Submissive urination

Of all the behavior problems I can imagine, this is by far the easiest to deal with. If submissive peeing is the worst thing your dog throws at you, you’re in great shape.

Submissive peeing is just normal submissive behavior gone a little bit too far. If the behavior you want (ears back, tail down, happy wiggle) is a 7, submissive peeing starts at maybe 8 or 9. A “10” would be the dog flat on the ground and crawling away–which I have seen, and in fact Bronte does this if I get too sharp with one of the other dogs (a good reminder for me to always stay soft and positive).

Since submissive peeing is coming from a very healthy and normal place in the dog’s mind, all you have to do is back off on the dominant posture and it will stop. It’s really a human behavior issue, not a canine.

A lot of people see this behavior when they come home from work or from being away, and think it’s because the dog is excited to see them. Well, the dog may be excited to see you, but that’s not why she’s peeing. She’s peeing because the way everybody greets dogs (bending over, being physically affectionate in a posture that’s right over the dog) is a HUGE dominance move. Dogs would never do that to each other unless they were making a major point about “I’m the king and you’re a tiny little bug.”

The correct response for a good, submissive dog to make in that situation is to give you (the pack leader) every sign of obedience. And if you keep on doing it, she’ll go even further, peeing to indicate that she is absolutely under your control.

It’s very easy to fix this issue by simply understanding what she’s saying and what she’s asking for. She DOES want to be physically close to you, but she doesn’t need you to shout at her (which is what you are doing when you bend over her and pet her). So when you come in the door, walk right past her and go about your business. Don’t even acknowledge her as you head to the door to let her out. If she’s in a crate, put her right outside with no eye contact and no talking.

When she comes back in, let her approach you and at that point greet her, but do not do the “OH, DOGGY DOGGY, I MISSED YOU SO MUCH, WOOBSY TOOBSY” routine that all of us do. Just go calmly about your day with her.

The other time that submissive dogs commonly pee is when you are playing with them or get them excited. Again, think about your body posture. If you want to ruffle her around and play, get down on the ground so you are at her level. Or play a game that involves the two of you moving, like fetch. Or take a long walk together.

You may feel like you’re being “cheated” because you can’t have the big happy greeting when you come home. I’ve heard people say “He’s just being ridiculous” or “She’s such a ditz that she can’t hold it in.” I understand that–there’s a reason that all the dogs around here have silly nicknames, and that reason is because when I come home I try to pet four dogs at once while squeaking nonsense at them. I enjoy the big greeting. But remember that “Oh, coodly doodly, I love you, did you miss mommy? Yes you did! Yes you did!” really is something that’s more geared toward human enjoyment–we’re primates, we love to touch each other, we repeat touching behaviors often, we’re extremely verbal, we are constant groomers–and not so much toward canine enjoyment. When you back off on that big broad behavior, you are actually showing respect for who she is and how she’s built; you are putting yourself in her place and supporting the part of her brain that makes her a lovely, positive, sound and sane dog.


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