Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author
of the online dog training course “Brain Training for Dogs.”
Submissive urination is common in young puppies.
Austin Kirk, CC0, via Unsplash
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
- “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.
The 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.
The 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, the 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
onto 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
gesture. 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 in 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 to 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.”
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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 toward 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 that 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.
Scroll to Continue
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So, how do we deal with submissive and excitement urination? We will see what
the best approaches are in the next paragraph.
Submissive Urination Explained by a 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 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 behavior reduces and extinguishes before the dog turns 1 year
old. The following tips will help you minimize the chances of 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 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.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It
is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription,
or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional.
Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a
© 2012 Adrienne Farricelli
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 09, 2013:
Hi Faith, You usually see submissive urination mostly with puppies and the
occasional insecure dog. Thanks for stopping by!
Faith A Mullen on January 09, 2013:
Great hub. I have thankfully never had to deal with this in my dogs, but this
is useful information to remember for the future.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 28, 2012:
Turtlewomen, you are welcome! I hope the tips help with your dog submissive
Kim Lam from California on June 27, 2012:
Wow, you just described my 1 year old Pomeranian exactly. It’s been so
frustrating to have to wipe her pee every time I come home. Thanks for the
tips. It does make a lot of sense, as she seems to always be afraid of people.
She is always flipping over and peeing on herself! I just thought she had a
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 22, 2012:
Many dogs are more submissive towards men. Men carry their bodies in a more
assertive way and have deeper voices. This can be a reason why. However, if he
is at work most of the day comes home and they are all happy to see him and
urinate, then you may be seeing excitement urination.
Angela Brummer from Lincoln, Nebraska on June 21, 2012:
Great article. I wonder if you might know why female dogs would urinate when
they saw my husband? All female dogs? Crazy.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 21, 2012:
Thank you wetnose, kind regards!
wetnosedogs from Alabama on June 21, 2012:
I knew of excitement urination, but submissive urination is a new topic to me.
Good stuff to know. I’m sharing this.
jasontoheal on June 21, 2012:
Very interesting Hub. My family is hoping to get a dog soon (I’m holding out
as long as possible) but if we do it’s good to know help is available.