you WANT him to continue this behavior.  Over a period of time this becomes a habit that is difficult to break.


Remember to keep greetings low-key until the puppy has had a chance to relieve himself.  Ignore an overly excited dog until he is calm and promptly reward correct behavior.  Excitement urination usually resolves with maturity if it’s not inadvertently reinforced or made worse by punishment.  NEVER discipline a puppy or adult dog for submissive or excitement wetting as this reinforces the need to be submissive!


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Copyright © Sandcastle Kennels 2004

Last revised: January 06, 2006