Some dogs have a tendency to release urine when they are startled, or when they become excited. Dogs may dribble when they are excited or in stressful situations, although they appear to not be aware of their behavior at the time. Of course, dog owners want to curb these tendencies, to preserve their carpets and to calm their pets.
Submissive urination refers to when dogs pee in response to fear, happiness or excitement. The dogs who typically exhibit this behavior are young or very submissive in nature. The act is a normal canine behavior, and is usually accompanied by a submissive posture, lowered head, tail down, tail between legs, or rolling on back. Building the dog's confidence, and desensitizing him to the stimuli that startled him are necessary to curb the behavior, but before beginning any therapy rule out possible medical conditions that could cause elimination disorders.
If the problem involves a young puppy, he may grow out of the behavior as he matures. Owners can help their dogs overcome the tendency to pee when startled by increasing the dog's confidence. Working on basic obedience skills will help the dog, if you use food rewards and keep the sessions positive. As the dog is rewarded, his attitude improves and he gains confidence in himself. The nervousness that is associated with startled responses will decrease or even stop. The dog will be less likely to urinate, if he is less likely to become startled.
Dogs who submissively urinate usually do so when greeting people or animals (especially unfamiliar ones), during exciting events, such as while greeting visitors or when feeling intimidated by a verbal correction for a misbehavior. At these times, dogs involuntarily release urine, which is not a deliberate act, so punishment for submissive urination is inappropriate and ineffective. Whether these incidents involve small sprays of urine, or complete bladder emptying, the owner must work to build the dog's self confidence to lessen his response to exciting events. Above all, never punish the dog for submissive urination, it will only terrify the dog, and work against your goals. Until you have made progress building confidence in the dog, consider greeting the dog outside or in a "safe" area.
Be aware that some human behaviors can cause the dog to begin submissive urination. Owners must be very conscious of non-verbal behaviors, as well as voice tones. Keep calm and avoid gregarious hellos and goodbyes. Don't get the dog excited...don't touch him, don't look at him, don't speak to him when you come and go. Owners of dogs who persist with submissive urination should consider enlisting help of a qualified dog trainer/animal behaviorist. The prognosis for correcting this behavior is very good, but fearful dogs left untreated can develop additional behavior problems.
Connie Jankowski began writing in 1987. She has published articles in "Dog Fancy" and "The Orange County Register," among others. Areas of expertise include education, health care and pets. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the University of Pittsburgh.