Professional dog trainer Adam G. Katz suggests ways to help this dog with her general fear and submissive urination problem.
Dog Displays Submissive Urination When Boyfriend Comes Home
By Adam G. Katz
A year ago, my boyfriend of 18 months moved in with Nikki (6 years-old) and I. Nikki seems to love Michael, and Michael is definitely the Alpha. Michael treats her well, although a bit rougher at play than I do.
She has a slight problem with being able to hold her bladder when you first get home. Of course, I have adapted to that, and will go through all the necessary measures to insure she doesn’t urinate in the house. I’ve never had a very hard time being able to control her when she’s not on a leash. I like to take her with me when mountain biking. She loves to run along beside me without a leash and never lets me out of her sight. She has always had a little bit of a cautious temperament….meaning, when introduced into new environments she is shy, intimidated and insecure; all of which fade as she gets used to the new environment. I think that this temperament has actually worked in my favor with training as she is typically VERY easy for me to control.
In the last 18 months or so, I have watched Nikki become more and more timid and submissive. When she is called or is approached, she cowers, tail between her legs, crawls towards you and urinates. Sometimes it just a sprinkle, but most times it’s quite a lot. For this very reason, when we moved from our apartment into a new house five months ago, Nikki had to become an outside dog. Michael and I have been working with her inside the house, only on the linoleum. Nothing we are doing is working. She is never scolded for the submissive behavior/urinating, but she knows she is not supposed to go potty in the house and she retreats even further into submission. She is very human-like in that I can actually see the worry and fear on her face. And sometimes she just trembles and whines a lot. I took her to our Vet. who says she is in perfect health and saw no apparent reason for the change in behavior.
My first question is….. how did we get to this point?
And before you ask….No, Michael doesn’t mistreat her. Nikki’s submissive behavior is still apparent when Michael is not around, although not as extreme. Have you seen anything like this before? And, how can I possibly correct this behavior when even speaking kindly will invoke a submissive reaction in her? I’m truly out of ideas and it breaks my heart to see her this way.
I’ve lost many nights of sleep worrying about what could be causing this behavior change and trying to think of new ways to boost her confidence. Can you offer any guidance or direction? HELP!!! I WANT MY DOG BACK!!!!
You are right, there really isn’t a lot you can do about this behavior, as it is purely a result of poor genetics. And there’s nothing you can do to overcome genetics.
You are also correct in identifying this as submissive urination rather than a general housebreaking issue. And thus you should not correct her, as she really has no control over it.
I can give you some tips to smooth out some of her “rougher edges” but there’s nothing that’s going to transform her into the picture of an outgoing, exuberant dog. Let me restate: You are having this problem as a result of poor breeding and/or poor genetics.
Here are some things you can do:
When Michael holds her, he should never let her go UNTIL or UNLESS she calms down. DO NOT reward her behavior by letting her go, simply because she throws a fit. TEACH HER that the world is not falling, but do not coddle her. Simply hold her until she stops squirming.
Do not feed her from the bowl -let Michael feed her by hand. Please be aware that she may not eat for a couple of days. DON’T WORRY, she will not starve herself. This technique, probably more than any other, will work wonders!
Let her in the house – in fact, in the same room- while your are watching television. Both of you should completely ignore her. Let her get comfortable simply being around Michael.
Michael should take her away from the house and begin doing obedience exercises with her. A group class would actually be good for this as it’s likely that all of the other stressors in the class will cause her to move closer to the ONE THING she is familiar with: Michael.
Best of luck to you. Keep training and be consistent.
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