Submissive Urination in Dogs. 

Although this condition is often associated with puppy-hood, it is not uncommon to happen with older dogs too. This Holidays 4 Dogs article will provide information for owners on submissive urination in dogs and what can be done to help.

Why do dogs do this? 

Uncontrollably urination is often an expression of submission towards other dogs. Not all dogs submissively urinate, but it is fairly common in young puppies who have not yet achieved full bladder control. It can also happen with older dogs with a tendency to lack confidence, or become over excited.

Some dogs will display this behaviour when they meet other dogs, or people, as a way of showing they are not a threat. Others may urinate uncontrollably due to previous threat, or harm – from either people, or other dogs. It can often present in rescue dogs. Submissive urination invariably involves a temporary loss of bladder control which can result in a trickle, or a large puddle.

Possible causes – physical/medical. 

It is very important to rule out any medical conditions before tackling this problem – especially, if the issue has arisen in a previously house-trained dog. Some medical conditions which may explain loss of bladder control are;

  • Gastrointestinal upset.
  • Dietary change.
  • Urinary incontinence – usually in elderly dogs, spayed bitches or dogs that have suffered trauma or injury.
  • Urinary tract infection.
  • Medications – certain medications may have side effects that cause the dog to urinate more frequently
  • Puppies – many puppies, especially those under twelve weeks may not have sufficiently gained bladder control and will naturally need to urinate more frequently. If your dog is an older rescue dog, he might not be house-trained. He may have spent a long time in kennels and had a temporary relapse in house training.

Possible causes – behavioural. 

  • Scent marking – non-neutered male dogs, but also some females, will urinate in the house as a means of territory marking. Female dogs may also urinate to attract males.
  • New environment – some dogs will urinate when they feel worried by new, or novel situations (moving house, for instance), or strange people.
  • separation anxiety – a common consequence of anxiety when left alone, even for short periods, is urinating in the house. Many dogs will do this as soon as their owners leave the house. For more detailed information on separation anxiety, please see our other Holidays4Dogs article here.

Ways to resolve submissive urination. 

It is vitally important never to scold your dog when he urinates. Punishing a puppy, or older dog, for urinating in the house is not recommended. It is particularly counter productive for dogs urinating out of fear, or submission.

Reinforce house training using positive reinforcement and if you have an older dog, go back to basics. Be vigilant, especially with puppies, and take care to have a regular routine, letting him outside more regularly and immediately after drinking, or eating.

Make sure all new experiences are positive ones. If your dog is particularly affected by visitors to the house, it is a good idea to tell everyone who visits to completely ignore the dog. He, or she, should never be approached in a manner they may find threatening. For example, bending over the dog, or petting around the head


With patience and consistency you will probably find your dog will improve in confidence and eventually will urinate less often, or not at all.  It is essential that all unexpected urination, or incontinence, should be addressed by your vet in the first instance.