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Ask an Expert – Too submissive

By: Teoti Anderson

Last Updated:

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Header photo: Pavel Sazonov/

Q: I’m worried my dog is overly submissive. She shows her belly to everyone and sometimes even piddles submissively. How can I boost her confidence? —Wet Toes in Walla-Walla

A:Some dogs are more submissive than others. rest assured, it may have nothing to do with you. Cally’s parents could have been submissive dogs and she is taking after mom or dad. Something could have happened before she joined your family. We may never know, but we can address it now and help boost Cally’s confidence.

When a dog piddles upon greeting people, this is a canine sign of respect. Cally is acknowledging that your guests outrank her, and she is showing deference to them. Of course, human interpretation is completely different! So the more agitated you or your guests get, or if you scold her, she will think she hasn’t done a very good job of paying respect. She’ll think she has to try harder, and therefore pee more.

Instead, ask guests to completely ignore Cally for the first 15 minutes of their visits. They should not talk to her or make eye contact. When the initial excitement of their arrival has passed, they should seat themselves on the floor and let her approach them. Without making eye contact, they can gently scratch her chest. They should not pet her on top of the head. In canine language, that is a very assertive gesture and will likely get her waterworks going again. your guests should talk sweetly to her, but they should not make a big fuss. Make greetings very laid back and casual. Cally may still roll over and show her belly, but that’s okay. She’ll get a belly rub!

Everyone may be tempted to shower her with attention, but that is too much for Cally to bear. Giving her a chance to get accustomed to low-key greetings will help boost her confidence around your guests.

I also recommend you enroll her in a local reward-based training class. learning new skills will give her confidence. Once she gets the basics down, consider enrolling her in agility training. Shy dogs can really blossom as they learn they can tackle obstacles and have fun doing it.

It can be embarrassing when your dog practically crumbles at the sight of someone new, but dogs like these are usually very sweet and loving. They just need help building a foundation of security so they can accept attention with confidence!

Last Updated:

By: Teoti Anderson
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