Submissive Urination

Submissive urination is a normal appeasement behavior that a dog performs when they are trying to avoid conflict. It’s important to remember that this response is based on the dog’s perception of a threat, not the person’s actual intention. Submissive urination may resolve as your dog gains confidence.

Your dog may be submissively urinating if:

  • He is a somewhat shy or anxious dog.
  • Urination occurs when someone greets him by bending over him and reaching down to pet him.
  • He has a history of rough treatment or punishment after the fact.
  • Urination occurs when he’s being scolded.
  • The urination is accompanied by submissive postures, such as crouching or rolling over and exposing his belly.

What Can You Do?

  • Take your dog to the vet to rule out medical reasons for the behavior.
  • Keep greetings low-key. You may need to ignore him or let him out to go potty before greeting him.
  • Encourage and reward confident postures from him. Pet him when he is standing or sitting.
  • Give him an alternative to behaving submissively. For example, have him “sit” or “shake” as you approach and reward him for following your cues, or get him to fetch you a toy or ball and greet him when he brings it back to you.
  • Avoid direct eye contact – look at his back or tail instead.
  • Get down on his level by bending at the knees rather than leaning over from the waist and ask others to approach him in the same way.
  • Pet him under the chin rather than on top of the head.
  • Approach him from the side, rather than from the front, and/or present the side of your body to him, rather than your full front.
  • Don’t punish or scold him – this will only make the problem worse.
  • While practicing, try and have as many greetings as possible occur outside.

Excitement Urination

Excitement urination usually resolves on its own as a dog matures, if it’s not made worse by punishment or inadvertent reinforcement.

Your Dog May Have an Excitement Urination Problem If:

  • Urination occurs when your dog is excited – like when she is so excited to greet you or during playtime.
  • Urination occurs when your dog is less than one year old.

What Can You Do?

  • Take your dog to the veterinarian to rule out medical reasons for the behavior.
  • Keep greetings low-key. Talking in an excited or high pitched tone of voice can cause it.
  • Ignore him until he is calm.
  • To avoid accidents, play outdoors until the problem is resolved.
  • Do not punish or scold your dog.

Need help? Call our free pet behavior help line at (503) 416-2983.