Submissive Urination in Dogs
Submissive urination is normal canine communication. Dogs do
it to show social appeasement. When a dog submissively urinates, he’s trying to
convey that he’s not a threat. Not all dogs submissively urinate. However, some
will urinate when they’re exceptionally excited or feeling submissive or
intimidated. Dogs who submissively urinate usually do so when greeting people
or animals (especially unfamiliar ones), during exciting events, while playing,
during physical contact, such as petting, or when scolded or punished. It’s as
though they lose bladder control. Some dogs produce dribbles of urine, while
others void large puddles.
When in a situation that seems to trigger submissive urination, a dog will
tend to display submissive postures, such as cowering, lowering the body,
raising the front paws, tucking the tail, flattening the ears back, licking the
lips or displaying a submissive grin. (Although a submissive grin often looks
like aggression because it involves a dog showing his teeth, it’s not really a
threat. The submissive grin, which is almost always accompanied by other signs
of submission like those listed above, functions as an appeasement gesture.
Many dogs display submissive grins while wiggling, squinting their eyes and
licking their lips. Like submissive urination, this behavior often occurs
during greetings and sometimes during stressful social interactions with
Submissive urination is most common in puppies, but some adult dogs
submissively urinate as well, especially those who seem to lack confidence. The
behavior is more common in some breeds than others, such as retrievers. Some
dogs submissively urinate only when interacting with their pet parents, some
only with visitors, some only with other dogs, and some with everyone.
Rule Out Possible Medical Causes First
If your dog urinates indoors or at inappropriate times, it’s important to
visit his veterinarian to rule out medical causes before doing anything else.
Some common medical reasons for inappropriate urination and defecation
Gastrointestinal Upset (Medical)
If your dog was house trained but now defecates loose stools or diarrhea in
your house, he may have gastrointestinal upset.
Change in Diet (Medical)
If you’ve recently changed the amount or type of food you give your dog, he
may develop a house-soiling problem. Often, after a diet change, a dog will
defecate loose stools or diarrhea. He may also need to eliminate more
frequently or on a different schedule than before the change.
Spay/Urinary Incontinence (Medical)
Some dogs’ house soiling is caused by incontinence, a medical condition in
which a dog “leaks” or completely voids the bladder. Dogs with incontinence
problems usually seem unaware that they’ve soiled. Sometimes they void urine
Urinary Tract Infection (Medical)
A urinary tract infection (UTI) can cause a dog to void small amounts of
urine frequently. In addition, a dog who has a UTI might engage in excessive
licking of his genitalia.
Miscellaneous Medical Causes
Other medical reasons for house soiling are abnormalities of the genitalia
that cause incontinence, diseases that cause frequent urination, and
medications that cause frequent urination. These and all other medical causes
should be ruled out before evaluating or treating a dog for submissive