Back in the day as a first-time Cocker Spaniel mom, whenever I walked in the door, the same thing always happened. My Cocker Spaniel pees when excited and she let me know it by piddling on the floor in front of me. A few decades ago, submissive urination in dogs never crossed my mind. Fast forward to today, and I’ve learned a lot about emotional urinating in dogs.
If your Cocker Spaniel pees when excited, you aren’t alone. Submissive urination occurs when a dog is approached by a person, being greeted, gets scared, is overly excited to see someone, or even during play sessions. Though not a breed-specific problem, some Cocker Spaniel puppies (and adults) urinate when are happy, frantic, overjoyed, or scared. Cockers are such a merry breed who simply want to please that sometimes they wear their hearts on their sleeves and leave a puddle of urine behind.
My first Cocker Spaniel submissively urinated as a puppy and the first few years of her life. My second Cocker Spaniel never pees when excited. Like people, each dog is different and the reason(s) why they urinate anywhere but outside runs the gamut. In this post, I’ll explain the different reasons Cocker Spaniels pee when excited, what can be done about submissive urination, and walk you through step by step how to stop this behavior.
My Cocker Spaniel Pees When Excited But Why?
Cocker Spaniel puppies who feel happy, anxious, or worried will sometimes urinate right in front of you. A dog who is full of joy, wagging its tail, and bringing you a toy when you come through the door may urinate without even realizing it. Cockers tend to be highly sensitive and a bit delicate as a breed, so it’s no surprise they are prime candidates to submissively urinate.
On one hand, your Cocker wants you to know she is submissive to you, isn’t in control, and she doesn’t mean to upset you with her puddle of love. Submissive urination does not mean the dog isn’t housebroken. Excitement peeing happens when a dog is in the presence of someone else. Sometimes that someone is her owner, a beloved family member, a friend, or even another dog.
Have you ever laughed so hard or been scared so much that you uttered, “Stop or I might pee my pants?!” Perhaps you’ve even soiled yourself, so you know how it feels. We’ve all had a moment that caused us to run to the bathroom to relieve ourselves of pressure in the bladder. Dogs are similar to us yet they are so unique that submissive urination is something that plagues many puppies, adult dogs, abused dogs, rescue dogs, and totally happy dogs, too.
I recall sitting in the veterinarian’s waiting room about five years ago and a woman came in with a relatively young mixed breed for an appointment. A rescue dog, she informed me, as she sat down and we exchanged names, ages, and pleasantries. As the dog walked into the vet’s office, he sensed and likely smelled where he was and left behind a trail of pee as his mom rushed to the front desk. This is a classic example of a dog who emotionally and submissively urinates.
My Cocker Spaniel fears fireworks and loud thunderstorms due to a traumatic incident as a puppy. Some dogs might pee when they hear fireworks as a physical reaction to an emotional trigger. Dogs aren’t peeing on purpose nor are they peeing to try and elicit a negative or angry reaction from you. It breaks my heart when I see a dog submissively peeing and the owner is scolding him for the behavior. The poor dog is clueless as to why his beloved mom or dad is yelling and has no idea what he did wrong.
What Is Emotional Urination In Dogs
Cocker Spaniel puppies, along with most pups in general, tend to go through a phase of emotional urination. Puppies are learning their bodies, their hormones are in superdrive, and they are curious about anything and everything. Puppies pee. Puppies get hyper. Puppies have accidents. Take it in stride and never punish, spank, or lay your hands on a puppy or dog who urinates in the house. Whether she does it when excited, scared, because of a medical condition — diagnosed or undiagnosed, or because she had an accident, putting your hand(s) on a dog as a form of punishment is not only wrong but as harmful to the relationship you want with your dog. Counterproductive in fact.
Adult dogs who submissively urinate may have a problem, and this is where you put on your Cocker Spaniel parent detective hat and figure out the reason(s). Does your dog urinate during any of the following circumstances?
- When you come home from being away
- When she is around certain people
- When it’s time for the groomer, veterinarian, or other “unpleasant” trip
- When there is chaos (kids screaming, she feels threatened, family arguments, loud music, tv turned up)
- When there is a thunderstorm, lighting, or fireworks
- When she has a history of abuse and has certain “triggers”
If your dog urinates as a result of any of the above reasons and medical causes have been ruled out, she is likely submissively urinating. She’s not doing it on purpose and she certainly would not want you to be upset with her. Some dogs might seem like they have excitement piddle when actually they are suffering from a urinary tract infection or kidney stone.
How To Train A Dog Not To Submissively Urinate
With everything medical ruled out and your dog is fully grown, there are things you can do to stop a dog from submissively urinating. Many times, dogs will simply outgrow the behavior. Here are a few things you can to do train your dog not to emotionally pee:
- If your Cocker Spaniel pees when excited as you walk through the door, don’t acknowledge your dog for a short time. This is hard, I know, but it can work. Let her do the happy dance, bring you a toy, shake her tush, and wag her tail but simply ignore her. Don’t make eye contact, touch her or say anything. Wait until she’s calmer and then pet your dog. Sometimes, a calm dog will submissively pee, but it is less likely to happen if you wait. This is the technique that helped my first Cocker Spaniel overcome submissive urination when I came home.
- If your dog gets excited when she sees you and tends to pee as a result, you can also try tossing her favorite ball or toy. This creates a distraction so you are still engaging with your dog but she is focused on playing and bringing you the toy.
- If your dog gets excited when she sees you, don’t use a high-pitched, baby talk voice that so many of us do (present company included) when we talk to our dogs. Making a fuss and verbally saying you acknowledge her in the moment may cause her to pee. Ignoring a dog you love with all your heart is hard, I know, but we’re talking about stopping a behavior and not encouraging it. Baby talk when you first get home or when your dog gets excited might incite an emotional response in the form of pee.
- If your dog pees around certain people, you can introduce the above behaviors to that person. Look at your dog’s body language when she pees in the presence of others. Is she scared or nervous? She might be peeing in fear. Maybe the person should not be around your dog. Sometimes if a dog was abused by a certain gender, the dog will fear that gender and submissively pee. You can work on this with a positive reinforcement behaviorist.
- If your dog pees when she is excited, have her do a sit or a stay and then reward her for that with a treat you have with you at the time.
- If your dog pees out of fear from the groomer, veterinarian, storms, fireworks, or loud sounds, there are things you can do about this, too. Here are a few links to help:
Talk to your dog’s vet to determine if your pet may require medications to stay calm during the re-training process.
If all else fails and the behavior continues into adulthood for a long time and you’ve ruled out medical issues (see below), working with a positive reinforcement behaviorist is key. I am quite fond of Laurie Williams, founder of Pup ‘N Iron Canine Enrichment Center who does tele-training. Always work with a dog trainer who believes in positive reinforcement. Gone are the days of being hurtful, scolding, or punishing a dog.
What Not To Do If Your Dog Pees When Happy Or Scared
Never scold, yell, spank, hit, or otherwise demean a dog who pees when she is happy or scared. Cocker Spaniels are a sensitive breed, and as such even a scowl or ill-intended facial expression from their beloved owner will elicit submissive urination. I’ve seen dogs pee when their owner’s body language was tense. If your Cocker Spaniel pees when excited, don’t freak out.
Never believe your dog is excitement peeing or otherwise as a means of seeking revenge on you. A dog’s cowering, hiding, sorrowful eyes, or lowered head when yelling, shouting, or a harsh tone is taken at finding such an accident teaches the dog to be afraid of you. As smart as most dogs are, they aren’t manipulative enough to ponder the art of revenge: That’s a human quality.
Do you know how to stop a dog who pees for revenge? You don’t! Dogs do NOT pee for revenge. And do not under any circumstances “rub their nose in it:” This is antiquated, disgusting, and old wives’ tale and proves only what a bully you are in doing so.
Read more in my article about the myth of dogs who pee for revenge.
Think like your dog. She sees you come through the door or you start to play with her and she is so happy that some urine leaks out. Maybe it’s a few droplets or maybe it’s a puddle. You start yelling at her, get frustrated, or say “No, Fluffy,” and she either ignores you or scurries away not realizing what she did. She didn’t do it on purpose, so please don’t scold her for a behavior of which she has no control. Can you curb her enthusiasm (yes, see above)? Should you freak out and scold her? No. Please, no.
How To Help An Adult Dog Who Pees Indoors
If you have an adult dog and she is peeing in the house unrelated to emotional or submissive urination, this is a completely separate issue that needs to be addressed in a different way.
There are many reasons why dogs pee in the house:
- They are puppies
- Improper housetraining
- Expected to hold it too long
- They are alone too long
- They have a urinary tract infection or kidney stones (or worse)
- Marking behavior
- They came from a rescue or as a stray with no boundaries or routine
- Life changes: From moving to divorce, Cockers (and many dogs) are emotional creatures
- Urinary incontinence that comes with age
Read my article on how to potty train an adult dog. This is a completely different issue than emotional or submissive peeing.
Canine Health Problems To Rule Out For Submissive Urinators
There are many health-related issues that may be contributing to a Cocker Spaniel who engages in submissive urination. If medical problems are ruled out by your dog’s veterinarian, the above advice can help curb your dog’s enthusiasm when you walk in the door and she pees.
Some canine health problems to rule out include, but are not limited to:
- Urinary tract infection
- Kidney stones
- Cushing’s Disease
- Addison’s Disease
- Adrenal gland issue
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
You can also create a peeing situation if your dog fears you. I’ve seen it happen and dog trainer friends tell me of the clients they see who have scared their dog into submission. I certainly don’t want a dog to fear me or act like a furry soldier. I want my dog to feel loved, appreciated, and cared for despite any behavioral issues that come up.
If you want to check your dog’s urine at home, as I do weekly, read my article on secrets to preventing a dog urinary tract infection.
If you have a puppy and need some solid advice on training the perfect puppy, be sure to read my article.
Finally, if you know someone who is genuinely hurting or abusing a dog, there are things you can do. Here’s how to stop people from spanking dogs.
Be patient, be kind, be calm, and be the person your dog thinks you are. Your Cocker Spaniel depends on you to teach her, so be a role model and she’ll reward you for many many years to come. Kindness matters, and that applies to the human-animal bond, too.
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