Why Does my Dog have an Uncontrolled Bladder?

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Why Does my Dog have an Uncontrolled Bladder?


Submissive Urination In Dogs

In a pack, dogs have many ways to show the leader that they accept his/her role as top dog and thus avoid a confrontation. You have probably seen that some dogs roll on their backs and urinate on themselves; this is known as submissive urination. It is very common in puppies, who are still unable to control when/where they urinate. Most puppies will outgrow the behavior. When a dog reaches adulthood and still presents submissive urination, there could be an underlying medical condition or behavioral issue.

In order to understand this behavior, we must understand the language of dominance and submissiveness. Most puppies learn submissive urination from their mothers, as well as other behaviors associated with submission such as averting eyes and rolling on their backs. Dogs show these behaviors when they feel intimidated in order to let the human know that they understand who is the pack leader.

To deal with this problem, the first thing that you must do is having your veterinarian examine your dog for possible physical abnormalities pertaining to this problem. Sickness and disease can cause difficulty for your pet to control their facilities. If physical problems prove to be the cause, discuss options specific to your dog's situation with your veterinarian as to your possible options (e.g. surgery, drugs, coping mechanisms).

If your dog is found to be healthy and is diagnosed with a behavioral problem, begin by observing what types of situations make your dog feel excited or threatened. Knowing these, you can design your plan of action to suit the needs of your dog.

Dogs usually show submissive urination in the following situations:

  • When he/she is being scolded
  • When a person approaches him
  • When he's being greeted
  • When there is a disturbance such as a loud argument or sirens blaring
  • While making submissive postures, such as crouching, tail tucking, or rolling over and exposing his belly

If your dog urinates when he/she is playing or being greeted but does not exhibit submissive postures, he/she is probably exhibiting excitement urination.

Why Does Your Dog Urinates In Submission?

This type of behavior is usually seen in dogs who are shy, anxious or timid. These dogs usually have a history of abuse or punished inappropriately. A dog who is unclear of the rules and unsure how to behave will be chronically insecure. A submissive dog will urinate in the presence of who he/she perceives as a leader to prevent punishment.

Tips For Dealing With Submissive Urination

  • Ask friends and family members to practice no touch, no talk and no eye contact around him/her.
  • Avoid situations and people that you cannot control until your dog is learning to control him/herself and gain confidence.
  • Be non-threatening. Do not stare at him/her or show displeasure no matter how you feel.
  • Basic obedience training can be helpful because it will teach the dog clear rules. Try to focus on building confidence in your dog.
  • Use a calmed and slow body language when you around your dog.
  • Do not go straight to his/her crate when entering a room. Allow him/her to calm down and then let him/her go out.
  • Familiarize him/her with noises, people, and other dogs gradually. Do not rush him/her into situations and experiences.
  • Give him/her a command to urinate and praise him/her calmly using voice only when he/she does.
  • If he/she urinates do not say anything, get him/her outside and then clean up without him seeing you do this.
  • Spend time sitting with him/her by your side on a leash.
  • Take him/her for walks where he/she can gradually be exposed to the situations that trigger his/her urination.
  • Take him/her out regularly to do urinate, that way his/her bladder will not build up pressure.
  • Try to ignore your dog’s behavior. Do not attempt to reassure your dog or reinforce his/her actions. Stay quiet but relaxed.
  • Try to keep your verbal volume low.
  • Let your dog inside his/her crate while you are unable of supervising him/her. Put the crate near a door allowing him/her to get outside quickly, to avoid potential accidents.
  • When out in the yard, do not call him/her up to you but walk slowly around with him.
  • When you go to the crate to let him/her out do so quietly. Do not talk in the process.

If you find that your dog's problem cannot be remedied by changing your interactive behaviors, there may be other options, which can be discussed with your veterinarian. There are some prescription drugs used to help very excitable or hyper dogs.

Try to be patient with your puppy, as he/she will probably outgrow submissive urination. It is important to try to help you puppy gain confidence, especially if he/she is shy or timid. Use consistent gradual steps to help your dog. Use the tips mentioned above if your dog reaches adulthood and is still presenting submissive urination. Non-threatening techniques are very effective to deal with submissive urination. If you follow these tips you could be seen positive changes seen in a few weeks, or less. Keep in mind that accidents will happen, so be very patient!

Prevention is the easiest way to deal with submissive urination. If you are not willing or able to take the extra time to work with a timid puppy or dog, select the outgoing, confident puppy, not the one that crouches in the back. Basic training and obedience classes can give your dog a great confidence boost. It also can also teach you how you can unconsciously reinforce a negative behavior, and it teaches you the importance of praise in a healthy relationship with your dog.

About the author

Dr. Stephanie Flansburg-Cruz practices mixed animal veterinary medicine and she has a special interest in shelter medicine and animal welfare. Stephanie enjoys volunteering at local animal shelters, reading, writing and traveling.


The Humane Society of The United States. Submissive Urination: Why Your Dog Does It and How to Help Him Stop. Retrieved on April 9, 2016 from: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/submissive_urination.html?referrer=https://www.google.com.mx/

Coren, S. and Sarah, S. (2007). Understanding Your Dog For Dummies. Chapter 15: Understanding and Resolving Aggressive Behavior. Wiley Publishing Inc., New Jersey, USA.

Stookey, J., Watts, J. and Haley, D. Submissive Urination In Dogs. Applied Ethology. Retrieved on April 9, 2016 from: https://www.usask.ca/wcvm/herdmed/applied-ethology/

Deely, M. 15 tips to overcome submissive urination. Retrieved on April 9, 2016 from: https://www.cesarsway.com/dog-behavior/inappropriate-urination/15-tips-to-get-rid-of-submissive-urination

How to be a Good Alpha (Pack Leader) by Heidi Dahlin. http://www.forpaws.org/articles/alpha.htm.

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