FAQ: Submissive Urination

My Jack Russell urinates whenever we try to pet her. What's wrong with her?

Submissive Urination

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My Jack Russell urinates whenever we try to pet her. What's wrong with her?

Submissive UrinationTo begin with, submissive urination is not a house-training problem. A weak bladder causes it when the dog is excited or frightened. That is why it is seen most often in younger dogs. Submissive urination occurs in both male and female dogs, but is more common in the latter. These two forms of urination are easily diagnosed depending on the context of which they occur.

Submissive urination occurs when a dog feels threatened, such as when it is being punished or verbally scolded, or when someone is reaching for it from a dominant posture (direct eye contact, leaning forward over the dog, etc.). Excitement urination occurs most often during greetings and play and is not accompanied by submissive posturing. There are several things that the owner can do to help stop both of these behaviors.

  1. No punishment or scolding should be used. It will only make the problem worse!
  2. Keep greetings low-key when returning home.
  3. Avoid approaching the dog in a dominant posture by:
    • Avoiding direct eye contact. Dogs assume that direct eye contact is a challenge. For a submissive dog, even a moment's eye contact can be intolerable.
    • bending down to the dog's level rather than leaning over to pet
    • Petting from under the chin rather than on top of the head. Dominant dogs often display their control by placing their neck or a paw over another dog's neck or shoulders. When a human pats a dog on the head, a submissive dog perceives it as a display of dominance.
  4. Encourage and reward postures and behaviors that are exclusive of urination. In other words, give them something else to do rather than rolling over and urinating on the floor.
  5. Ignore the dog until it is calm. This may prevent urination. If this does work, you can try adding some very calm words of greeting and gradually add physical affection over the next few minutes. After the physical affection, if your JRT still has not urinated, tell him/her "good boy/girl" and give them a treat.

Submissive and excitement urination may resolve on their own as the dog matures, if it is not made worse with punishment or inadvertent reinforcement. After trying these suggestions out a couple of times, if you are still having a problem with submissive/excitement urination I would suggest that you have your veterinarian check the animal to rule out any urinary tract infections.