We have two Labradors, a male and female from the same litter, that we got when they were two months. They are now 5 months old. They are both very friendly and loving with the kids, but the female seems to be afraid of me.

When I call for the female, who is also smaller than the male, she really avoids me. She will normally cower and urinate on the spot most times when I call her. The male dog is very confident.

My one theory is that because the male is very dominant over her and a little jealous, she is afraid he will hurt her if I show her affection.

The other possibility I have thought of is that her reaction stems from when I have been reprimanding them (often accompanied by a smack) to discourage defecating on the porch and jumping up on us and the children, but then I wonder why only she is afraid and not the male, as both have been reprimanded the same way.

Any ideas?

UPDATE: I found an interesting article about Submissive Urination which describes a number of causes and how to address them. Thanks for all the input.


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    You need to gain her trust.This is very common among dogs. Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 0:08

4 Answers 4


Just because both dogs have been getting the same reprimands does not mean they will react the same way. If the female has more of a submissive personality to begin with, which it sounds like from your other statements, she is very likely to have a stronger fear response. As a result, she is learning to associate her name -- or at least, her name when called by you -- with punishment.

You can try positively loading the word by saying her name and then reinforcing with something positive: a treat, a favorite toy, a gentle scritch, whatever she likes. Start by doing that several times in a row -- name, treat, name, treat -- a couple of times a day. Since she seems to be afraid that the male will intervene, do this with the male closed in another room to remove that external stimulus.

Once she is more comfortable with you calling her name, reintroduce the male during these times, but be ready to remove him again if he does try to interfere with your affection to the female.

(On a side note, the best way to discourage jumping, I've found, is to just turn your body away from them when they jump, and give a firm "No!" or "No jump!" Follow that with an alternate command, like "Sit" and then treat and pet when they do. The point is to let them know that if they want affection, they have to ask for it the right way -- by sitting, not jumping. Always replace a negative behavior with a positive one so they can learn what they should do.)

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    Try to look away as well, not just turn away. Looking away is one of the basic "calming signals" which Turid Rugaas described. I have found it to work very well at my local shelter to calm down dogs who jump on you when you enter a room. Fold your arms across your chest and turn and look away. Wait a bit, then turn back to the dog. Repeat until the dog stays down. Typically does not take that much repetition for the dog to get the idea. Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 18:50

Urination like this is often a result of either fear or excitement and excitement is clearly not the case. So, I'm basically convinced that it's because of striking her. Physical punishment, like that, can lead to extreme fear which, in turn, can lead to urination happening out of that fear.

Basically, she now believes that when you call her name that you're most likely going to strike her and so she reacts. Not all dogs react to these things the same way.

In any event, corporal punishment is usually not effective. You're are assuming that the dog can connect the misdeed with the punishment and that's often not the case. What often happens is that the punishment becomes connected with the one administering it. I find, with most animals, it's generally better to work with a reward model to encourage desirable behaviors.

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    @mydoghasworms People, being people, find it very hard to understand why a dog would not make a direct connection between a "slap" and the behavior that provoked it. But they very rarely do. They are more likely to think you are unpredictably sadistic. Also, a scared dog is less able to learn. Corrections are more effective when they are mild and preferably something which the dog can easily understand. Looking and turning away, as suggested in another answer, is preferable because it is a behavior which dogs themselves use to discourage or slow down another dog from engaging with them. Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 19:14
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    While it is not directly applicable to this situation, this blog entry, Simply Wrong, by Dr Patricia McConnell discusses ways in which an aversive can fail because a dog is a dog, not a human. Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 20:30

Remember that a dog does not have a name really. We humans think it as a name, but for a dog it is just another command.

The name should be a "call to attention". For example, when you say the dog's name and then another command, like "Tina, come!" then, what the dog hears, is "You there, not the other one but you, run here doubletime!" That's the proper way a dog should take its name.

Why does my dog urinate when I call her?

The female dog in question has got her name a bit wrong now. Looks like she takes it as verbal punishment. It is confusing to her, because she doesn't understand why you are punishing her again, and confusing to you because you only called her name.

Use a dog's name only for its attention. Nothing else. The dog is not supposed to come running to you when you only call its name. What should happen when you say/yell a dog's name is that the dog raises its head and turns to look at you. With the name you now have the dog's attention and then you can tell it what you want done, whether it is "sit" or "come" or whatnot.

  • I've heard this before, and contemplated using the dog's name for affection only, and another word for commands, like "Attention". "Good boy Fido", vs "Attention. Sit." I don't like the idea of the name being part of the command sequence. Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 20:15
  • @MooingDuck - I have two dogs. How would I tell one of them to sit so that both of them will not sit, if I don't use a name in command chain? Then again, saying "good boy" does not need the dog's name with it. You already have the dog's attention and the dog will surely know the praise is for him/her. Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 21:11

I second the corporal punishment concept. It is likely the association of a the smack (hit) is tied to the calling of the dog's name. If the reprimand is to occur, it must occur before or at the very moment of the action you are trying to correct and not afterwards as a dog has no concept of the connection between the two. Calling a dog over to reprimand or strike him/her only associates the reprimand with the tone of voice with which you used to call the dog.

I add that additionally, I had two labs as well with the roles reversed. The female being dominant over the male (both the same age). The male cowered (but did not pee) and hesitated when offered treats because of the female dog would regularly take the treat from him afterwards. As an alpha male (the owner) I spent many years reprimanding the female dog when when she exhibited dominant behavior until the male dog unlearned the submissiveness.


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