If your precious cocker spaniel has a frustrating and messy habit of urinating, on the spot, any time she's in an exciting, frightening or confusing situation, then there's a good chance that she's doing so due to emotional triggers. Cocker spaniels have a predisposition to the behavior—submissive urination.
Feelings of Submission
Submissive urination is prevalent in young puppies, but also in mature canines who have particularly meek and hesitant temperaments. Cocker spaniels often have anxious and highly sensitive dispositions, which is why they are prime candidates for this behavior. If your cocker spaniel is in the midst of a situation that makes her nervous or upset, she might react by adopting submissive patterns, including submissive urination. By doing this, she's communicating to the individuals around her that she has no intention of taking control and that she's fully aware that she is not the boss. Submissive urination is not an indication of housebreaking issues, and only happens when dogs are in the company of others.
A lot of different scenarios could cause a cocker spaniel to urinate because of intense feelings of submission, fear, anxiety or even pure excitability. Your pet might not be able to contain her enthusiasm during a brisk play session, for example. She might feel nervous when encountering brand-new people she's never seen before. She might be terrified by noisy construction sounds coming from outside of the house. She might be afraid after hearing a firm "No" when she tried to jump up onto a piece of furniture in the den.
Handling Emotional Urination
If your cocker spaniel is a young puppy, her emotional urination is likely a passing phase. If she's not, then it's time to make strides in eliminating the problem—and making way for a happy, healthy and well-adjusted cocker spaniel, rather than one who is always a nervous wreck. This could mean anything from appointments with a professional pet behavior expert to maintaining a more stable and calm home setting. Keeping cool in "exciting" situations is also vital when you're around cocker spaniels. Just remember never, ever to punish your pet for submissive urination. Cocker spaniels are often extremely delicate in nature, which is why it's so important to handle these situations cautiously. Not only is the action not done on purpose, your pet doesn't even know she did it after the fact. The goal for caring for dogs with submissive urination is to help them relax. Also, take your pet to the veterinarian just to be on the safe side. What you think is emotional urination might actually be a different problem, like a urinary tract infection.
Cocker spaniels are vulnerable to emotional urination, but they aren't the only ones. Other types of canines who also frequently experience this behavior are bichon frises, German shepherds, Irish setters, poodles and golden retrievers. Despite that, any dog is potentially susceptible to the problem, regardless of breed. Also note that the behavior is also more prevalent in female dogs.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Submissive Urination
- Humane Society Silicon Valley: Submissive Urination [PDF]
- Cocker Spaniels; Joan Hustace Walker
- Adopting a Dog; John Ross and Barbara McKinney
- The Humane Society of the United States: Submissive Urination
- Morris Vet Center: Submissive Urination in Dogs
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images