A dog looks sad as his owner disciplines for 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 cannot be controlled. While it is not a housebreaking issue, it is more likely to happen when the bladder is full. This behavior can often be a reaction to a specific action, such as putting a leash on the dog or simply leaning down to stroke him.

Excited urination is different in that a puppy will usually grow out of this reaction. Submissive urination, however, often has to be overcome through training. Dogs read body language exceptionally 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, as well. It can also be triggered through inappropriate punishment, although this is not always the case.

You should never punish submissive urination—it will only worsen the problem. It is important to remember that your reaction and body language to the problem can intensify it, so be sure not to cause fear or anxiety for your dog.

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

Here are some tips to help.

A woman and her dog take a walk in the park as an opportunity to train her furry friend how to respond in new situations with other dogs and people.

Ignore the Behavior

Please don’t attempt to reassure your dog or reinforce his actions. Keep quiet but relaxed. Ignore his problematic behavior. When your reaction to unwanted behavior is notable, you are rewarding the behavior.

Clean Up Messes Privately

If he urinates, don’t say anything, get him outside, and then clean up without him seeing you do this. By taking this step, you can avoid rewarding the behavior while also conditioning him to associate urination with going outside.

Praise Good Behavior Calmly

Do not call him up to you when out in the yard, but walk slowly around with him to familiarize him with the environment. Give him a command to urinate and praise him calmly only when he obeys.

Be Slow & Non-Threatening

Do everything slowly and work at making your body language calm and unconcerned. Keep the verbal volume low. Be non-threatening. Don’t stare at him or show displeasure no matter how you feel.

Give Your Dog Regular Potty Breaks

Take your dog out regularly to do his business so his bladder will not build up pressure. Smaller puppies will need to be taken out more frequently than adult dogs. Look out for behavioral clues such as pawing at the door, sniffing around, pawing at the leash, or sitting and staring at you. Once you recognize the clues your dog gives when he needs a potty break, you can prevent unplanned messes in your home.

Adopt Training Practices to Prevent Submissive Urination

There are a number of ways you can train your dog to help curb submissive behaviors.

Obedience Training

Participate in basic obedience training, make it fun, and build his confidence. This type of training is beneficial for your dog even beyond curbing submissive urination. Through training, your dog will learn how to act and react to avoid barking, biting, and other antisocial behaviors. Discipline, exercise, and affection blend nicely during training.

Take Training Walks

Spend time sitting with your dog by your side on his leash. Take him for walks to gradually expose him to the situations that trigger his urination. The more you expose your dog to new situations, the more opportunities you will have to train the appropriate behavior you expect.

Crate Training to Prevent Dog Accidents

Use a crate when you cannot supervise your pup. Put the crate near a door to allow him to get outside quickly and prevent an accident. Regarding submissive urination, the crate should not be used as a punishment. You want your pup to think of the crate as a positive experience.

Crate Tips

Do not go straight to his crate when entering a room. Allow him to calm down first before letting him out. When you go to let him out, do so quietly. Don’t talk to him.

Crating a pup has many benefits. A crate allows your dog to have a space entirely their own, and it also helps with potty training. Be sure to get a bigger crate as your puppy grows.

The crate should be large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lay down. If you get one that’s too large, there will be enough room for them to urinate at one end and sleep at the other, so getting the right size is key.

Familiarize Your Dog With Others Gradually

Familiarize him gradually in small stages with noises, people, and other dogs. Don’t rush him into situations and experiences. Build up his comfort level gradually.

Avoid Stressful, Uncontrollable Situations With Your Dog

Avoid situations and people you cannot control until your dog learns to control himself and gain confidence. Ask friends to practice no touch, no talk, no eye contact around him.

When you are in a public place, there are some ways you can kindly ask strangers not to touch your dog. You can tell people that your dog is anxious, needs space, or isn’t friendly.

When you decide to take your dog out of your home environment, it is important to plan accordingly to prevent behavior issues.

Plan Where You Are Going

Will there be other dogs? Maybe take your dog to a shopping center parking lot as an introduction to being a public space.

Plan What Time You Are Going

Sometimes leaving a half-hour earlier or later can make all the difference.

Plan The Tools You Will Use

Bring along treats that can be easily accessible with a treat bag attached to your person. A head halter might be a good option as it allows you to control your dog’s head if they struggle with impulsive lunging at other pups or people.

Plan How You Will Respond

Having a plan of action should a situation arise is essential for maintaining control of your emotions and your dog’s reaction.

Submissive urination can be annoying, but exhibiting your frustration to your dog only makes it worse. With a bit of planning and attitude adjustment, you can minimize and overcome the problem.

Have tips or tricks that have worked for you? Please share below.


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