View Full Version : I think I scared my dog.

21st April 2008, 05:40 PM
Hi Everyone!

I am new here and a new Cavalier owner. In fact, this is my first dog ever. So I have a lot to learn and its all completely new to me. Everything I know about dogs is from what I've been reading in books and on the internet. And every source seems to be different.

Our cavalier is a tri colored female from a very mellow mother. I'm told by the breeder that she will be very mellow as well, which is a big reason why we picked her. We have three daughters and we're a pretty quiet family so we knew we couldn't handle a high energy dog. She is now 20 weeks old and we've had her for about four weeks.

She is very very submissive. For the first few days that we had her, she submissively urinated just about every time she saw us. That was quite worrisome but it stopped once she got to know us better and hadn't submissively urinated in the past three weeks.

She's been doing well in her potty training too. But last week, she had an accident (first time in almost two weeks). I think I reacted too strongly and scared her. I yelled no, picked her up, and took her outside to her potty place. I put her down and told her to "go potty", but she just layed flat to the ground and looked scared out of her mind. When we came in, she immediately went into her crate. For the rest of the day, I had to work very hard to get her to come to me. I thought she was back to normal, but I noticed over the weekend and this morning too that she is once again submissively urinating.

We've continued with the potty training as normal. When she goes outside, we praise her and give her a treat. And she hasn't had an accident in the house since the incident last week.

What can I do about the submissive urination and how do I correct a dog that is so very sensitive and submissive? I do not want to scar her for life (and I hope I haven't already done that) but I fear I might spoil her if I am too soft with her. I just don't know how to be firm without being "scary" to her!


21st April 2008, 06:00 PM
Hi and welcome to the board! Our younger one, Truman (almost 5 months old) is VERY submissive and is so sensitive whenever he has been scolded. If we caught him peeing/pooping in the house, we would yell "no" and do the same thing and bring him outside, and he also seemed like his feelings were really hurt. He would go into his crate and sulk. Ever since we saw his reaction, we still say "no", but we're not as loud since he seems to understand that we're not happy even though we're not yelling. He is very in tune with us, and knows when he's been "bad". If he ever gets yelled at for being naughty he runs over to us and climbs up on our laps as fast as possible and puts his little face on your face. Now how can you stay mad at him after that? :l*v:

21st April 2008, 06:07 PM
Don't worry just go softer and remain firm about negative behavior. Down the line socialization classes and basic obedience class can give a dog confidence and strengthen your bond.

21st April 2008, 11:20 PM
Don't scold; but don't worry about what happened, just focus on the positive methods now which as you can see are bringing good results. Keep in mind she is very, very young and will probably have accidents on and off til close to a year old. It sounds like she and you are doing an excellent job of housetraining otherwise. :)

Funny you posted on submissive urination as I just posted some info in another thread this eve:


There are very conflicting approaches to training out there -- Id really recommend sticking with some good positive training methods. I'd recommend getting one of Dr Ian Dunbar's books (easily available from Amazon) on raising and training a puppy as it is so useful to have an excellent, standard manual to hand at home. :thmbsup: Then, these sites are highly recommended for a whole range of great training info:


23rd April 2008, 05:30 AM
Congratulations on your new dog :)

Use lots of positive reinforcement and don't bother with "correction" at this stage. Just be very calm all the time. (I know that can be hard sometimes). So, when she wees in the right place, lots of praise & treats. When she wees in the wrong place, behave as though you didn't even notice it.... that is, no reaction at all.

As you have 3 youngsters in the home, ensure that they do not all rush her at the same time. Explain to them that the puppy is nervous and that the should approach her individually, slowly & quietly.

She will soon grow out of this fearful phase I am sure, but some puppies just need a gentler touch than others.

23rd April 2008, 10:19 AM
Caraline's point about children is very true. Not sure how old yours are, but kids tend to want to rush in and fuss over a dog -- and give hugs, carry around the pup/dog, lean over to pet. All these things are not especially liked by dogs at the best of times (though they will learn to tolerate it) but for a submissive shy dog, this can be terrifying and it may well be the children that are helping create this difficulty. I know they are well intentioned, but really all interactions between dogs (especially puppies) and kind under 10 need to be directly supervised and controlled by an adult, and interactions should only take place with children quietly sitting on the floor, not towering over the pup or running around. Once those controlled interactions happen, the kids should be kept totally separate from the pup -- eg place the dog into an xpen or the kids go outside or in another room.

There are some excellent links regarding kids and dogs on the Diamonds in the Ruff link I offered above, and a lot on body language towards dogs ('space invaders') that might be a real opener.

On the Deesdogs site, you can order her excellent manual on working with shy dogs.

It is absolutely crucial that she never be yelled at and punished though as I am sure you have seen, as you will easily get regression back to submission urination and extreme fearfulness and shyness. Working with such a dog brings extra challenges and you might want to consider whether that is going to suit you and your family. To be honest, on thinking more about this, in your situation I would really go talk again to the breeder; cavaliers should not be this shy and if I were placing a dog like this, I wouldn't think this is the right puppy for a family with children looking for an outgoing and happy family dog well able for family life. I'd be placing such a dog in an adult only situation, probably with a retired couple -- a really shy and submissive dog will generally improve but is unlikely ever to be a really robust family dog and may remain fearful, which isn't the best situation with kids and their friends coming around if you want a dog that is going to be a family dog and not mainly your dog. If you feel very attached to her now -- which you probably do -- then she can of course become a happy part of your family -- but: the onus will be on you to accommodate her temperament difficulties and work to train to address them. You might consider bringing in an APDT-certified trainer (see www.apdt.com -- positive-methods trainer with international certification) to help as a good trainer will go through the correct ways to work with an overly submissive and anxious dog. The alternative -- which again to be honest, I would be considering in your situation with a family looking for a family dog -- is to return to talk to the breeder about possibly getting a different puppy. Usually, a breeder would have known the puppy was this shy -- this is fairly easily temperament-tested for and it sounds like she was trying to home a puppy that would suit your family, so I presume this is a reputable, experienced show breeder breeding for conformation and temperament and health :). If it has gradually emerged, I am sure she will also want to know as this is important information for her breeding programme, just as health issues are. Just some points to consider as this is the type of dog I often get into rescue at about a year old when the family feels the dog isn't working as a family dog -- it is just a greater commitment for families to work with shy dogs and having children about can make doing this difficult to do.

23rd April 2008, 10:23 AM
Wonderful advice given already can't add any more to it really, just go gently on her and all will be fine!

23rd April 2008, 02:46 PM
Also see: http://www.diamondsintheruff.com/submwetting.html

23rd April 2008, 09:50 PM
Thanks to all of you for all the responses and terrific advice. I have been checking out the links and learning a lot!

Since the incident last week with Meenah, we have been careful to speak to her in gentle tones. She is back to normal I think. We have been trying to rebuild her confidence by practicing basic commands we've learned in puppy kindergarten and just continuing with our daily routines. I think she is gaining confidence. She has been doing very well meeting new people and dogs. I keep checking for the wet spot after she's been greeted by somebody and she's been clear so far! She even chased a cat out of our backyard and just a couple weeks ago she ran away from the same cat! She's also been standing up for herself and barking back at our neighbor's aggressive and large dogs that bark at her over the fence. She used to be afraid to even go near that fence! Even though chasing cats and barking at dogs shouldn't be tolerated in general, we've actually praised her for it because we're trying to encourage her self confidence. She's actually a very quiet dog, barking only at cats, the neighbor's dogs, and (this is weird) teenage boys.

As for our kids, I think she really is fine with them. They are 11, 8, and 6, all girls. The oldest is wonderful with Meenah who responds to her very well. Our middle daughter is very gentle with her. Our youngest tends to smother her with affection. But after reading Karlin's post, I had a talk to her about that. Meenah enjoys playing with them outside, chasing the balls they throw for her, and following them around. When she's had enough, she plops down in a shady spot with a stick or toy to chew. She seems to be unphased by our kids' running around and screaming. Perhaps she knows that there is nothing to worry about with them?

In the house, when she is not crated, she knows that her place is the doggy bed in whatever room we are in. We have a bed for each room that we tend to spend the most time in. So wherever we are, she immediately goes to her doggy bed. We keep some toys and nylabones in each bed for her to play with. As long as she is in a bed, we know she will not potty. If she gets up and starts wandering around, we take her out to go potty or, if she's recently been, we say "Meenah, bed." and she gets back into the doggy bed. Does this seem reasonable or should be allow her to move around the house? We figure when we feel more confident in her housebreaking, we will allow her to move around more.

When I picked her up from the breeder's house, Meenah greeted me by jumping up on my leg and peeing on me. I asked the breeder if she had a submissive urination problem and she said that she had never done this before. In fact, the breeder told me that out of the last two pups in this litter, Meenah was the braver one checking everything out while her sister hung back. The two previous times we had seen Meenah, she had not seemed overly submissive. I have talked to the breeder a few times after we brought her home, being concerned with the urination the first few days. The breeder assured me that she'd either grow out of it or will stop doing it once she is comfortable with us. She told us to socialize her a lot and have people ignore her at first and then slowly greet her by squatting down and presenting the side of their body instead of square on. When she peed on me at that first greeting, I felt like asking for my money back but at that point I figured she was just excited and nervous and it wouldn't happen again. Now there really isn't any going back. The kids have bonded with her. My oldest would be completely heartbroken.

I just hope that as she gets older and more confident, she'll be less submissive and I'll no longer have to worry about her piddling if she meets someone or we look at her the wrong way. Honestly, its hard for me to be pleasant and speak in dulcette tones all the time! Well, perhaps Meenah will help soft my rough edges and will balance me.

Thanks again!!