What is submissive urination and how do I stop it?

In the wild, dogs have a hierarchy and there's always a leader of the pack. Submissive dogs display certain behaviours and postures as not to come across as challenging to other, more dominant, members. Aside from avoiding eye contact and tail tucking, dogs may also roll over and urinate; this is known as submissive urination.

Dogs may perform submissive urination when they are around a person, animal or event that causes them fear.

Some triggers of submissive urination include:

  • Loud noises (voices, cars, thunder etc.).
  • Threatening gestures such as standing over them, excessive eye contact, grabbing or reaching.
  • Being scolded or punished.
  • Being approached by a new person or animal.

Dogs that urinate submissively are generally shy or anxious pets as this is a behaviour linked to low self-confidence. Submissive urination may also develop if the dog has had a history of abuse or unreasonable punishment.

Note that if your dog urinates in similar situations but does not perform any accompanying submissive gestures (such as rolling over to expose their belly, tucking their tail or hunching) they may be experiencing excitement urination instead.

How can I eliminate this behaviour?

At no time should you scold your dog or react aggressively while you are discouraging submissive urination as this will make the problem worse. Instead what you can do is:

  • Use calm, low volume voices when greeting your dog, this includes you and everyone else.
  • When you are in a setting where your dog is feeling safe and relaxed, practice obedience commands like sit, shake or beg by using positive reinforcement. You can then get your dog to follow these commands when they are in new situations and use treats as rewards.
  • Gently lead your dog outdoors when they do urinate inappropriately and get rid of any spills with a pet specific urine cleaner to prevent accidents from occurring in the same spot. Dogs tend to urinate where they can smell previous excrements or to cover up odours undesirable to them like bleach.
  • Introduce your dog to new situations and people slowly.
  • Do not stare at your dog and avoid sudden or threatening gestures. Crouch down when you greet your dog instead of hovering over them and avoid bear hugs.

If your dog is extremely fearful, visit your vet to see if they may require temporary medication. Anxiety relievers such as Adaptil can help calm your pet as you build their confidence.

What to remember

Submissive urination in dogs is not disobedience and they should never be punished for this behaviour. Helping your dog to overcome submissive urination begins by increasing their self-confidence and diverting their attention with other actions such as obedience commands. With the right approach and lots of patience, your dog can overcome their fears to become a happy and confident pooch!

Posted by Jessica Varley

Owner of a small Chihuahua army and lover of all things pets; when Jess isn't managing her pup Nacho's instagram you can find her writing about all the awesome new products on the Pet Circle website!

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