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How to Deal With Submissive Urination in Dogs

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author of the online dog training course "Brain Training for Dogs."

Submissive urination is common in young puppies.

Submissive urination is common in young puppies.

What Exactly Is Submissive Urination?

Can you relate to any of the below scenarios? If so, you may be dealing with puppy submissive urination. Submissive urination in puppies or dogs has nothing to do with house soiling issues. Therefore, if the below scenarios sound all too familiar, getting all revved up and mad will not help the problem; actually, things can get worse, much worse. You may be dealing with puppy submissive urination if you find yourself agreeing with any of the below statements:

  • "My puppy urinates in front of me every time I come home from work; I cannot make it on time to take him outside!"
  • Every time I come home and find a mess on the carpet, I scold my dog, and in spite, he pees right in front of me."
  • I am at my wit's end. Every time I have guests over, Rover rolls over and urinates on himself. I am so tired of giving him baths and cleaning up messes!".

What exactly is puppy submissive urination, and why does it occur? Learning more about this behavior is key to the resolution of the problem.

In nature, very young puppies are unable to urinate or defecate on their own. In order to eliminate, therefore, they require the assistance of their mother. The mother dog will intervene by rolling the puppy over so to expose the puppy's tummy and genital area. The mother's tongue will elicit the bladder and bowels to empty.

The mother dog then ingests the waste so the den remains clean and there are no traces that may attract predators. This process is essential for the puppy's survival. Generally, the mother dog will stop licking once the puppy has attained better bowel and bladder control.

Why Do Puppies Engage in Submissive Urination?

The action of rolling over to expose the tummy and genital area is a behavior that indicates submission towards authority and respect. Puppies will roll onto their tummies to allow their mother to lick them but will also engage in this behavior when they grow older to demonstrate respect and submission towards older dogs and their owners. This is a form of neotenic appeasement gesture. However, why do puppies also urinate when rolling over their bellies? There is a possible explanation for this.

In dogs, the smell of urine is very relevant. Many things can be perceived when dogs engage in sniffing the urine of a dog. This explains why dogs are so engaged in leaving "pee mail" for other dogs to investigate. A dog can tell the sex of the dog, its social status, sexual availability, and more.

When a puppy urinates upon rolling over, they are making a statement: "I respect you, and I mean no harm." Because the urine of a young puppy does not contain yet much of the hormone testosterone, which is produced later as he matures, the smell further proves that they are not a contender. This lack of testosterone gives the puppy part of what is known as a "puppy license," therefore, older dogs will not "put them in their place" as they may do with an older puppy as it reaches adolescence.

While this behavior helps bring harmony to a pack of dogs, in the human world, things are different. Dog owners get mad at the puppy for urinating rather than accepting the puppy's respect and lack of threat. This makes the issue worse because the more the dog owner gets mad, the more the puppy will feel compelled to engage in submissive urination. A great example of how two different species speak two completely different "languages."



What Triggers Submissive Urination?

When exposed to humans, puppies engage in submissive urination when they determine certain behaviors as assertive or threatening. The following scenarios may, therefore, trigger submissive urination in puppies.

  • Looming over the puppy
  • Making direct eye contact
  • Moving too fast toward the puppy
  • New people
  • Loud noises
  • Scolding the puppy
  • Physically correcting the puppy
  • Some puppies react more submissively towards men compared to women

What about puppies urinating from excitement when the owner comes home?

This form of urination is slightly different from submissive urination and is better off being referred to as "excitement" urination. In this case, the puppy is so happy to see his owners that he is unable to contain his happiness, and his bladder just empties. This is not under the puppy's control. If you get mad at your puppy for urinating excitedly, your puppy may then shift to submissive urination, and a chain reaction is formed.

So, how do we deal with submissive and excitement urination? We will see what the best approaches are in the next paragraph.

Submissive Urination Explained by a Vet

How to Deal With Puppy Submissive Urination and Excitement Urination?

Now that you know your puppy is dealing with submissive urination, your next step is to make life easier for both of you. First of all, consider that submissive urination is mostly a temporary problem; indeed, most puppies outgrow this problem as they gain confidence.

Generally, this behavior reduces and extinguishes before the dog turns 1 year old. The following tips will help you minimize the chances of walking over puddles of pee.

  • Avoid looming over your puppy. Rather, crouch down to the puppy's level.
  • Avoid direct eye contact. Rather, avert your gaze.
  • Avoid approaching the puppy too fast. Rather, allow the puppy to approach first.
  • Avoid scolding your puppy. Ignore accidents and reward wanted behaviors.
  • Avoid confrontational training methods, rather embrace a positive reinforcement training program.

In the case of excitement urination, it helps to ignore the puppy for a few minutes until he gets to calm down. Just go on with your errands and keep arrivals low-key. Or, to prevent urination in the home in the first place, take your puppy immediately outside when you first come home.

Note: Some forms of urination may have a medical cause. Please consult with your vet if your puppy or dog has a urination problem and it does not appear to be puppy submissive urination or excitement urination. If in doubt, consult with a reputable dog trainer or dog behavior professional.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2012 Adrienne Farricelli


Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 09, 2013:

Hi Faith, You usually see submissive urination mostly with puppies and the occasional insecure dog. Thanks for stopping by!

Faith A Mullen on January 09, 2013:

Great hub. I have thankfully never had to deal with this in my dogs, but this is useful information to remember for the future.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 28, 2012:

Turtlewomen, you are welcome! I hope the tips help with your dog submissive urination problem.

Kim Lam from California on June 27, 2012:

Wow, you just described my 1 year old Pomeranian exactly. It's been so frustrating to have to wipe her pee every time I come home. Thanks for the tips. It does make a lot of sense, as she seems to always be afraid of people. She is always flipping over and peeing on herself! I just thought she had a weak bladder!

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 22, 2012:

Many dogs are more submissive towards men. Men carry their bodies in a more assertive way and have deeper voices. This can be a reason why. However, if he is at work most of the day comes home and they are all happy to see him and urinate, then you may be seeing excitement urination.

Angela Brummer from Lincoln, Nebraska on June 21, 2012:

Great article. I wonder if you might know why female dogs would urinate when they saw my husband? All female dogs? Crazy.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 21, 2012:

Thank you wetnose, kind regards!

wetnosedogs from Alabama on June 21, 2012:

I knew of excitement urination, but submissive urination is a new topic to me.

Good stuff to know. I'm sharing this.

jasontoheal on June 21, 2012:

Very interesting Hub. My family is hoping to get a dog soon (I'm holding out as long as possible) but if we do it's good to know help is available.