How to Deal with Dog Submissive Urination
What Exactly is Submissive Urination?
Can you relate to any of the below scenarios? If so, you may be dealing with puppy submissive urination. Submissive urination in puppies or dogs has nothing to do with house soiling issues. Therefore, if the below scenarios sound all too familiar, getting all revved up and mad will not help the problem; actually things can get worse, much worse. You may be dealing with puppy submissive urination if you find yourself agreeing with any of the below statements:
- "My puppy urinates in front of me every time I come home from work, I cannot make it on time to take him outside!"
- Every time I come home and find a mess on the carpet I scold my dog and in spite he pees right in front of me"
- I am at my wit's end. Every time I have guests over, Rover rolls over and urinates on himself. I am so tired of giving him baths and cleaning up messes!".
What exactly is puppy submissive urination and why does it occur? Learning more about this behavior is key to the resolution of the problem.
In nature, very young puppies are unable to urinate or defecate on their own. In order to eliminate, therefore, they require the assistance of their mother. Mother dog will intervene by rolling the puppy over so to expose the puppy's tummy and genital area. The mother's tongue will elicit the bladder and bowels to empty. Mother dog then ingests the waste so the den remains clean and there are no traces that may attract predators. This process is essential for the puppy's survival. Generally, mother dog will stop licking once the puppy has attained better bowel and bladder control.
Why do Puppies Engage in Submissive Urination?
The action of rolling over to expose the tummy and genital area is a behavior that indicates submission towards authority and respect. Puppies will roll over their tummies to allow their mother to lick them but will also engage in this behavior when they grow older to demonstrate respect and submission towards older dogs and their owners. This is a form of neotenic appeasement gestures. However, why do puppies also urinate when rolling over their bellies? There is a possible explanation for this.
In dogs, the smell of urine is very relevant. Many things can be perceived when dogs engage sniffing the urine of a dog. This explains why dogs are so engaged in leaving "pee mail" for other dogs to investigate. A dog can tell the sex of the dog, its social status, sexual availability and more.
When a puppy urinates upon rolling over, they are making a statement: "I respect you and I mean no harm". Because the urine of a young puppy does not contain yet much of the hormone testosterone which is produced later as he matures, the smell further proves that they are not a contender. This lack of testosterone gives the puppy part of what is known as a "puppy license", therefore, older dogs will not "put them in their place" as they may do with an older puppy as it reaches adolescence.
While this behavior helps bring harmony in a pack of dogs, in the human world things are different. Dog owners get mad at the puppy for urinating rather than accepting the puppy's respect and lack of threat. This makes the issue worse, because the more the dog owner gets mad, the more the puppy will feel compelled to engage in submissive urination. A great example of how two different species speak two completely different "languages".
What Triggers Submissive Urination?
When exposed to humans, puppies engage in submissive urination when they determine certain behaviors as assertive or threatening. The following scenarios may, therefore, trigger submissive urination in puppies.
- Looming over the puppy
- Making direct eye contact
- Moving too fast towards the puppy
- New people
- Loud noises
- Scolding the puppy
- Physically correcting the puppy
- Some puppies react more submissively towards men compared to women
What about puppies urinating from excitement when the owner comes home?
This form of urination is slightly different from submissive urination and is better off being referred to as "excitement" urination. In this case, the puppy is so happy to see his owners he is unable to contain his happiness and his bladder just empties. This is not under the puppy's control. If you get mad at your puppy for urinating excitedly, your puppy may then shift to submissive urination and a chain reaction is formed.
So how to deal with submissive and excitement urination? We will see what the best approaches are in the next paragraph.
Submissive Urination Explained by Vet
How to Deal with Puppy Submissive Urination and Excitement Urination?
Now that you know your puppy is dealing with submissive urination, your next step is to make life easier for the both of you. First of all, consider that submissive urination is mostly a temporary problem; indeed, most puppies outgrow this problem as they gain confidence. Generally, this behaviors reduces and extinguishes before the dog turns 1 year old. The following tips will help you minimize the chances for walking over puddles of pee.
- Avoid looming over your puppy. Rather, crouch down to the puppy's level.
- Avoid direct eye contact. Rather, avert your gaze.
- Avoid approaching the puppy too fast. Rather, allow the puppy to approach first.
- Avoid scolding your puppy. Ignore accidents and reward wanted behaviors.
- Avoid confrontational training methods, rather embrace a positive reinforcement training program.
In the case of excitement urination, it helps to ignore the puppy for a few minutes until he gets to calm down. Just go on with your errands and keep arrivals low key. Or to prevent the urination in the home in the first place, take your puppy immediately outside when you first come home.
*Note: some forms of urination may have a medical cause. Please consult with your vet if your puppy or dog has a urination problem and it does not appear to be puppy submissive urination or excitement urination. If in doubt, consult with a reputable dog trainer or dog behavior professional.
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