Submissive / Nervous Urination

While I am loathe to use the word “submissive” since it is so easily misconstrued and very out of date, it is a common term for “nervous” urination. When a dog and person are saying hello and the dog pees, there are a few reasons for this: 

  • The dog is excited and cannot control their bladder 
  • The dog is fearful and cannot control their bladder 
  • The dog is nervous and cannot control their bladder

If the dog is fearful and losing control of their bladder, we must remove them from the situation immediately and seek professional help. This is not something they will outgrow, in fact, they will grow into it and it may escalate to barking, lunging, snapping, or biting. 

If the dog is excited and cannot control their bladder, we need to time things better and control the environment. 

Ensure that your dog has emptied their bladder prior to meeting new people or having guests over. Meet outdoors if possible, and then come in together. Ask the people to ignore your dog and you can spend a couple of minutes helping your dog get settled on a mat/bed with a stuffed Kong or chew. 

Ensure guests are low-key and very calm and quiet around the dog. 

If the dog is nervous and cannot control their bladder, This is a sign of low-confidence and we have to help them build their confidence! 

  • Ask the person to sit/stand/stay while your dog approaches them on their own terms
  • The person should totally ignore your dog until they’ve had a chance to check them out – smelling their feet/pant legs, etc. Even if they jump up, the person should continue to ignore as any attention will cause a leaky dog. 
  • Keep interactions short and sweet! Walk your dog away for a moment to let them empty their bladder and then repeat as needed. 
  • Once your dog seems more relaxed and comfortable, the person can interact VERY calmly. One hand, not a TON of eye contact, whisper-quiet voice or no sound at all, and 3-seconds petting MAX before you praise and lure your dog away with a piece of food for a short break and then repeat. 

This should build your dog’s confidence more gradually and as they get older, the greetings can become more natural, but for now you just need super controlled people greeting them or to have everyone totally ignore them when they meet. 

“She’s an excited pee-er – can we come to you and can you just totally ignore her while she checks you out?” <== that’s what I say if it’s a stranger.

If they start to show interest and reach for your dog, that’s your cue to immediately happy-talk away from them (to protect your dog) and feed at a distance. 

Here are a few things to avoid: 

  1. Avoid having your dog sit and wait to be approached by a person – this will make your dog feel more anxious. 
  2. Avoid allowing guests and strangers “over-greet” – intense eye contact, high-pitched voice, excitement, fast movement, bending/leaning over your dog, reaching, petting, picking them up. 
  3. Avoid EVER punishing your dog for peeing during a greeting – it’s information and it’s important. Simply help them get out of the interaction and clean up without a fuss. 
  4. Avoid missing the signs of a health issue. If this is not the only time your dog (over 5mo) is urinating inappropriately, speak with your vet as it could be something else, like a UTI, for example! 
  5. Avoid letting this go on too long – get in touch with us for a one-to-one consult to troubleshoot. 

This is not a fun behaviour as an adult – take it from all the Golden Retrievers who, as adults, pee, lie down in it, roll on their back, and then whip pee all over the place (and the guests) with their tail. 😮  

There is much we can do to help our dogs through this, however. Don’t feel like you’re stuck with a leaky dog forever – get in touch if you are not seeing an improvement with the above training plans.