West Highland White Terrier Club of America

Submissive Urination

Deb Duncan
COME, SIT, STAY...Canine Etiquette
Behavior & Training Consultations

Submissive urination is not breed specific OR gender specific. Most pups will grow out of it....some don't...without help. All pups/dogs can be "conditioned" out of it...UNLESS there is physiological reason. Some of the physiological aspects can be puppy vaginitis (females) or adult vaginitis. In males and females, you can have urinary tract infections or bladder issues. These will make a pup/dog feel like they have to "go potty" almost constantly. Therefore, any stimulation..... like greeting them after being gone... would make it impossible for them to control their bladder.

Other considerations are:

1) Puppies can sleep so soundly that some pups will "leak" while they are sleeping....leaving a wet spot when they get up. If this is what is occurring, there are some medications that can help OR you can just let them grow out of it.

2) Pups/dogs left TOO LONG in their crate or blocked areas without potty access. They can have "full bladders"! This means that ANY stimulus (even waking) can cause them to have to go...IMMEDIATELY!!!!! An example of this would be a pup/dog that had been fine all day...left in their crate longer than their bladder can handle, they are sleeping....they hear you arrive home.....just waking could cause then to have to "release"....much less their excitement when you come into the room with them. At this point there is nothing they can do but to "release"!! IF this situation occurs, you need to reconsider your schedule & routine for the pup/dog. Find some way to have them let out before they reach this point. This is the only way you will successfully potty train your pup/dog!!!!

Consider that you are asking/demanding that they "adapt" to your human/dog pack & your rules....especially in the potty area. As dogs, they know ONLY one thing...when I need to go....I need to go!! WE are the ones that impose "sanctions" on their innate behaviors. Fortunately, the dogs are so adaptable.....they will & do learn what we want. However, WHEN "we" mess up on OUR part ...the poor dogs are left with no alternative but to potty "when they need to go"!!!

Now, if you have ruled out these physiological or time frame aspects...you are dealing with normal "submissive urination. This is created by the pup/dog going the "extra mile" to be appropriate in the PACK. This means they are doing what nature dictates in the pack setting & pecking order....meaning, "I must be submissive to SURVIVE". It is up to "you" to help them understand that they can have their position in the pack...without having to go that extra mile. Again, most pups learn this on their own...IF they do NOT experience bad consequences for this behavior. IF the dog is reprimanded OR if you have a "bad" reaction when they do submissive urination....these things will only INCREASE the anxiety, stress, & submissive behavior.

When dealing with normal submissive urination, there are certain things that will automatically elicit this reaction or even exacerbate it. These include things like greeting the pup/dog too excitedly, high pitched tone of voice, loud voice, large & expansive arm or hand movements, sudden or quick startling type movement that could cause the pup/dog to cringe. One major catalyst to causing this behavior is leaning over the pup/dog.This is the most dominant position you can take & if they are prone to submissiveness...this will only feed that scenario. You would need to bend down/kneel so your presence is not so overbearing.

So, what do you do?....When you come home, have little or no interaction with the pup/dog UNTIL they have been taken or carried outside & released their bladder. This would mean saying little, if anything to the pup/dog...no petting...possibly carrying pup/dog outside to release bladder. You would do this EVERY time you come home....even if you have only been gone 30 minutes!!!

When it is physically (bladder wise) safe to interact with the pup/dog, you do so only WHEN they are "upright"...all four paws on the ground. By the way, when you come home...IF you need to unload the car...do it AFTER you have let the pup/dog out!!! The time it takes you to get to them will be too much for them to hold themselves...especially, with the excitement that YOU ARE HOME!!!! Also, know that some dogs will do this submissive urination when they are sitting. My Golden would sit to be petted (as taught) ...but, when petted or talked to in an excited state....he would make a puddle while sitting. He did grow out of it!!

For pups/dogs that are overly submissive, you will want to follow the regimen of NOT interacting UNLESS they have all four on the ground. This will increase their self confidence and help them out of the submissive urination. remember that the high pitched or LOUD voice will elicit this reaction in the dogs. When you have an overly submissive pup/dog, you may have a stop/start process. This means that you do not interact when they roll over or fold down (crouch) into a lower/submissive posture. They will almost certainly urinate.So, when you interact...the second they roll over or fold down...you CEASE interacting. Then, when they upright themselves or stand up...you can pet again...remember NOT to get overly excited at this point as it will cause them to repeat the previous submissive behavior.

What may occur at this point is the pup/dog may upright themselves or stand up from the crouch....and, the second you interact with them...they revert to the roll over or crouch. If they do this, you cease interaction. This means the only time they "get your attention" is when they are in a "non-submissive posture. Also, you can give them a treat when they are upright. This is added reinforcement to the desired behavior & also, will act as a diversion from the submissive reflexes.

Please understand that these recommendations are only intended for "submissive urination" situations.....and, only when the previously addressed issues have been ruled out. Also, remember that if you get upset or react to submissive urination...this will ONLY exacerbate the situation. When a pup/dog urinates submissively...this is NOT a conscious decision on their part...IT is an internal & instinctual reaction. So, over reactions on our part only increase the problem. If you get upset., they will think..."Obviously, I have NOT been submissive enough...I will try harder!!". This creates even more submissive responses from your dog. I hope this make sense.

 

***Disclaimer***

Any information contained on this site relating to training and behavior of Westies is for informational purposes only. The WHWTCA recommends that Westies undergo obedience training. For assistance in locating an obedience training club in your area, please consult the American Kennel Club's website at www.akc.org/events/obedience/getting-started/