All Things Dog

The Facts About Submissive Urination

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Sometimes even well-trained household dogs will leak a small amount of urine when they are excited or nervous. This can be upsetting to the dog's owner—and for many good reasons. Does their dog have a serious medical condition? Were their training sessions not as successful as they had hoped? Has something happened to make their dog nervous? Or does their dog suffer from a fairly common condition known as submissive urination?

Dogs that have this condition don't have much control over themselves—it's a reflexive action that they may not be aware of. For example, some dogs are so excited to see their owner return from work that they may urinate a small amount when greeting them.

Why do some dogs suffer from submissive urination?

Submissive urination is most often seen in shy, fearful dogs. Some dogs may have inherited the condition, or it may be triggered when they are insecure or excited.

Submissive urination is a natural behavior in some dogs. Dogs are pack animals whose social system is based on a hierarchy. Showing that they recognize their place in the hierarchy helps dogs to maintain order in the pack. If a submissive dog meets a more dominant pack member, normal canine behavior may be to roll over on his back and urinate. This action tells the more dominant pack member that they are recognized as such.

How do you help your dog overcome submissive urination?

First of all, don't assume that your dog is suffering from submissive urination because his behavior meets the description. See your veterinarian so your dog can have a physical examination to rule out any medical problems that may be the reason for his inappropriate urination.

If there is no underlying medical/physical reason for the urination, here are a few things you can try:

Correction. You shouldn't punish your dog for something he can't control. In the long run, this will most likely cause the undesirable urination to continue. If your dog greets you at the door and exhibits this behavior, try to make your greeting as casual as possible. If you don't make a big deal out of greeting your dog, he may stop regarding your arrival home as a big event that gets him overly excited.

Body language. Be mindful of your body language when interacting with your dog. Although you may not mean to intimidate him, your actions may be sending a different message. Don't swoop down over your dog or bend over him to pet him. It's better to crouch down to his level so you don't seem threatening.

Obedience classes. These classes can help your dog get over this condition. A well-trained dog is a more confident dog—one that is less likely to suffer from submissive urination.

Socialization. To help your puppy feel more confident introduce him to as many new experiences as possible. If he is fearful in these situations, don't pamper him. Reassuring him in a soft voice that "everything is okay" reinforces his fearful behavior by attending to it. If you reinforce this behavior, your dog will quickly learn that if he acts fearful he will get attention. If you act like the new experience is no big deal, your dog should follow your lead. Praise him when he shows confidence in something new.

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