Submissive urination – 2 year old cocker spaniel

oliver031009 writes to me:

I’m about to adopt a beautiful American Cocker Spaniel. The owner says she
always urinates when she gets excited around her, as well as meeting new
people. The dog is not a puppy,(2 years old)
Anything I can do to reverse this. I’ve met the dog and It does do this.

Adam replies:

Hi, Oliver:

This is usually a behavior that a young dog will grow out of. But at this age, it’s hard to say whether she will or not. (More than likely, she will). The trick is to teach the dog a lot of obedience exercises, and get out and socialize, socialize, socialize: For example, have her sit immediately upon greeting people, and hold a strong sit-stay. You can work her around people to get her used to people (have them ignore her) and the obedience exercises will build up her confidence– which frequently will fix the submissive urination issue. Have strangers approach her in a sit-stay and then give her a cookie– without a lot of drama.

Just know that there’s no 100% guarantee that this will stop, completely. If you do adopt this dog, you need to be mentally prepared in case it never completely goes away. (Not so much for you, but when she meets other people). In most cases, it goes away once you start with the obedience exercises, the way I suggest in the book.

Keep me posted.

Submissive Urination

Dear Adam:  I have a mixed-breed puppy (German shepherd/border collie mix) which is 4 months old. It’s very friendly with people but when it approaches people it urinates all-over. The same happens when I come home in the evening. It becomes very excited and urinates on the carpet.

Is that a submissive behavior? How can I solve this problem?


Dear Bhabani: For some peace of mind, have him checked by your vet to make sure the problem is strictly behavioral and isn’t medically related. Once you have the results from the tests, you can start from there. If the dog is otherwise house-trained, it is more likely a submissive behavior. You can help reduce it by increasing the dog’s confidence level.

Agility is a great start for that. Don’t create as much excitement around the dog when he’s known to exhibit the behavior. When you come home, ignore him until he’s calm enough to greet. Is he kept in a crate while you’re gone? This can help you by allowing you to come home and immediately take the dog outside to potty.

By staying in the crate, he will be more loathe to potty in it because dogs have an inhibition to using the same area as a toilet and a den. The same goes with guests. If a guest comes, they must ignore the dog and not fuss over it until it is calm. Do not correct him for urinating. Correcting submissive urination will only make the behavior worse.

Submissive Urination With a Young Dog

I have an eleven month old English Springer Spaniel “Rio”. For the past nine months I have been using clicker training, the gentle leader, and various other methods with no success. The trainer who was helping me told me our dog was untrainable, which I didn’t believe because she is so smart.

I purchased an electronic collar not necessary, but sure makes [dog training->] faster and life easier! and a pinch collar per your advice. Within two days I have a well behaved dog. She walks at my side, she is no longer running wild all over the house and jumping on all the furniture. She is so good, she sits in my lap at night, she no longer jumps on the counters. Thank you again. I still have one problem with Rio. She has submissive urination. She is out growing it. She probably only has an accident every 2 weeks.

Usually when I put the leash on her to take her for a walk. Do you have any suggestions how to solve this problem permanently? – Maryann and “Rio”

Dear Maryann:

Excellent! I’m always happy to hear stories like this. Regarding the submissive urination: If you’ve already confirmed that your dog doesn’t have a bladder or urinary tract infection (unlikely) & then all you can really do is ignore the submissive urination.

She will grow out of this. It usually happens when a young dog gets excited, and very often, the dog isn’t even aware the she is doing it. Which makes it impossible to correct. For now, just try keeping the dog calm until you’re outside. She will outgrow this behavior. It really has nothing to do with housebreaking.

Dog Wets When She Gets Excited

I read the book. Here’s my question. My dog wets on the spot when ever she gets excited about seeing someone. Every time I or my daughter go outside, she wets herself as she is trying to greet us. She’s potty trained and knows where she needs to go eliminate. My friend owned her. She was an indoor dog that ended up being an outdoor dog.

My friend didn’t know how to train her out of doing this. I got her because I don’t mind having an outdoor dog. She does not have a bladder problem (it was ruled out by a vet). I would still like to train her out of this since she gets her pee all over our feet if we are not quick enough.

– Yolanda Dear Yolanda: You have not mentioned the dog’s age. It’s my guess that she’s still young. This behavior is known as submissive urination. Even though the dog may or may not be showing overt submissive body language. This is one of those few behaviors that most dogs will actually “grow out of,” upon reaching maturity.

Usually between one to two years of age. If the dog is older and is still exhibiting this behavior, there are three things you can do to reduce the likelihood that she will sprinkle: – Start the dominance building exercises, as described in my book. – Be aware of your body language when your first walk into the yard. Do not bend over the dog. In fact, you might try ignoring the dog for the first 10 minutes you are in the yard. – Start feeding the dog hot dogs, from a standing-upright position. Have house guests do the same.

Urinating In The Kennel Run

A dog owner named Ellen writes: I have a 12 month old golden retriever. When I am at work during the day she is in an outside kennel. The kennel has a concrete floor that is slanted to allow for drainage. I live in Wisconsin and when the snow melts, drainage is an issue even though I keep the kennel shoveled out.

Here is my problem: Abby has decided to always pee up on the high end of the kennel. Therefore, there is always urine all over the kennel and she ends up with it in her fur and it stinks. Is there any way to get her to change her place and go at the end of the kennel? All other dogs I have had just did this naturally. I can’t bathe her all the time as this drys her skin and she gets hot spots. I’ve already tried sanitizers and odor neutralizers on it to get her to use another place. She is fully house trained when she is inside. Thanks for your help.

– Ellen Dear Ellen: It’s an interesting question. It would be impossible to train her to urinate at the back end, as you’re not present to correct her when she urinates on the front end. But here are a couple of possible solutions:

1.) There are shampoos available that allow you to bathe the dog VERY FREQUENTLY without drying the skin. You should contact a couple of groomers to see what they recommend.

2.) You can buy rubber matting from catalog companies like Fosters and Smith or RC Steele– consult the tape “Where To Buy Pet Products At Rock Bottom Prices” that came with your kit. These mats allow the urine to drain through so that the dog is not standing in or laying in his urine all day.

3.) Try tacking some sheets of plastic or other material (perhaps reflective) to the front of the kennel run. Hopefully, the dog will be psychologically deterred from urinating on it.

Some Insight Into Your Dog’s Submissive Urination

Greg asks: My dog is a 5 month old boxer/shepherd mix who pees submissively/excitedly upon greeting friends or anyone really who arrives home.

Occasionally, even if he has been calm inside his kennel cage, he will pee in the cage when I go to greet him to take him out.

I have tried having everyone, including myself, be very low key when greeting him and trying not to excite him. It does not work. I have not been correcting him for this submissive/excitement peeing because I did not want to make him more submissive or nervous. His problem seems to be more excitement than submissive to me but I am new at puppy [training->dog training]. He does not lay down and roll over on his back when he pees and does not display typical submissive behavior. He usually does it by standing up and peeing while he greets you. I have even made him stay in a sit while he is greeted and he still pees. HELP!!!

Thank you in advance,

Dear Greg,

Thanks for the e-mail.

Yes… you are right in your assertion to not correct the dog for submissive urination.

I hate to tell you this, but barring any kind of urinary tract infection (you should have him checked just to be on the safe side) this is simply a phenomena of his young age. We usually see it in males, and usually of certain breeds. For some reason it’s quite prevalent in working breeds.

The best you can do is to leave the crate next to the door and immediately open the crate and run him outside. But even doing this, like you stated, sometimes he may urinate in the crate.

The good news is that this is simply a facet of youth. The dog doesn’t even know he’s doing it. All I can really advise is that you tough it out for another couple of months. At the most, he should be over it by 11 months. But usually they pass through it at around 7 months of age.

As the dog gets older, his temperament will firm up, too. And this will make the submissive urination problem disappear.

You can also try building up the dog’s confidence by doing some of the dominance building exercises referenced in the book, in reverse. Play tug of war with him and let him win. Build him up a bit. But regardless, this is a symptom of the dog’s youth.

Dog Cowers, Crawls and Urinates When Boyfriend Comes Home…

A year ago, my boyfriend of 18 months moved in with Nikki (6 years-old) and I. Nikki seems to love Michael, and Michael is definitely the Alpha. Michael treats her well, although a bit rougher at play than I do.

She has a slight problem with being able to hold her bladder when you first get home. Of course, I have adapted to that, and will go through all the necessary measures to insure she doesn’t urinate in the house. I’ve never had a very hard time being able to control her when she’s not on a leash. I like to take her with me when mountain biking. She loves to run along beside me without a leash and never lets me out of her sight. She has always had a little bit of a cautious temperament….meaning, when introduced into new environments

She is shy, intimidated and insecure; all of which fade as she gets used to the new environment. I think that this temperament has actually worked in my favor with training as she is typically VERY easy for me to control.

In the last 18 months or so, I have watched Nikki become more and more timid and submissive. When she is called or when she is approached, she cowers, tail between her legs, crawls towards you and urinates. Sometimes it just a sprinkle, but most times it’s quite a lot. For this very reason, when we moved from our apartment into a new house five months ago, Nikki had to become an outside dog. Michael and I have been working with her inside the house, only on the linoleum. Nothing we are doing is working. She is never scolded for the submissive behavior/urinating, but she knows she is not supposed to go potty in the house and she retreats even further into submission. She is very human-like in that I can actually see the worry and fear on her face. And sometimes she just trembles and whines a lot. I took her to our Vet. who says she is in perfect health and saw no apparent reason for the change in behavior.

My first question is….. how did we get to this point? And before you ask….No, Michael doesn’t mistreat her. Nikki’s submissive behavior is still apparent when Michael is not around, although not as extreme. Have you seen anything like this before? And, how can I possibly correct this behavior when even speaking kindly will invoke a submissive reaction in her? I’m truly out of ideas and it breaks my heart to see her this way.

I’ve lost many nights of sleep worrying about what could be causing this behavior change and trying to think of new ways to boost her confidence. Can you offer any guidance or direction? HELP!!! I WANT MY DOG BACK!!!!

– Dena.

Dear Dena:

You are right… there really isn’t a lot you can do about this behavior, as it is purely a result of poor genetics. And there’s nothing you can do to overcome genetics.

You are also correct in identifying this as submissive urination rather than a general housebreaking issue. And thus you should not correct her, as she really has no control over it.

I can give you some tips to smooth out some of her “rougher edges”… but there’s nothing that’s going to transform her into the picture of an outgoing, exuberant dog. Let me restate: You are having this problem as a result of poor breeding and/or poor genetics.

Here are some things you can do:

  1. When Michael holds her, he should never let her go UNTIL or UNLESS she calms down. DO NOT reward her behavior by letting her go, simply because she throws a fit. TEACH HER that the world is not falling, but do not coddle her. Simply hold her until she stops squirming.
  2. Do not feed her from the bowl… let Michael feed her by hand. Please be aware that she may not eat for a couple of days. DON’T WORRY… she will not starve herself. This technique, probably more than any other, will work wonders!
  3. Let her in the house… in fact, in the same room… while your are watching television. Both of you should completely ignore her. Let her get comfortable simply being around Michael.
  4. Michael should take her away from the house and begin doing obedience exercises with her. A group class would actually be good for this as it’s likely that all of the other stressors in the class will cause her to move closer to the ONE THING she is familiar with… Michael.

Best of luck to you. Keep training and be consistent.