How to Train Your Dog to Stop Submissive Peeing

Hard
1-12 Months
Behavior

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.

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. 

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

The Increase Confidence Method

Effective
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Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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The Keep Things Low-Key Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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The What NOT to Do Method

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0 Votes
Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Bond
Sheltie
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Bond
Sheltie
2 Years

When I take him out of his kennel in the morning he has a couple squirts of pee almost every morning. How can I make him stop or at least cut back

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
78 Dog owners recommended

Hello James, The peeing is probably excited peeing combined with a full bladder. First of all, try to make your interaction with Bond as calm and boring as possible in the morning before he has peed. When you walk into the room where his crate is, ignore him for five minutes to help him calm down before letting him out of the crate. When he is a bit calmer try three different methods I will outline below and do whichever one works best for Bond. First, ignore Bond for five minutes, then reach into Bond's crate very calmly without saying anything and without touching him any more than absolutely necessary to clip on his leash. Next, tell him "Okay" very softly and calmly, and stand up and start walking toward the door without interacting with Bond other than simply holding his leash to lead him outside. The goal is to make his entire morning routine boring. Second, if the first method causes him to pee despite letting him calm down first and not talking to him, then after five minutes, start to open the door, and if he tries to rush out, close it again. Repeat this until you can open the door all the way and Bond will wait inside. Once he is waiting patiently with the door open, then calmly tell him "Okay" and let him come out. You want him to come out calmly and you want to keep all of your commands very calm and monotone. Once he is out, walk toward the door to take him outside and let him outside if your yard is fenced. If you need to put a leash on him, then attach it in the crate after doing the door opening and closing. Third, try ignoring him for five minutes, going over to the crate, calmly opening the door without speaking to him, and then immediately turning your back to him and walking away toward the door to go outside. You can then let him outside into your fenced in yard. If he needs a leash, then follow one of the other options to attach a leash in the crate first. Try each of these for three days in a row and see which one keeps him from peeing. The key is to decrease his excitement and change his attitude to being calm to make it easier for him to hold his bladder. Once he pees outside, then you can interact with him like normal again. You may also need to practice always letting him out of the crate calmly, so that he will not expect crate exits to be so exciting. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Chrissy
Maltipoo
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Chrissy
Maltipoo
2 Years

She pees a little when we have visitors not all visitors just some what can I do

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
78 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sharon, She is probably excited peeing. Instruct your visitors to ignore her for at least ten minutes when they come in. Once he has calmed down and has been taken outside to pee, which will decrease but not stop the peeing incidents by itself, then they can say hello to her calmly. You want her to expect all visitors to ignore her when they come to your home. This should not only prevent excited and submissive peeing during that visit but also decrease her overall excitement and possible anxiety about visitors in general. If she begins to expect visitors to be pleasant but not overly-exciting, then she should be less prone to peeing around visitors in general. Do this will all visitors while you are training her. Not just the ones she pees for. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Lillie
Labrador
1 Year
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Question
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Lillie
Labrador
1 Year

Lillie only submissively urinates when my husband tries to put her back in her kennel at the end of his lunch break. He has no problems other times of the day. I never have any problem with her. We do have to coax her in with a treat and she cries for a little bit then she stops. She knows when his lunch break is over and she’ll hunker down and pee, even with the treat! My husband has made it a point to make the kennel experience pleasant and talks sweet to her, he gets down on her level. She is a rescue lab pit mix so we don’t know her whole background either. We’ve had her for 2 months.

Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
78 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jessica, It sounds like Lillian is anxious either about having to go into her kennel or about your husband leaving. It might be the last one since she is fine at other times. Possibly the reason that she is OK at other times but not at this time, is because she is getting anxious leading up to him leaving, since his routine is so consistent. She might be working herself up to a higher state of anxiety than the crate alone would cause. It's a bit like the building stress of waiting for a roller coaster to make it's first big drop at the beginning of the ride, opposed to already being on the roller coaster and experiencing multiple drops throughout the ride that cause less stress. Look for creative ways that your husband can change his lunch routine, such as putting her into the crate and then taking her back out, leaving the house and then coming back, gathering his things and then putting them back. You want to keep her guessing until she becomes bored with the experience of his departure. Also make sure that she is being given an opportunity to eliminate during the lunch break, even if it has not been that long since she went last, and give her something really fantastic to do in the crate after you are gone, in addition to the treat that you are already doing. For that, I recommend stuffing a Kong with mushy kibble and peanut butter. Put your dog's food into a bowl and cover it with water, let it sit out until the water makes the kibble mushy, then add peanut butter to it, and loosely stuff the Kong with it. For an extra challenge, freeze the Kong overnight, so that it is a time released treat that will keep her busy for longer. If you freeze the Kong, then you can purchase multiple Kongs and stuff them all at once, then simply pull them out of the freezer when you need one. When you use Peanut Butter check the ingredients and make sure that it does NOT contain Xylitol. Xylitol is a substitute sweetener than is extremely toxic to dogs. If you cannot use Peanut Butter squeeze cheese also works. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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