Many people are familiar with what is defined as the "submissive urinator"; the dog that urinates all over the floor, you the owner, and your guests, as soon as it becomes excited, aroused, or intimidated. It can be a frustrating and embarrassing problem, but fortunately is usually quite easily corrected. Puppies, especially shy, timid and oversensitive ones are the likely candidates for submissive urination, but it is not uncommon to see this problem persist into adulthood. There tends to be more females with this problem as well. Dog owners who are dominant and strict tend also to encourage a submissive relationship with their dog.
Common situations where dogs get excited or fearful, and urinate are:
-overaffectionate greetings -when you arrive home -guests entering your home -arguments between people -scolding -loud noises
In order to understand this behavior, you must understand the language of dominance and submissiveness. Young puppies learn this from their mother. Gestures like averting eyes, rolling on their back, and urinating, are all used to express submissiveness. In situations where a dog feels intimidated, the proper learned response for them is to elicit some submissive signal to show the person or other dog that they recognize their dominance. Urination in this case is not deliberate or spiteful. To deal with this problem, the first thing that you must do is have your veterinarian examine your dog for possible physical abnormalities pertaining to this problem. Sickness and disease can cause difficulty for your pet to control their facilities. If physical problems prove to be the cause, discuss options specific to your dog's situation with your veterinarian as to your possible options (e.g. surgery, drugs, coping mechanisms).
If your dog is found to be healthy and is diagnosed with a behavioral problem, begin by observing what types of situations make your dog feel excited or threatened. Knowing these, you can design your plan of action to suit the needs of your dog.
There are a few important tips to remember when working with your dog.
*Most importantly, remember that you are dealing with a very sensitive companion that is very receptive to the way you treat them. *Because you are dealing with a dog that for whatever reason feels submissive, scolding and punishment do NOT work. They only make the dog feel more powerless and less in control. *Always encourage and PRAISE the dog for what it does right. This helps to build self confidence and cements the bond between you and your pet. *Do not hover over the dog when greeting it. This is a dominant position and will be interpreted as so. Crouch down and let the dog approach you. *Limiting your dog's intake of water can help it gain control. If you know guests are coming over, take the water away for a interval before their arrival. (You should not limit your dog's access to water for any extended period of time.) *If your dog urinates out of excitement when you return home and greet it, or if unfamiliars greet it, try to downplay the greeting by staying calm and saying hello or even ignoring it for the first few minutes until it calms down. Ask your friends to do this as well. *If your pooch urinates in response to loud, angry scolding, instead of yelling at them when they do something wrong, try to deal with their inappropriate behavior in firm and constructive manner. A firm NO given consistently at wrongdoings will often suffice.
If you find that your dog's problem can't be remedied by changing your interactive behaviors, there may be other options which can be discussed with your veterinarian. For example, drugs can sometimes be given to very excitable, hyper dogs to calm them down.
Most puppies will just outgrow submissive urination with a little patience on your part. Try to help your puppy feel confident, which may take a lot of work if your pup is timid and shy. Work in gradual steps and don't expect too much at once. If this behavior persists in your older dog, the few previously mentioned tips on non-threatening techniques to deal with submissive urination are quite effective, with positive changes seen in only weeks, possibly sooner. And remember, be patient, because accidents will happen.
Prevention is the easiest way to deal with submissive urination. If you aren't willing or able to take the extra time to work with a timid puppy or dog, select the outgoing, confident puppy, not the one that crouches in the back. Obedience classes are an excellent confidence booster for your dog. It also can open your eyes to the ways that you can unconsciously reinforce a negative behavior, and teaches you the importance of praise in a healthy relationship with your dog.
Blackshaw, J.K. "Case Studies of Some Behavioral Problems in Dogs", Australian Veterinary Practitioner, 1988,18:3,101-104.
Campbell, W.E. Behavior Problems in Dogs, 2ed. American Veterinary Publications Inc., Goleta, California, 1992. Evans, J.M. People, Pooches, and Problems, Howell Book House, New York, NY, 1991.