Submissive and Excitement Urination

Piddling on the floor may be your dog's way of bowing to the boss, or sign of uncontrolled excitement. Help her control her emotions and her bladder by teaching self-respect.

By Rolan Tripp D.V.M.

The behavior: Spontaneous urination that occurs most often during greetings or reprimands. It is more common in puppies and young dogs, and is characterized by a small amount of urine.

Why dogs do it: Submissive urination is the ultimate show of respect and deference for someone of higher rank, be it person or dog. In the wolf pack, a cub will instinctively roll over or squat and release a small amount of urine to communicate that he is not a threat to the mature wolf. In dogs, puppies usually outgrow this behavior as they mature and learn other means of showing respect, but dogs who are naturally shy, insecure, or who have been abused may continue to show submission in this way even as adults.

Excitement Urination is not accompanied by submissive posturing, such as crouching and avoiding eye contact, and most often happens during greetings and playtime.

Training Tips

Never ever punish! Scolding her when she's just showing you how much she respects you will make the problem worse. She may pee more as a way of saying I'm so sorry I made you upset. What your dog needs is to build up her confidence, not to be more intimidated.

Look for the triggers. Certain body language on your part may cause your dog to get more excited or nervous and pee. Notice how you typically act with your dog. Does direct eye contact or petting the top of her head set it off? Does leaning over her? Raising your voice? Avoid approaching her in these ways. Turn head rubs into chin rubs, approach her from the side rather than the front, and keep your voice calm.

Teach her how to meet and greet. Greetings can arouse the most intense emotions in a dog. So they are often the time when submissive and excitement urination are at their worst. At first it may seem hard to shun your dog at the door, but it will be worth the effort for both of you. Here's how to set-up a dry homecoming:

  1. When you arrive home ignore her, walk past her, and go about your business.
  2. Don't make any eye contact, and don't pet her.
  3. After she settles down, very gently crouch down, facing sideways to her.
  4. Let her approach you while you crouch, instead of you looming over her.
  5. Until she's well controlled, monitor and praise urine-free greetings.
  6. As long as she is not urinating, gradually return to your favorite greeting. For added success teach her to sit for greetings. Consistency is a must here. Enlist all family members and visitors to do as you do.

Boost her confidence. Give her a new set of tools with which to please you. Here are ways to teach your dog skills to help her grow from submissive to confident:

  • Create set routines that she can rely on, such as the meet and greet routine.
  • Take her to a basic obedience class or teach her simple commands such as sit, come, and shake.
  • Give her lots of exercise and friendly socialization.
  • Reward her with consistent praise for all her accomplishments.

Be patient. It may take a while to build her confidence or find the right level of stimulus to fade out this behavior. Be as consistent as you can. Most puppies will outgrow it.

As a last resort take her to the vet. If you've tried all the training tips and your dog is still having problems, a vet visit can rule out any underlying medical problems such as an infection.

Training Tools

Use a dog crate. Dog Crates provide a safe den for your dog as well as a valuable training tool for all types of behavior. Crate training is a gradual process that involves some time and patience on your part but will have a huge pay-off. In the case of submissive or excitement urination, your dog will not be right at the door when you arrive, so you can control the timing and intensity of your greeting more effectively. In this case a wire crate is best, so that you can observe for urination. Approach the kennel calmly enough to avoid urination.

Distract with toys. Identify a favorite toy such as a Kong, ball, or squeaky toy, and place it near the front door where she can't get it. When you come home, don't greet her. Instead, show her the toy, ask for a sit, and present her with the toy. Her excitement for the toy may distract her from a submissive peeing episode.

Remove the odor. You will want an arsenal of cleaning products to remove the odor of previous episodes from your carpet, floor or furniture. If you don't remove the odor, your dog may urinate on that spot later.