Submissive urination is a common problem and can be very frustrating for dog owners to deal with. It often appears just before puberty, and usually goes away with a little maturity if it’s dealt with properly.
Dos and Don’ts
Do keep greetings and departures calm. If she’s hysterical when greeting people, wait for her to completely give up trying to get attention before even making eye contact with her. Start with just a little chest scratch and a few calm words of praise. If she starts to lose it, walk away until she’s calm again. Give her something else to do, like making her sit, sprinkle a few treats on the floor, or give her a toy to hold so she’s already a bit preoccupied when greeting. Do make sure she’s been out to pee before greeting visitors.
Don’t yell at her, or strike her, or punish her in any way other than removing attention if she starts to leak. Since submissive urination is, by definition, a submissive gesture, yelling or punishments usually result in a dog who has to repeat the gesture to get the message across.
The Chronic Leaker
Some breeds, cocker spaniels for example, are infamous for their lifelong submissive urination issues. This problem seems to have a genetic base, and as such, management, along with training, is in order. Along with the do’s and don’ts for the average submissive wetter, you may have to resort to belly bands or doggie diapers to at least prevent the mess (and keep your frustration in check) if your dog is unable to control herself.
How to Tell Something Is Wrong
If, despite your best efforts, consistent schedule, and excellent management, your dog is still having accidents, you have to consider the possibility that there is a physical cause.
There are a variety of medical conditions that can make the housebreaking process slower or more difficult. Any dog that is having frequent accidents despite diligent housebreaking efforts should have a thorough medical exam, including blood work, fecal analysis, and urinalysis. Some conditions are common, and easily treated, like intestinal parasites or urinary-tract infections. Others are much more serious, or even life threatening, like diabetes, impaction, or parvo. If in doubt, check it out!
When to Seek Professional Help
If your dog has been having frequent accidents for an extended period of time, it’s time to seek veterinary assistance. Here’s how you know when a problem requires medical intervention:
- Your dog is obviously leaking urine, or you find a puddle when she gets up from sleeping.
- She is urinating very frequently, in small amounts.
- She strains, but nothing comes out, or she appears to be in pain or vocalizes when she strains.
- You see undigested food in her feces, or she seems to poop more than she eats.
- There is mucous in her poop, her poop is a strange color (yellow, maroon, or black), or it has a foul smell.
- She’s drinking and peeing more than normal.
- She has diarrhea and is vomiting (get to the vet now!).
- Any sudden change that lasts more than a couple of days.