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My husband and I adopted a two year old Boxer-Basenji mix, Burley, about four months ago who is very sweet and friendly, though VERY dominant. Pretty much every typical dominant dog behavior, she has exhibited at some point (if not regularly): mounting/humping, engaging us in staring contests, pulling on her leash, attempting to run out of doors or down stairs ahead of us, aggressive play, you get the idea. Whenever a guest or someone at the vet/pet store/park/etc bends down to greet her she immediately tries to get on top of them. We've been reading up on how to correct these behaviors and have been making slow but sure progress.

My issue is not with her dominant behaviors, but a strange behavior that our vet has hypothesized is submissive urination (though we are not quite sure). Some background on her housetraining history: We were not sure if she was housetrained or not when we first adopted her, so from the beginning we followed a plan of crating her when we can't supervise her, keeping her on a food and water schedule, taking her out after she eats, drinks, or after we've been playing, etc. In the first week, when we noticed her attempting to go in the house, we would make a loud "ah ah ah" sound, she would stop, we would take her outside, she would finish going, and we would praise her enthusiastically. We use "go pee" and "go poop" before and when she goes consistently. Since the end of that first week, she has not had any accidents in the house at all except under VERY specific circumstances.

The situation is always the same, and occurs maybe once every three or four days: Burley attempts to get up on our bed, where she knows she is not allowed. We say, in a calm voice, "no no, get down." Burley turns around and gets down off the bed, and walks into the hallway or the master bath just out of sight and immediately starts peeing (when she walks out we get up immediately and follow her, catching her in the act). We make the "ah ah ah" noise and she stops. We then lead her outside so she can finish going and we can praise her for a good behavior, but if we even turn our back for a second when leading her downstairs to the back door, she's squatting and peeing again. So, we've learned to watch her the entire time, walking down the stairs backward and everything, even though it's probably not that safe. We've tried carrying her out instead (she only weighs 40 lbs), but she hates to be picked up so much, with all the squirming it would be much safer to just walk down the stairs backward. Anyway, once we get out, she finishes outside and we praise her, go clean up her mess without a fuss, and we're incident free for the next few days until she tries to get up on the bed again. Except for the the two times a week that this ritual occurs, she exhibits absolutely no interest in our bed whatsoever and is perfectly content on the floor or her bed, which are also located in our bedroom. When this does happen, the total amount of pee that she lets out is almost nothing. This usually occurs around 8pm or so, 15-30 minutes after she's already been outside to go, and well after her last water for the night.

Our vet has diagnosed this as submissive urination, saying that Burley becomes scared or feels threatened when we tell her "no no, get down" and pees to show she is not a threat. I have a couple issues believing this. First of all, in every other respect Burley is an extremely dominant dog. Second, she understands the meaning of no, and never reacts this way when we tell her "no no" when she is doing something like trying to eat something off the ground, or get into the garbage. In literally every other situation where we've had occasion to tell her no, she simply stops what she's doing and goes about her business. If she felt threatened by us telling her "no no" in that calm tone, wouldn't she submissively urinate in other circumstances where we use the same wording in the same tone?

I hate to doubt the word of our vet, but the behavior described in all the material that she referred us to regarding submissive urination just didn't seem to match up. Are these articles just geared toward they typical submissive urinator? Is it possible to have a dog so dominant that still submissively urinates in certain circumstances? Or does this sound like more of a housetraining issue?

I just wanted to get some other opinions, as I understand that housetraining and submissive urination issues are very separate and should be treated as such. If this is a submissive urination issue, how should we approach the situation differently? I'd imagine that if she was frightened with "no no, get down" then she'd be more frightened by us physically removing her from the bed?

Some other information that may be relevant: she's spayed, we always meticulously clean up her accidents with an enzyme cleaner, and we've tried just "no no" instead of "no no, get down" with the same outcome. Sometimes I will tell her no, sometimes my husband will, and sometimes we both will at the same time, but the outcome is always the same. I apologize for the long post but I'm just so baffled and wanted to give all the relevant information in case someone out there could give some advice.
 

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Hi! Welcome!

Well... first things first... I tend not to believe the whole dominant/submissive line of thinking, primarily because the wolf pack theory upon which it's based has been pretty much debunked. What I think you have is a confident dog, which I see as a good thing (so long as you let her know what behaviors you prefer, which is what you seem to be doing).

So if you get rid of the whole dominant/submissive line of thinking, you can approach her problem in a different way. It is true that dogs will urinate when they want to show they aren't a threat. They will also roll over and show their belly or get as small as they can. Sometimes a dog will do this because she isn't very confident, or is a bit scared. My dog, Coco, has done this when confronted by larger dogs who are too rambunctiously playful for her, even though in many other situations she's a very confident little dog.

I could be wrong, and somebody please correct me if I am, but urination associated with being frightened or unconfident is generally involuntary. The dog doesn't know she is doing it and can't control it. Same goes for excited urination (which generally happens in puppies when they are extremely excited). It's not a housetraining problem because the dog has no control over her bladder at that point.

However, it sounds like your dog does have control over her bladder. She stops urinating when you tell her to stop, and is able to hold it until you go outside. In this way, it could be that she is not quite housetrained yet. Completely, that is. As to why she urinates under those very specific circumstances... I can only guess. And your vet might be guessing as well. Vets can't know every little quirk of every dog. Here's what I think is NOT happening:

- Your dog is frightened of you (that doesn't make sense given the info you've provided)
- Your dog is spiteful because you won't let her on your bed (dogs don't get spiteful)

Possibly... and this is a guess... she isn't trying to get on the bed so much as trying to get your attention because she has to go to the bathroom. You tell her no, which means she's not going outside. She turns around and pees because she knows she's not going to be taken out. Does that sound like a possibility?
 

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I agree, perhaps she's trying to get your attention to go outside? Next time she hops on the bed, RUN to the door and outside. Chances are she'll give chase to see what on earth you're doing, and be outside before she has time to pee. Also would be an idea to go for a walk at that time so she's tired out.

Did the vet do a urine test to rule out infections? That could be a factor too. If possible, try a different food (different ingredients) and increase her water intake to see if it changes anything...
 

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I agree with the dominance thing not really being about dominance. Humping can be play behavior, leash pulling is simply a dog that hasn't yet learned how to walk properly on a leash, running out of doors or down the stairs ahead of you is a dog that hasn't been taught manners yet, and aggressive play is, well, aggressive play, but that's it. My dogs have been through most of this, and they are the most cuddly, sweet dogs in the world. They just needed to be taught manners.

You've had your dog 4 months, she's two years old, and you probably don't know much about her history. All of these behaviors can be dealt with by teaching your dog manners, and training.
1. We teach our dogs to sit before they can go through any door. This has absolutely nothing to do with dominance, or us being the "pack leader" because that's really silly. Dogs know you're not a dog, and that you're not in their pack. The reason we do this is for safety and manners only. I don't want to be tripped by a dog rushing out in front of me.
2. Mounting/humping: teach an "enough" command, which is basically "hey, stop that". Humping can be considered rude behavior by other dogs, so it could cause another dog to be irritated with your dog at a dog park or play area some day.
Once you say "enough" (by the way, you have to TEACH this command before it will work. Dogs don't understand English) you can further distract him by giving him a second command, like "sit" or "down" so that humping is further from his mind.
3. Pulling on the leash: do a search for leash walking, or loose leash walking. This can take awhile, and you need patience, believe me! Some things that you can use for this: stop and "be a tree" everytime he pulls. Do not move again until the leash is loose again; turn around and take 5 paces in the opposite direction; do a "back away" (basically just backing up so he has to come back to where you are). All of these basically teach him if he pulls he doesn't get to go where he's trying to pull you towards.
And, sometimes, taking several short walks through the day is better when you're teaching loose leash walking, so that neither you or the dog gets too frustrated, because you won't get far on your walks if you're being a tree!
4. Read the stickies about greeting guests. If you're dog isn't sitting/standing politely you shouldn't allow anyone to reach down to pet her. If she starts to jump up when someone reaches down to pet her, you should back her up so she can't do that. Keep your eyes on her so you can see that she's doing that, and back her away.

As far as submissive urination, I believe that dogs will sometimes do "excited pees" (as mine does every time he sees my father, because he gets over excited), but they can also do it to say "ok, I will submit". So, if you are telling your dog to get off the bed, and she pees, she could be saying, "ok, I'll do what you say".
 

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It doesn't actually sound like submissive urination to me. Usually submissive (or excitement) urination happens while the dog is being leaned over, petted, greeted, etc. It doesn't happen when that pressure is off. Possibly incomplete house training, or that she may be trying to tell you she really needs out and you aren't listening. As to the whole dominance thing, what you describe sounds a lot more like a young dog who is a little overstimulated, and possibly anxious reacting to your attempts to make her "submissive." Some dogs who are anxious Fight (bite), some use Flight (run away), some Freeze and the majority use "Fool around" which is an excess of play/activity. Dogs who fool around are often mistaken for "happy" or "hyper" or even "dominant" but it is just their way of coping with a situation.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks everyone for your input! This is all very helpful. We've made so much progress in all the other areas but just haven't been able to figure out what to do about this particular behavior. It makes a lot of sense to me that her attempting to get up on the bed is a way of telling us she needs to go out, especially considering we haven't really established any sort of signal, we just stick to a schedule. We'll try taking her outside immediately next time she tries to get on the bed.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I know it's been a long time since I've posted this thread but I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for their suggestions. We started running Burley outside immediately after each attempt to get up on the bed and she hasn't peed in the house since. I guess it was just her way of alerting us that she needed to go out, as many of you suggested.... it didn't even cross my mind because most of the time she runs on such a predictable schedule and it didn't seem like she was going very much at all when she did. Anyway, thanks again for all the help, I really appreciate it!
 

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mounting/humping, engaging us in staring contests, pulling on her leash, attempting to run out of doors or down stairs ahead of us, aggressive play
I put these down to being excited more than trying to assert dominance.

Our vet has diagnosed this as submissive urination, saying that Burley becomes scared or feels threatened when we tell her "no no, get down" and pees to show she is not a threat. I have a couple issues believing this. First of all, in every other respect Burley is an extremely dominant dog. Second, she understands the meaning of no, and never reacts this way when we tell her "no no" when she is doing something like trying to eat something off the ground, or get into the garbage. In literally every other situation where we've had occasion to tell her no, she simply stops what she's doing and goes about her business. If she felt threatened by us telling her "no no" in that calm tone, wouldn't she submissively urinate in other circumstances where we use the same wording in the same tone?
I think your vet is deserving of your "disbelief" in this case. It sounds to me more likely that your dog has misinterpreted your teachings, it happens, and has figured out that "you just said 'no no' which means I need to piddle now and you'll let me out to finish" Dog's aren't silly but that doesn't mean they always run on the same logical wavelength as us.
 
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