Best Practices To Stop Submissive Urination in Dogs

February 1st, 2023

puppy potty accident on floor


Does this sound familiar?

You are going about your day, and suddenly you find yourself stepping into a tiny pool of liquid on the floor you just cleaned. Everything in you hopes it’s just water. Unfortunately, that’s not the case today. A seeped sock is definitely not one of the highlights of being a pet parent. It’s just one of those challenges that come along with the role.

Many of you have endured these moments during the first couple of months of puppyhood, spending large amounts of time, energy and pure dedication toward potty training. While puppies generally learn and eventually grow out of this phase, accidents can still occur when your dog feels anxious or scared.

This is known as submissive urination.

Managing submissive urination takes a different approach since it is a behavior that either follows a puppy into adulthood or is triggered by a distressful situation.

The good news? Your dog can overcome submissive urination through redirection and some built-in routines. And, of course, any new type of behavioral training involves lots and lots of treats, praise, and positive attention!

First, Let’s Define Submissive Urination

It is an instinctive reaction and a dog’s way of communicating that they are not a threat. It happens with other dogs or humans when they feel intimidated. It’s as though they are saying, “I’m not a threat, so please don’t hurt me.” It is a subconscious behavioral response to a specific action around simple things like putting on a leash or someone reaching out to pet them.

Other common causes of nervous urination could be a change in environment (like a move), new visitors (dogs or humans), separation anxiety (because let’s face it, you are their whole life!)

submissive dog


What are some signs of Submissive Urination?

  • Cowering and lowering their body
  • Tucking in their tails
  • Flatten their ears back
  • Licking their lips
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Lowering of head and neck
  • Rolling onto their back, exposing their belly

How can I support my dog?

We’ve outlined some simple training actions you can take starting today, and before you know it, the days of stepping into a puddle of piddle will be a distant memory!

These best practices are a step towards giving your pet pal the confidence and clarity to overcome submissive urination.

Let’s begin with a reminder since this behavior can be frustrating – never punish your dog when they urinate on your floor – this reaction will only add to an already messy problem.

Tips for Managing Submissive Urination

Where To Start

  • Your dog idolizes you so pay attention to the messages you give off through body language and signals.
  • Identify the circumstances that trigger your dog to be scared or nervous so you can prepare for those moments.
  • If you see it happening, don’t reassure or comfort your dog. Stay relaxed and ignore the behavior.
  • Introduce your dog to noises, people, and other animals in small steps. Don’t rush it. Avoid situations you cannot control until your dog is more confident and can control their bladder.

Training and Behavior Suggestions

  • Get down to the dog’s level when petting or giving attention, so they don’t feel threatened by someone “hovering” over them. Look to the side to avoid direct eye contact and allow them to approach you. Entice them with treats, and if they do approach, pet them gently under the chin, not on the top of their head. Calm, slow movements give your dog time to process what is happening.
  • The highlight of your dog’s day is the moment you walk through the door, so they are going to be super excited to see you. Ignore your dog and wait about 5 minutes for them to calm down before giving them attention.
  • Slowly expose your dog to the triggers of submissive urination (people, other dogs) in a controlled environment and reward the dog for calm behavior.
  • Confidence-building exercises like teaching your dog new tricks, going for walks and providing interactive toys can help your furry friend build self-confidence and reduce submissive behavior.
  • Crate your dog when you can’t be around. When you go to the crate to let them out, do so quietly and without talking to them.
  • Take plenty of potty breaks and when on a walk or in the yard, tell them, “let’s go potty,” and offer praise when they go.

golden retriever paw and hand shake


When Meeting New People

  • Ask guests to ignore your pet pal until they come over on their own. Another approach is to keep your dog in a crate or gated in a room so they can see your guest but feel safe in their own space.
  • Ask visitors not to touch, talk to, or make eye contact with your dog until your dog has been let out to go potty and everyone is calm and grounded.
  • If you are out on a walk and a stranger asks to pet your dog, decline politely and tell them your dog is in training and needs to focus on you.

Note: Consistency is a big piece to achieving success and eliminating submissive urination.

It’s Not Working. What Now?

If you do not see any improvement with your furry friend, you should consult your veterinarian to rule out any medical issues.

You may just need a little extra support to help your fearful or nervous pup get through this phase. Basic obedience training is beneficial for your dog even beyond curbing submissive urination. Consider contacting a dog trainer who can develop a personalized strategy for your situation.

happy gray pitbull dog


You can minimize and overcome submissive urination behavior with some simple adjustments in your training and routines. Teaching your dog that good things happen when they are calm and relaxed can help reduce their fear and insecurity. This also means less stress for your dog and less of a mess for you!

Happy Hound works with all types of dogs and their behaviors. Reach out and we can find the perfect program for you and your furry friend.