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Male vs. Female Dogs: Behavior Differences

As a professional dog trainer and dog aficionado, I have had the privilege of sharing my 50-plus years on the planet with a multitude of dogs. I’ve had as many female dogs as I have had male dogs. When I think about adding a new family member, I give serious thought whether a female or a male dog would fit best in our home. Perhaps you do the same or have a strong preference for one sex over the other?

Annie Phenix, CPDT-KA  |  Oct 11th 2019

I wanted to look at some perceived differences because the pet parents who prefer one sex over the other often tend to feel quite strongly about that. I love all dogs, and I don’t have a strong preference. I go first by temperament and good health markers and then get down to whether the dog is male or female.

I was curious as to what pet parents, fellow trainers and behavior experts thought about canine sex differences so I asked my Facebook group of nearly 2,000 dog fans to weigh in. It’s funny that some of the behaviors attributed strongly to one sex were also attributed to the other. Here’s a small sampling of behavioral differences noted by dog owners and trainers who I asked for their feedback.

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Perceptions about female dogs

➤ Females are smarter and better problem solvers.

➤ Females can seem to be more aloof than males.

➤ Females are gentler.

➤ Females are more independent.

➤ Females rule the house.

➤ Females are more serious.

➤ Females are more vocal.

➤ Females mature faster.

➤ Females tend to worry more.

➤ Females are not as quick to please.

➤ Females are more protective.

➤ Females are more aggressive and territorial with each other.

➤ Females sense danger better.

➤ Female dogs can’t pee on your coat on the back of your chair. (This one made me laugh — and then laugh harder — when many said their female dogs can and have peed on clothes hanging on the back of a chair!)

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Perceptions about male dogs

➤ Males are more cuddly.

➤ Males are more interested in pleasing their owners.

➤ Males are more excited about food.

➤ Males are more protective.

➤ Males are more willing to leave their person to defend against a threat.

➤ Males are more laid-back.

➤ Males are more easily distracted.

➤ Males are more needy.

➤ Males are great fun.

➤ Males are more demonstrative.

➤ Males are more likely to spend longer time in the shelter.

➤ A female dog loves you, but a male dog is in love with you.

It’s interesting to see these perceptions of any differences in sex in dogs. I share my life (and have for 14 years) with two sibling Border Collies. My male, Radar, is more aloof by far than my female, Echo. Echo is way more cuddly. Both are protective of me. Echo is more serious, and Radar is more laid-back. Echo is way more needy than her brother.

While some perceptions of differences are similar, they are not proven. Some may indeed be true, but they’re really not backed up by science.

The bottom line is that all dogs are individuals, just as we humans are. You may very well have preferences that come from the dogs you have shared your life with. The important thing is to provide for and love the dog in front of you and not put human expectations on that dog.

Thumbnail: Photography ©Mariana Mikhailova | Getty Images

About the author:

Annie Phenix, CPDT-KA, is a professional dog trainer based in Utah. She is a force-free trainer specializing in working with troubled dogs. She is the author of The Midnight Dog Walkers: Positive Training and Practical Advice for Living With a Reactive or Aggressive Dog. For more information, visit

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