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Canine Behavior/Submissive urination


I have a 1 1/2 yrs old male rat terrier. He was a rescue as a puppy from a hoarding situation.  When I adopted him at 12 weeks old(I have a 10 yr old some and a pit bull 6 yrs old) my husband was deployed.  During my husbands absence my son and I took the dog to obedience training and had no problem.  Once my husband returned the dog started submissively urinatiing.  My husband did get angry with the dog and, as expected, it only made the situation worse.  After telling my husband that the best course of action was to ignore the submissive urinating and to reinforce acceptable behavior (like sitting on command or executing tricks) the submissive urination seemed to improve, but never fully cease.  It has been a full year since my husband has been home and we have since moved to another state AND have a newborn.  The problem now that while the dog seems to be more comfortable around my husband, there are still several daily times when all of a sudden he submissively urinates around him.  Or the dog will be happy to go to my husband, but when he give him a command to "come" he gets nervous and submissively urinates.  Just the other day, when my husband got up in the morning and stepped out the room, the dog ran up to him and peed.  I'm beginning to worry that he is starting to generalize the submissive urination.  If I don't find a way to improve this, my husband is going to force us to get rid of him and I really don't want that to happen.  He is a sweet, sweet dog and so badly wants to please is family, but I also don't want him to fear members of the family.

Try a belly band.  These can be purchased online:

This is not a "fix" but it makes urination extremely difficult (so therefore must be removed when taking the dog out on a fair schedule, at least four times daily).

Your husband must avoid "calling" the dog or in any way demonstrating any behavior the dog can construe as "dominant":  direct eye contact, bending over the dog, petting the dog's head or withers, picking the dog up, etc.  Submissive urination is a reaction to one moment of body language from your husband that is NOT INTENDED but that the dog misconstrues (misinterprets).  A consistently NON "dominant" posture from your husband should, over months, extinguish the submissive urination.  Have your husband feed the dog twice daily: put the food down with a happy manner and WALK AWAY.  If he's willing, he can even sit on the floor once a day at random hours and roll a large ball (a solid rubber ball available cheaply at Toys R Us) to the dog and to YOU (this doesn't need to take more than five minutes, tops) in a playful manner while having a "party" (smiling, enjoying the encounter).  

Your husband should not be in a position to "force" you to do anything: this is a partnership between two adults.  It's not the dog's fault that he is so submissive, it is the result of an early life of neglect and/or abuse.  Your husband is most likely a very "masculine" man and can't help being who he is but he is also an adult and must understand that this is an innocent animal.  Children can, AND WILL, do things to drive you nuts.  His reactions to situations he can't control and doesn't appreciate needs to mature and this is the place to start.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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