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Why Does My Female Dog Lift Her Leg to Pee?

Even though leg lifting is stereotypically a male dog thing, it turns out female dogs lifting their leg to pee is more common than you might think!  

Sassafras Lowrey  |  Mar 11th 2021


Has your female dog ever lifted her leg on a tree or fire hydrant? Even though leg lifting is stereotypically a male dog thing, it turns out female dogs lifting their leg to pee is more common than you might think!  

Do only male dogs lift their legs to pee?

While many male dogs will lift their leg when they pee and to mark with urine, not all do! Dr. Jamie Richardson, Medical Chief of Staff at Small Door Veterinary, notes that “traditionally, male dogs tend to raise one leg to pee, whilst female dogs squat. However, some female dogs raise a leg, and some male dogs squat – it just comes down to personal preference.” Most puppies, male and female, squat to pee when they are puppies, and some male dogs continue to squat some or all of the time, even in adulthood, just like some female dogs will start leg lifting.

Why do female dogs lift their legs?

There are a variety of very behavioral reasons why dogs might lift their leg to pee. “Raising a leg to pee is often associated with urine marking. Dogs may urine mark for attention, because they are anxious, and/or to establish territory,” says Dr. Richardson. There is even a reason that dogs, regardless of gender, will try to raise their leg as high as possible when peeing. “Lifting their leg allows the dog to aim their pee at a vertical object, and when the urine runs down the object, the larger surface area covered results in a stronger scent,” says Dr. Richardson.

Interestingly Dr. Richardson explains that the size of the dog may impact if she is going to lift her leg to pee “studies have shown that smaller female dogs tend to lift their leg to pee more than medium and large-sized female dogs.” By lifting her leg as high as possible, dogs may be trying to make themselves appear bigger than dogs who will come along later and find their marking.  

Female Dog Lifts Her Leg

You don’t normally have to worry if your female dog lifts her leg to pee. Photo: zoranm/Getty Images

Should I worry that my female dog lifts her leg to pee?

Although female dogs lifting their legs to urinate might take some owners by surprise, it’s not unusual and isn’t anything to worry about. While, as Dr. Richardson noted above, some female dogs might be lifting their leg in an attempt to mark territory for attention because they are anxious or to appear larger for many dogs, there is no underlying behavioral cause. She may “simply find that position more comfortable than squatting.” It can be surprising for guardians if their female dog begins lifting her leg. Still, Dr. Richardson advises, “owners do not need to be concerned by female dogs lifting their leg to pee, as long as they are still doing their business in acceptable locations.”

Although lifting their legs to urinate isn’t something to be worried about, changes in urination patterns would be something to pay close attention to with any dog. Dr. Richardson advises that if your dog begins having accidents or “shows any other signs of distress when urinating such as straining, whining, urinating more or less frequently than usual, you should get them checked out ASAP by a veterinarian. Those could be symptoms of a medical condition that would need treatment.  

How to keep your female dog clean if she lifts her leg to pee

It’s perfectly normal for female dogs to lift their legs while peeing, but the girls, especially until they get practice aiming, may be likely to dribble urine on themselves. This can be smelly with heavily coated dogs and can even lead to health conditions. “It is important to clean the urine off them so they do not suffer from urine burn irritation to the skin underneath the coat,” advised Dr. Richardson. The good thing is you don’t have to do a full bath for your dog just because she gets a little bit of urine dribbles on the inside of her back leg. Dr. Richardson suggests that “for a quick clean up, you can use a warm washcloth or any of the commercially available pet wipes.” There are even travel-sized packs of pet wipes that you can put in your car or into your purse to do a quick freshen up for your girl while on the go.

Featured Image: Photo: ThamKC/Getty Images