Coming home to your dog’s overwhelming happiness and excitement is one of the greatest parts of pet-ownership. However, sometimes those wiggles and squirms can turn into a puddle on the floor. Your furry friend may have successfully mastered housetraining but still cannot control his or her bladder in certain situations. Rather than being a housetraining issue, excitement and submissive wetting are due to an involuntary reflex. No matter the case, do not punish or correct the dog for this behavior. Instead, patiently teach the correct behavior through training.

Excitement Wetting

Excitement wetting generally occurs in dogs who are easily excited and very happy to meet people. Excitement wetting is most common in puppies but dogs of any age may engage in it.

Excitement wetting occurs...

  • when the dog is greeting another person or dog.
  • during play time.
  • while the dog is wiggling and bouncing.

What to do if your dog has an excitement-wetting problem

To prevent excitement urination, keep greetings calm. The excitement-wetting dog needs no help in becoming overly stimulated, he needs help with self-control. If necessary, ignore your dog for the first few minutes that you are home to give the pup a chance to calm down before you greet him. If your dog urinates when meeting people on the street, ask if they would mind just standing still for a moment and allowing the dog to sniff them before saying hello. It might also help if you have the dog sit before he is greeted.

Dogs that are a wiggling, jumping bundle of energy when their families come home may need a little extra help. Try tossing a toy or playing tug for a minute or two before actually petting or speaking to the dog. This helps to use up some of that energy while also getting the dog’s focus on something other than how happy he is that everyone is together.

Submissive Wetting

Submissive wetting generally occurs in dogs who are shy or timid or dogs who have been handled roughly in the past.

Submissive wetting occurs...

  • when the dog is being yelled at or punished.
  • if the dog believes he or she is about to be yelled at or punished.
  • during greetings, especially with strangers or men.
  • when the dog is approached straight on.
  • while the dog is crouching, head down and tail tucked.

What to do if your dog has a submissive-wetting problem

To prevent submissive urination, approach the dog with your hip toward her (so you are walking sideways) rather than head-on. This is a less confrontational approach for dogs. Or don’t approach at all; simply squat down and encourage the dog to approach you. Speak softly and avoid directly staring at the dog. Keep movements slow and small.

Build the shy dog’s confidence through training using positive reinforcement and no punishment. 

Trick training can be especially valuable as owners tend to be more relaxed when teaching tricks rather than obedience, which makes the dog more comfortable.

Playing tug-of-war is another terrific way to build confidence. Allowing the dog to “win” helps to improve her self-esteem.

Never punish a dog for submissive urinating. Doing so will only make the dog more anxious and more likely to repeat the behavior. Simply clean up with an enzymatic cleaner and try to avoid putting the dog into the same situation.

Finally, it is important to remember that submissive wetting is a result of a dog’s perception. You may know that you mean no harm but a dog’s past experiences and own personality may lead her not be so sure. You cannot reason with a dog and explain that you aren’t a threat. This is definitely a case in which actions speak louder than words.

If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email

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