When your dog is greeted by people, does he leave a puddle on the floor during the encounter? Does he respond to scolding by having a small “accident” on your carpet? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, then your dog may be suffering from submissive urination.
Many owners assume these accidents are signs of poor potty training, but that's not the case. Dogs who are submissive urinators are usually potty trained, which is why they only have accidents at certain moments - usually moments of nervousness or excitement. The dog honestly cannot control his bladder at these times, so punishing him is only going to make the situation worse, not better.
Before you do anything, you should have your dog checked by the vet, especially if the urination problem has recently developed in an adult dog. When potty trained dogs suddenly begin having accidents in the house, it can signal health problems, such as malfunctioning kidneys or diabetes. You need to rule out potential health problems before doing anything else.
Next, you need to start paying attention to what causes your dog to have these accidents. Observe your dog for a few weeks so you can determine what factors seem to set off the behavior. Dogs who are insecure or overly excited are most likely to urinate at inappropriate times, but these two reasons require different solutions.
For example, if your dog is urinating because of his insecurity, you need to solve the problem by trying to boost his confidence and minimizing your aggression. If you stand over the dog while reprimanding him, you may be contributing to the problem. Instead, you should work together on activities that will make your dog feel better about himself, including obedience and agility training. You'll be amazed at how much more confident a dog will be after training, plus he will be even more pleasant to have around the house. Other ideas for dealing with urination caused by insecurity can be found in this short PDF article by the Upper Valley Humane Society.
Dogs who urinate inappropriately because they become overexcited need a different approach. You have to work on keeping situations calmer. For example, if your dog urinates when new guests enter your home it is probably because all of the noise and excitement is just too much for him to handle. Instead, work on having guests enter in a calmer manner. They should come in quietly and ignore the dog completely until he has calmed down. Some dog owners choose to keep their dogs outside when visitors come in, then when everyone is settled they bring their dog back inside. However, all of the guests must ignore the dog until he has calmed down.
Finally, another thing you should keep in mind is that submissive urination in puppies is normal. While you should still provide the puppy with training and work on keeping him from becoming overly excited, your best bet is not to draw attention to the problem. If you ignore it, most puppies will grow out of it. However, if it continues into adulthood then you should begin following the advice above.
For additional articles relating to dog behavior, visit our Dog Articles section.