Head of the Class Dog Training LLC 

Winchester, VA

Winchester's Premium Professional Pet Training

Have you ever wondered why your dog would roll over and urinate all over himself or herself? Puppies do this to show they are submissive, and usually they outgrow the behavior, but sometimes timid dogs will continue to do this into adulthood. It’s a messy habit to break, but there is hope. Like all other undesirable behaviors our dogs engage in, with patience and training, you and your pup can overcome this issue.

Why Some Dogs Continue Submissive Urination
Dogs who exhibit this behavior may have a history of being punished inappropriately or treated harshly. They may be shy, timid or anxious. If a dog doesn’t understand how to behave or is unsure of the rules, he or she will be insecure and will exhibit submissive urination to avoid punishment from anyone perceived as intimidating.

Is it Submissive Urination?
Here are some common times for dogs to engage in submissive urination:

  • When in a submissive position like rolling over, tucking his or her tail or crouching down
  • When a person approaches your dog
  • When your dog is being scolded
  • When someone greets your dog
  • When there are loud noises like sirens or an argument

If your dog urinates when being greeted or when playing, and he or she is not in a submissive position, the problem is likely excitement urination rather than submissive urination, and should be handled differently.

How to Help Your Dog Stop Submissive Urination

After you take your dog to the vet to rule out any medical reason for the urination, you need to rebuild your dog’s confidence. Here are a few ways to help your dog overcome submissive urination.

  • Use positive reinforcement training to teach him or her cues.
  • Gradually introduce your dog to new situations and people and keep the interactions positive and happy.
  • Reward confident postures like standing and sitting. Teach an alternative behavior for submissive positions, like how to sit and shake hands or a fun trick when you approach. Reward the new behavior.
  • Keep the environment and routine consistent, especially while working to encourage new behaviors.
  • Never punish your dog for submissive urination, as this will only exacerbate the problem.
  • Keep your interactions with the dog quiet and avoid approaching with postures that look threatening, like making direct eye contact. Get down to your dog’s level by bending at the knees instead of at the waist. Pet your dog on the chin instead of the top of the head and approach him or her from the side instead of the front, with a side-facing posture.
  • Use special, safe cleaners to completely eliminate the odors of urine from your home.
  • Try a good counter-conditioning program with a positive reinforcement, force-free trainer. Use activities to build confidence and independence, like scent games or a dog sport. If none of these help, it might be time to have your pup visit the vet.

As always, be patient and kind. This behavior didn’t come about overnight and may take time to overcome. Showing your dog love and affection will go a long way toward making him or her feel more secure, which will help reinforce your dog’s security and help with your training efforts.

-Lisa Marino

Lisa Marino, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, PMCT, has taken her varied teaching experiences and applied them to helping owners understand and train their beloved four-legged family members. She has more than four years’ experience leading group dog training classes at Best Paw Forward in Hartland, WI, and opened Head of the Class Dog Training LLC in Winchester, VA in 2012, where she conducts group classes and private lessons, as well as helps owners to modify their dogs' problem behaviors.

Lisa earned her CPDT-KA in 2012, is a 2015 graduate of the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy and is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer.

She has 4 registered therapy dogs and is a Pet Partner Therapy Team Evaluator and a member of HOPE AACR. As a former middle school teacher, she works well with families and children and does school presentations on various dog related topics

How to Handle Your Dog’s Submissive Urination