Some thoughts on submissive urination

Submissive urination…ah yes. You’d be surprised how many puppies do this but if you understand why it makes more sense. Puppies in their first two weeks of life are physically unable to eliminate on their own. The mama dog has to stimulate them to do so as she cleans them. This makes sense when you think about how the mama has to keep the den site clean to avoid predators, it is easiest for her to just ingest the waste. So one theory is that puppies have a “hold over” response from those early days and when they are feeling unsure or want to tell someone they are truly submissive, they will pee a little. This can become a problem for dogs when the owners see it as a reversal of house training and punish the action. Think of it from the puppy’s point of view – they are trying hard to show good manners by telling their big strong owners that they are no threat, they are ok with their submissive position in the pack. And as a result of this they are punished! It must make them SO confused and of course it just intensifies the behavior as the puppy tries even harder to convince the person of their willingness to be submissive.

SO, your vet’s recommendation of not making a big deal out of it and of bending down to greet the pup are all based on trying to avoid that sort of miscommunication. Bending down makes us less “threatening” so the assumption goes that will make the puppy less likely to have to signal submission. I like to go a step further…Most people, upon returning home, greet their puppies wildly. They are so happy to see the puppy and are feeling guilty for leaving them that they shower on the affection. To a dog, that sort of greeting communicates that the person sees the puppy as an alpha…only submissive dogs greet like that – alpha dogs just walk in and ignore everyone…so a puppy getting that sort of greeting would very much want to communicate how she sees things. Peeing is her way of saying, “OH NO, I am NOT the one in charge here – I’m just a little puppy! See? Here I am peeing even, that’s how little I am!” So, in addition to not making a big deal out of the peeing I’d go one step further and not make a big deal about greeting the puppy. Just walk in the house, let the pup out without talking, looking at her or interacting. Just go about your business until the puppy’s excitement wanes and she goes off by herself. THEN, call her over and give her some loving up. You’ll see that this makes quite a difference.

August 22, 2009 • Tags: , , • Posted in: advice, general info, health, training

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