Signs of a Submissive Dog


Common signals of submissiveness in a dog include avoidance of eye contact, belly displays and even submissive urination. Dogs often thrive when they're submissive to their owners -- their pack leaders. Excessive submissiveness, however, can sometimes denote behavioral issues such as extreme fear. It can signify bad experiences.

Submissive Body Language

If your dog feels submissive toward a human being or toward a fellow canine he believes is dominant over him, he may exhibit telling body language signs such as:

  • A closed mouth.
  • Pulled back lips.
  • Tongue flicking.
  • Showing his belly by going on his back.
  • Flattened ears.
  • Avoidance of eye contact.
  • Overemphasized yawning.
  • A submissive "grin" that shows his front teeth.
  • Squinting eyes.
  • Fast tail wagging.
  • A lowered head.
  • Crouching down in an attempt to appear smaller.
  • A tucked tail.

Submissive Behaviors

Behavioral clues also frequently indicate whether or not a dog is feeling submissive in a situation. If your dog is showing deference, you may notice behaviors including:

  • Enabling other canines to win at games such as tug-of-war.
  • Lavishing other dogs with ample attention, particularly by licking their mouths.
  • Crying and whimpering.
  • Hiding away in another room. 

Submissive Urination

Some dogs show submissiveness through urinating. While submissive urination is particularly prevalent in young females and in puppies, it can happen in any dog regardless of age or gender. If your dog is a puppy who urinates submissively, there's a good chance he'll stop prior to his first birthday. Submissive urination isn't solely a sign of submission, but also of both apprehension and nervousness.

Dogs who urinate submissively do so because of their pack backgrounds. When a dog in a pack wants to communicate to the leader -- or "alpha dog" -- that he's fine with his submissive status, he might do so by urinating on himself. This is a way to maintain peace and to keep conflict at bay.

Potential Causes of Submissiveness

Excessively submissive behaviors are common in dogs who are especially timid, apprehensive and nervous in temperament. Dogs who in the past might have been abused sometimes resort to overly submissive behaviors. These behaviors also frequently appear in dogs who have been subject to harassment from other canines. If another dog in your household regularly takes treats away from your pooch, for example, he might react by exhibiting submissive behaviors.


  • If your dog shows any overly submissive behaviors, refrain from attempting to discipline him. Refrain from giving any sign that you're unhappy, too. These things potentially could exacerbate your pet's problem with submission. If you make your pet even more frightened, his submissive urination problem likely will intensify. Always maintain a calm demeanor when in the presence of overly submissive animals.

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