My Dog Has Urine Behavior Problems – What should I do?

First things first: take Fido to the vet to rule out any underlying medical reasons for urination behavior problems.

Submissive urination

Submissive urination is a natural ‘doggy’ way for dogs and puppies to demonstrate submissive behavior; in Fido’s mind, it’s the ultimate show of respect and deference for higher rank. Even a dog that is otherwise housetrained may leave droplets of urine at your feet when greeting you. There is no cause for concern when the behavior is practiced by young puppies who have not yet learned other means of showing respect – they should outgrow this behavior as they are gently taught other forms of deference through obedience training.

Submissive urination in adult dogs, on the other hand, is often a sign of deeper insecurity; unsocialized and abused dogs will sometimes submissively urinate. This is the chosen form of expression used by these overly sensitive or mistreated dogs because they feel the need to constantly apologize for themselves. Typically this fearful state is brought on by regular exposure to harsh, delayed punishment which scares and confuses the dog without teaching him what he did wrong, or how to make amends. Fido resorts to the only way he knows to show respect and fear, which is through submissive urination.

If your dog urinates when he’s being punished or scolded, or when someone frightening comes near, it’s likely submissive urination. It will probably be accompanied by submissive postures, like crouching or rolling over and exposing his belly. You can help rebuild Fido’s confidence by spending a little time each day teaching him obedience commands and then rewarding and praising him for obeying. (it goes without saying that all punishment should stop immediately – only positive training methods will bring about the changes you wish to see in your dog’s behavior.) Ignore any submissive urination that may occur in these training sessions; if you try to reassure him, he’ll think you’re praising him for urinating and will urinate even more. If you scold him, he’ll feel an even greater need to apologize by urinating. Just overlook the deed, and concentrate on the training. Submissive urination should gradually decrease as Fido begins to feel safer and more secure about his place in the world.

Excitement urination

Unlike submissive urination, this usually happens during greetings and playtime and is not accompanied by submissive posturing. Excitement urination usually occurs in puppies, and is caused by a natural lack of bladder control; this situation most often resolves on its own as Fido’s body matures.

The puppy doesn’t realize that he’s urinating, so any punishment or disapproval will only confuse and frighten him. He won’t understand your displeasure, so excitement urination will quickly turn into submissive urination in an attempt to apologize to you. You can prevent the excitement/submissive urination cycle from ever starting, by calmly ignoring the urination and never punishing or showing displeasure for it. Instead, deal with excitement urination by focusing on teaching your dog not to get over-excited in the first place. You can do this by exposing him to the stimulus that excites him over and over and over until it no longer excites – and maybe even bores – him.

For example, if Fido gets excited and wets when you come home, just ignore him for a few minutes when you first get home. Don’t even look at him. Then leave again for a few minutes, return and ignore, leave, return and ignore. Keep doing this until you can see that your dog has lost interest in the whole process. Remember to ignore all excitement urination and never scold or get angry at your dog when it happens.

Spiteful urination?

Ok, let’s say you’ve got a difficult relationship with your dog, and Fido has resorted to peeing in the house when you’re not around – even though you always make sure to walk him on schedule whenever he needs to go. And so you believe he’s choosing to pee inside the house just for spite.

Well, there’s really no such thing as spiteful urination – it’s most likely a tangled up combo of fearful submissive urination combined with a genuine need to “go”. Don’t be fooled by the veneer of defiance he may be showing you; this dog is very likely afraid of your anger and is actually craving your approval and affection. Stop all forms of punishment and disapproval, as these will keep the submissive urination cycle going. If Fido fears punishment every time you return home he’ll likely get nervous, and nervousness leads to submissive urination. It also leads to excessive panting which leads to excessive thirst, so he’ll likely drink too much water and need to pee. The real answer here is to reestablish trust between Fido and you; take the time to practice the training suggested above in the submissive urination section, but also try to start your relationship over with a clean slate. Show him that you believe he’s genuinely a good dog, and chances are that Fido will leap at the chance to meet you halfway.

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