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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.
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
- Before training can
begin, Dr. Winter should examine your dog to make sure
there is no underlying medical condition causing the
- 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.