Urination Issues

There are three common urination issues that will cause dogs to urinate when they are not “supposed” to. These are submissive urination, excited urination, and incontinence. These types of urination have nothing to do with potty training. They are a reaction or out of the animal’s control. Knowing which one you are dealing with and measures to help with the issue are important. It is also important to know, upfront, what you should never do when a dog is portraying any of these impulses. You do not want to make the issue worse.

For each of these issues, you should never:

Submissive Urination

Submissive urination is a dog’s uncontrollable, instinctive reaction to the presence of another dog or human that they feel is superior or is intimidating to them. This is a subconscious response that cannot be controlled. The underlying cause of submissive urination is fear or uncertainty. There are many triggers for submissive urination.  Some of these could be a person approaching, punishment, scolding, and a deep or loud voice.  Submissive urination can appear in dogs of any age.

Even if your puppy/dog has never been mistreated, overly punished, or abused, they can still show signs of extreme submissiveness. Signs of submissive behavior to look for are flattening of the ears, avoiding eye contact, lowering of head and neck, cowering, tucking the tail, or rolling onto back, and exposing the belly.

Reasons why your dog may be submissively urinating:

Things to Do:


Rule out a medical cause by taking your dog to the veterinarian. If this issue is caused by a bladder infection, weak sphincter, or other medical reason, this issue needs to be remedied.


Socialize, socialize, socialize. Your dog needs to gain some self-esteem and security. Most of this cannot be done in your home bubble. Your dog needs to gain confidence when around other people and dogs. Training classes, dog parks, and animal play dates outside the home are good ways to boost your dog’s confidence.

Take a submissive dog out as much as possible to socialize. Smelling where other dogs have marked and leaving his/her own marks will help them learn who is around. As they meet new friends, do not force the issue and provide positive reinforcement. Make sure that you are in situations where you can also be comfortable.  If you are nervous or unsure, your dog will notice it and you will make the problem worse.

One-on-One Interaction

Gently and calmly greet and interact with your dog.

Get down to the dog’s level when petting or giving attention, so it does not feel threatened by someone “hovering” over it.

Pet the dog under the chin rather than on top of the head.  Petting a dog on the top of its head shows dominance.

Approach the dog from the side rather than from the front as it is less confrontational.

Do everything slowly and work at making your body language calm and unconcerned. Keep verbal volume low.

Be non-threatening. Do not stare at the dog or show displeasure no matter how you feel.

Spend time sitting with your pup by your side on a leash.

If your dog is overly submissive, you can lay on the floor with him/her and put your head beneath his neck. This allows the pup to believe he/she is the dominant dog. Lay with your dog a couple of times a day as it develops confidence that he is not in trouble or danger. A submissive dog will not try to dominate you but will develop confidence that he is safe around you. You can also allow your dog to stand over you in a dominant position.

Take the dog for walks where he/she can gradually be exposed to the situations that trigger urination.

When out in the yard, do not call the dog up to you but walk around slowly with it. Give the puppy/dog a command to urinate and praise calmly using voice only when urination is complete.

Ask friends to practice no touch, no talk, no eye contact around the dog when they are in your home.


Do not stare directly at the dog.

Use treats rather than physical praise, such as petting.

Build your dog’s confidence by teaching obedience commands using positive reinforcement.

Do not attempt to reassure your dog or reinforce its actions. Keep quiet but relaxed. Ignore its behavior.

Familiarize the dog gradually in the home noises, people, and other dogs. Do not rush it into situations and experiences. Build up gradually.

If your dog urinates do not say anything, get your baby outside, and then clean up without the pup watching.

Preventative Measures

Use a crate when you cannot supervise. Put the dog’s crate near a door allowing him to get outside quickly, potentially avoiding an accident.

If the dog is in a crate, do not go straight to the crate when entering a room. Allow your pup to calm down before letting it out.

When you go to the crate to let the dog out, do so quietly. Do not talk to the dog.

Avoid situations and people that you cannot control until your dog is learning to control himself and gain confidence.

Submissive urination can be annoying but exhibiting your frustration to your dog only makes it worse. With a little planning and adjusting your attitude, you can minimize and overcome the problem.

Excited Urination

Excited urination is different in that a puppy will usually grow out of this reaction. With excited urination, submissive signals are absent and urination occurs while standing or walking during greetings and playtime. This behavior occurs more frequently with puppies and can resolve with age. Potential causes are accidental reinforcement of the behavior by the owner, decreased bladder sphincter tone, and a genetic predisposition.

Reasons why your dog may be excitedly urinating:

Things to Do:


Rule out a medical cause by taking your dog to the veterinarian. If this issue is caused by a bladder infection, weak sphincter, or other medical reason, this issue needs to be remedied.


Gently and calmly greet and interact with your dog. If the problem occurs upon your returning home due to the dog’s excitement, ignore the dog right upon walking in the door. Wait about 5 minutes for them to calm down before giving them attention. At this point, ask guests to ignore the dog when entering (they can give appropriate attention when dog approaches them later)

Use treats rather than physical praise, such as petting.

When you return home after being gone for a couple of hours, avoid eye contact, saying anything, or touching your dog. Enter the house with a calm and relaxed state of mind and do not give your dog any kind of attention until they calms down. The idea is not to encourage this over-excited behavior.

Play with your puppy outside or in an area padded with newspapers or absorbent pads, so that if accidents happen, there will not be a big mess. When accidents do happen, do not punish your dog. Instead, just clean the area quietly, using special cleaners that will remove the stain and odor.

When your puppy urinates in the desired spot, like outside on the grass, make sure to praise and even offer treats. This will encourage good behavior and soon your dog will learn that this is what you expect.

Besides puppies, small dog breeds tend to show excitement urination, due to the fact that they are more coddled than the rest of the dog breeds. You will use the same methods to curb this action in every gender/breed.


Incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine. If your dog is incontinent, it means that they are not even aware of the fact that they are urinating. This incontinence occurs often in places where pets are resting (like in their bed or on the couch), and it tends to be a normal or large amount of urine.


Several medical conditions can result in inappropriate urination or urinary incontinence in a dog:

Differences between Incontinence and Inappropriate

When a dog is incontinent, you will not see them squatting or lifting their leg. Remember that this is happening without the dog’s cognitive knowledge. It is usually caused by bladder weakness that is a result of another issue (even if this issue is age). In addition, incontinence is not associated with fear or excitement.

Finding the Cause

If you find urine around the house, or you suspect urinary incontinence, you need to take your dog to the vet to discuss the details of your observations.

The doctor will perform a physical examination to note changes in your pet’s body, as well as some diagnostic tests. This usually starts with urinary testing (a urinalysis and urine culture) and blood work. These tests can decode many medical causes of the changes in urination. Other tests may be required depending on the results of these tests.

Once your vet understands more clearly what the medical condition is, they can address it specifically:


Urinary tract infection: Antibiotics are used to clear a urinary tract infection.

Bladder stones: Diet and medication can help with some bladder stones. Pain management can be started if indicated. Many urinary bladder stones require surgical intervention.

Diabetes and Cushing’s disease: Urine issues caused by diabetes and Cushing’s disease can improve when you address the primary condition.

Ectopic ureters: Surgery is commonly indicated if ectopic ureters are found.

Weak bladder: Urinary incontinence caused by a weak bladder. Medications or hormone replacements are the first mode of care to help this issue. If medical therapy does not work, surgery may be considered.

In general, most dogs respond well to medicinal therapy. These pets can have a good quality of life and enjoy many normal activities with their families. Typically, once starting medication, a dog will remain on a lifelong dose. Sometimes a dose change or addition of a second medication is required.

Dog diapers can be effective tools to help to manage cleanliness, but you will need to carefully monitor for urine scalding or skin infection. This can happen if urine is sitting against your dog’s skin for too long. This moist environment can be uncomfortable for your pet or allow for an infection to develop. In turn, you should not use diapers unless you are there to change them often.

Just as with other urinary issues, you CANNOT scold your dog for this issue. You will cause mistrust and as a result, an unhappy dog.

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