How to Train Your Dog to Stop Submissive Peeing

How to Train Your Dog to Stop Submissive Peeing
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon1-12 Months
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

You adore your dog, she's the center of your world, and yet she has this upsetting habit. It's not a major problem, but it irks you none-the-less because you recognize it means she is submissive, and therefore potentially anxious. The last thing in the world that you want is for the fur-friend you love and adore to feel anxious or fearful around you. 

So what is this problem? Submissive peeing!

It's what happens when you come home. The dog runs to greet you, rolls over, and pees on the floor. In itself, it's not a major problem but it's the implication that your dog is submitting to you in such a way. Plus there's the hygiene aspect, which is less than ideal. And then there's what happens when she meets strangers and lets go a veritable fire-hydrant of pee.

It doesn't have to be like this. By understanding the psychology of what makes the dog pee, you can tackle the issue at its root cause, so that both you and the dog are happy.

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Defining Tasks

Submissive dogs urinate as a means of appeasing a person or dog that they perceive as a potential threat. Key to preventing this problem is to bolster the dog's confidence so that he no longer feels the need to give an appeasement signal such as urination. 

This is done by using a combination of tactics, such as using reward-based training to bolster confidence, avoiding confrontational circumstances, and by keeping things low key. 

Dogs of all ages can show submissive urination, especially puppies. However, many pups do grow out of the problem by the time they are a year old and their bladder control improves. If at any stage you suspect the dog is incontinent, rather than showing submissive urination, then check in with a vet. 

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Getting Started

You need no special equipment, other than treats, in order to retrain the dog. What matters most is your body language, how you act around the dog, and taking time and patience to build the dog's confidence.

Helpful items include: 

  • Treats and a training bag to keep the treats in
  • Cleaning equipment to deal with those 'spills' in a no-drama way

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The Increase Confidence Method

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1

Understand the idea

Building the dog's confidence gets right to the heart of the problem. When he no longer feels a need to appease because he no longer feels threatened, then the problem will stop.

2

Use reward-based training methods

Reward-based training uses the principle that he is encouraged to learn by giving a reward when he does something well. In this context, the dog is rewarded when he acts confidently.

3

Give the dog an alternative action to perform

The dog wants to appease you and show he is no threat. Work on training the dog to 'sit'. When you come home, quietly ignore the dog and when he approaches, use the 'sit' cue. By giving the dog an alternative action to perform, this distracts him and channels his need to obey into something less wet than peeing.

4

Distract the dog

When flashpoints are likely, such as greeting strangers or when you arrive home, distract the dog. This could be throwing a favorite toy for him to fetch, or by using that 'sit' command he learned earlier to offer you a more appropriate behavior.

5

Give the dog a goal

At the core of submissive urination is a dog that wants to please you. Work at training the dog to do an activity, such as going to a mat to lie down or fetching an object. This way the dog has a displacement activity he can perform rather than peeing.

The Keep Things Low-Key Method

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Understand the idea

Submissive dogs become anxious or fearful when challenged. Anxiety increases the risk of submissive urination. By keeping greetings low-key and understanding the body language cues that signal dominance, you can help reduce the dog's anxiety and cut back on submissive urination.

2

Ignore the dog on coming home

A flashpoint for submissive urination is when you come home and the dog greets you. This is best avoided by ignoring the dog and waiting for him to grow calm. It's fine to acknowledge the dog in a low key way, such as saying "Hi, Rover, I see you,", so that the dog understands you have seen him but aren't choosing to greet him right now.

3

Greet the dog calmly and quietly

Once the dog is calmer, then greet him. But keep things quiet and understated, with a gentle stroke along the body or under the chin. Speak to him softly. Avoid overly enthusiastic greetings and if the dog rolls over, then walk away.

4

Avoid confrontational behavior

Actions such as approaching the dog head on or staring into his eyes are seen by challenges by a dog and make a submissive dog anxious. Instead, approach the dog in an arc so you come round to his side, and either watch him from the corner of your eye or focus on a distant part o his body such as the tail.

5

Speak to your vet

If your dog lacks confidence and this submissiveness is disabling, then consider speaking to your vet. They may be able to suggest a medication to reduce the dog's anxiety while he undergoes training to build his confidence.

The What NOT to Do Method

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Never punish the dog

A submissive dog that urinates is doing so out of anxiety and as an appeasement activity. If you scold the dog this will make him more anxious and more the behavior more likely to occur. Not only does this make the problem worse, but it risks the dog becoming increasingly distressed and unhappy.

2

Don't use dominance training methods

Out-dated dog training methods use the principle of dominating the dog, to show who's boss. However, dominating a submissive dog only increases anxiety, which could even result in the dog becoming aggressive because he is fearful....and the dog may still urinate.

3

Don't push the dog outside his comfort zone

Owning a submissive dog can be frustrating, as he doesn't cope well with visitors or changes in his routine. It can, therefore, be tempting to force the dog into situations he's not comfortable with (such as making him greet strangers) in order to 'get him over it'. However, this is liable to backfire and only make the problem worse.

4

Don't loom over the dog

Leaning over the dog to greet him or stroking the head are both gestures that reinforce your dominance and can be perceived as a threat to the dog. Instead, try kneeling or sitting down and letting the dog come to you, and stroking him under the chin.

5

Don't overlook medical reasons

If you are really struggling with the dog's problem, then get him checked by a vet. It might be he has a medical problem which needs treatment, that is exacerbating the submissive urination.

By Pippa Elliott

Published: 11/13/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Cardi

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Yorkipoo

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1 Year

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Question

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How to stop my dog from peeing she does it only when she is around certain people not everyone??

June 8, 2022

Cardi's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tiffany, It sounds like maybe submissive or excited peeing. Is she fearful or nervous around new people? In combination with the tips from the article I have linked below, I would also work on building her overall confidence. Even though pup isn't barking, this exercise can be good for confidence building if the behavior is submissive and pup is nervous around people. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXCELHDT2fs&list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a&index=4 If the behavior is excited peeing, then work on interactions where things become boring because they are repeated over and over and over and over again in a row, with everyone staying calm, like someone walking past pup, they out of sight, then coming back and passing again right away, ect...over and over and over again until pup's response is calm because the person has been passing by so much. The same goes for guests...recruit friends who will enter your home, leave again, enter, then leave again, enter then leave again, ect...until pup is bored with them entering and calm. Have guests ignore pup the first ten minutes they arrive so pup expects visits to be calm with excited peeing. With submissive peeing, limit touch from guests, give treats for confident calm behavior, and have the guest instead of touching, ask pup to obey a command, like Sit when greeting, to get pup into a working mindset and calm interaction. Submissive and excited peeing: https://wagwalking.com/training/stop-submissive-peeing Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 8, 2022

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Tucker

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Golden Retriever

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5 Months

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submissive/excited peeing when meeting strangers

April 29, 2022

Tucker's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Karren, Practice having friends and family come up to you and talk to you without acknowledging pup for the first ten minutes. If pup sits, they can drop a treat on the ground for pup, to help with socialization and manners. After the initial ten minutes, once pup is more bored with their presence, have the person give pup a command and reward with a treat, like Sit or Down or Shake, so pup is in a more thinking mindset while being talked to, touched, or treated by the person. Practice introductions outside as often as you can at this age. Often this behavior improves as pup gets older as well. Do continue socialization despite the peeing, just work on obedience and calm interactions when you do so. Socialization is ultimately top priority still as far as pup's future behavior, but the calmer the interactions and the more time you give pup to calm back down first, the better the outcome usually is. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 3, 2022


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