Some puppies urinate when they are excited, nervous, or feeling intimidated. Most often, this happens during greetings, exciting events, play, physical contact, scolding, or punishment. In these situations, it is as if the puppy loses control of her bladder. She may dribble or void large amounts of urine. Submissive urination is part of normal canine communication. It signals to other dogs or people that the puppy is not a threat, and is a form of social appeasement. Typically, submissive urination is accompanied by submissive postures such as cowering, lowering the body, raising the front paws, tucking the tail, flattening back the ears, licking the lips, or grinning submissively.
Most puppies grow out of submissive urination by the time they are one year old, even without intervention. However, there are some steps you can take to deal with the problem. The most important thing is to keep greetings low key. Greet your puppy outside, if possible. When you first come home, ignore your puppy until she is calm then greet her quietly. Avoid leaning over your puppy while you greet her, as this can be intimidating. Instead, squat or sit down at her level. When petting your puppy, touch her under the chin or on the chest rather than on the head or ears. Play games such as fetch that do not involve physical contact, and keep play sessions low key.
If your puppy is submissively urinating, do not look at, touch, bend over, or speak to her. Wait to greet her until she is calm. Avoid hugging your puppy or patting her on the head. Most importantly, do not verbally scold or punish your puppy for submissively urinating. This will only make the problem worse because your puppy will intensify her behavior in an attempt to appease you.
It is important to rule out medical issues that may cause your puppy to lose control of her bladder. These can include urinary incontinence, in which your puppy is unaware that she is urinating. If incontinence is the problem, there will often be a puddle where your puppy has been lying or sleeping. You should also take your puppy to the veterinarian to rule out a urinary tract infection (UTI), which can cause your puppy to urinate small amounts frequently.
There are other behavioral issues that need to be ruled out before treating your puppy for submissive urination. If you have a very young puppy, she may simply not be trained yet. Puppies under the age of twelve weeks are unable to control their bladders or bowels. In older dogs, incomplete house training may be the cause of the urination. Male dogs, especially, may be urine marking—leaving their scent mark to claim their territory, identify themselves to other dogs, let other dogs know where they’ve been, or in response to stress or anxiety. If your dog only urinates when left home alone, she may be suffering from separation anxiety. Typically, a dog who is anxious about being left alone will act nervous or upset as you are getting ready to leave the house.
Submissive urination can be a messy and frustrating behavioral problem. If you are patient and avoid punishing your dog, though, it will typically resolve itself.