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Cannon Falls, MN 55009

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651-222-0885 Twin Cities


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Submissive Behavior in Dogs

Dogs have evolved from wolves and exhibit social behavior and organization similar to that of wolves. Today’s domestic dog has emerged with many of the behavior patterns from their wolf ancestry, including living in small social groups, following the alpha dog or pack leader and exhibiting territorial protection. Dogs have a relatively stable hierarchal social structure that mediate interactions between pack members and helps them avoid aggressive confrontations. Complex body signaling of dominant and submissive postures is involved in the establishment and maintenance of the hierarchies. Dominant canine postures include direct eye contact, erect ears rotated forward, curled lips, their head and body are held high, they have an erect tail and a tense rigid posture. A submissive canine posture includes avoidance of eye contact, ears rotated back, lowered body posture, and tail held low between their legs.

Certain dogs tend to have more submissive temperaments than others. This behavior is developed for various reasons such as being mistreated from a previous owner, lack of confidence, or breed.

One of the most challenging issues that arise from submissive behavior is urination. A submissive dog will urinate when they are feeling threatened or intimidated by a person or another animal. Submissive urination can be triggered from certain facial expressions, movements, and body language. It is important to know that this behavior is not deliberate or spiteful.

Training a submissive dog or puppy can be challenging because owners must always make their interactions with their dog positive (even when it’s necessary to correct their naughty behavior).

CVS recommends various methods to prevent submissive urination:

  • Before training can begin, Dr. Winter should examine your dog to make sure there is no underlying medical condition causing the urination.
  • When you first come home, say “hi” to your dog in a positive manner, then wait about 15 minutes before petting them.
  • When petting your dog, get down to their level and avoid their head. Only pet them on their chin or chest.
  • Distract your dog by making them work. Softly command them to “sit or drop, and stay”. Always use a positive tone.
  • When correcting your submissive dog, you must ONLY do so using your voice in a positive tone. Never yell at your dog. If they begin urinating in front of you, say to them “okay let’s go outside”. By doing this, you are letting your dog know that you are aware of their submissiveness.

Owners can reduce their dominance by:

  • Avoiding direct eye contact with your dog
  • Always use a happy tone when speaking to a submissive dog.
  • Never stand over your dog. Kneel down to their level.

It is important that owners understand that submissive dogs require patience and confidence building. Punishment and harsh tones must always be avoided.



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