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. It is not a housebreaking issue, although it is more likely to happen when the bladder is full. It 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 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 as well. It can also be triggered through inappropriate punishment, although this does not always have to be the case.

You should never punish submissive urination—it will only make it problem worse. 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 to redirect the dog’s mind to other actions than urinating when concerned or excited.

Here are 15 tips to help:

  • Don’t attempt to reassure your dog or reinforce his actions. Keep quiet but relaxed. Ignore his behavior.
  • Familiarize him gradually in small stages with noises, people, and other dogs. Don’t rush him into situations and experiences. Build up gradually.
  • Do basic obedience training. Make it fun and confidence building.
  • Use a crate when you cannot supervise. Put his crate near a door allowing him to get outside quickly, potentially avoiding an accident.
  • Take him out regularly to do his business so his bladder will not build up pressure.
  • 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 the crate to let him out do so quietly. Don’t talk to him.
  • 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 stare at him or show displeasure no matter how you feel.
  • 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.
  • Ask friends to practice no touch, no talk, no eye contact around him.
  • Avoid situations and people that you cannot control until your dog is learning to control himself and gain confidence.

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

Tell us in what situations your dog has displayed submissive urination.

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