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Submissive Urination:  
Don't Let it Be a Battle Between You and Your Small Dog

Submissive Urination is worrisome for some small dog lovers who deal with it daily.  

If you are having problems with your dog urinating in front of you during greetings or when you are assuming a dominant stance, chances are it could be submissive in nature.  

Before you come to that conclusion, you need to rule out out other possibilities. It is important to have your dog checked out by a veterinarian.  

Some medical problems cause dogs to urinate more frequently such as bladder infections, bladder stones, or other health problems. These need medical attention.


Although submissive urination may occur at the same time as excitement urination, there are different causes and occurs at various times including greetings.  

Even though they are similar, dogs that have housebreaking problems such as these are usually shy or insecure, females, young puppies that are startled, or ones that have been harshly repeatedly punished.  

If there is more than one dog in the household, the lowest ranking member is likely the one with the problem. Your omega dog.

Urinating in dog language is a sign of respect for those in leadership.  

When they urinate, they are saying, I know you are the leader and I’m a follower.  

If you want to consider yourself the alpha, then your submissive dog is the omega.  In times of stress, the urinary sphincter relaxes releasing the urine.  The dog does not have control over this at the time.

Keeping the environment calm and as stress-free as possible for insecure dogs is the key to preventing this type of behavior.  Since we don’t have complete control over what happens, it is unlikely that we will be able to avoid it entirely.  Reducing the occurrence of urination should be your goal.

A Personal Experience with Submissive Urination

I once had a little girl named Snickers, who was very shy and reserved, but as sweet as can be.  She was fine with me and most of my family but any event that she perceived as threatening brought on her peeing right in front of me. 

The problem was bad when strangers came to the door, but people who actually came into the house caused real stress.  Even friendly visitors who wanted to pet her or even talk to her caused her to go into a panic mode.  She is a typical example of the type of dog that has problems with submissive urination.

How to Deal with Submissive Urination?

  • Keep a patient mindset.

  • Maintain the environment as stress-free as possible.  All greetings and departures should be quiet and brief.

  • Use the same methods described above for greetings; your dog understands your body language much better than he recognizes your speech.  (Squat to greet, no eye contact, turn sideways, scratch or pet his ears, chin or chest, not head).

  • Alternately, you might consider postponing any greetings for about 10 minutes which is about enough time to allow your dog to calm down.  Walk in and ignore your dog, staying busy with something until the dog calms down.  Then greet him as above.

  • If the dog does urinate, just ignore the behavior; reassure the dog that everything is Okay. 

  • Never punish your dog.

  • Use an enzymatic cleaner to eliminate any odor.

  • Always reward and praise your dog when he urinates where and when you want him to do so.

Anxious, Fearful Dog ?

If your dog’s uncontrolled urinating is part of a more generalized anxiety, treating the underlying fear and anxiety will be necessary.  

There are many different types of calming agents on the market today all of which work reasonably well.  Your veterinarian should be able to prescribe something for an overly anxious dog.  Talk to your vet about products that will help.

My Favorite Products to Calm an Anxious Dog

Trick to differentiate between Submissive and  Excitement Urination

 Greet the dog in a dominate way:  Bend over from the waist, hovering over his body, look at him directly in the eye, pat his head.  If he urinates, it is likely submissive urination.If your dominate stance does not get a reaction in your dog, you are most likely dealing with Excitement Urination, assuming that you have ruled out all health related reasons for inappropriate urination.

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