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Why Does My Female Dog Lift Her Leg To Pee? Canine Behavior Explained

Written by: Ed Malaker

Last Updated on June 20, 2024 by Dogster Team

Golden retriever peeing on the lawn

Why Does My Female Dog Lift Her Leg To Pee? Canine Behavior Explained

VET APPROVED

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As dog owners, we like to know all we can about our pets. Understanding the behavior of our canine companions can lead to fascinating discoveries about their instincts, habits, and communication methods. One behavior many people find odd is when a female dog lifts her leg to pee.

This action, typically associated with male dogs, can be surprising in females, but it’s more common than you might think. Keep reading while we list several possible reasons and answer common questions to help you understand your pet better.

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The 7 Reasons a Female Dog Might Lift Her Leg to Pee

1. Marking Their Territory

One of the key reasons a female dog might lift her leg to pee is to mark her territory. While this behavior is usually associated with male dogs, female dogs can be just as territorial and assertive.

By lifting their leg, they make their scent more prominent by applying it higher up to a vertical surface instead of the ground, which sends a clear message to other dogs about their presence and status.

white dog peeing on a brick wall
Image Credit: Charlie Goodall, Shutterstock

2. Comfort

Some dog owners notice that their female dog is more likely to lift one leg to pee when they first get out for the day or if they are having fun playing. In both cases, the dog may feel more comfortable choosing a different stance so they can stretch or get back to the action faster.


3. Signaling Mating Season

Your female dog might also lift her leg to pee to signify sexual readiness if you didn’t get her spayed yet. Some pet owners, especially those of larger female dogs, wait up to 18 months before spaying their dogs due to health concerns. They are more likely to experience their pets lifting their legs as they pass through their heat cycles. Getting them spayed might not extinguish the lifting-the-leg behavior if it becomes habitual.

a beagle dog peeing on grass
Image Credit: kolokoso, Shutterstock

4. Anxiety

Many pet owners report that their female dog is more likely to lift her leg to pee if they are feeling anxious. If there are unfamiliar dogs around or she is getting far from home, your pet may start to lift her leg to pee to help her establish her territory, get oriented, and gain an understanding of the surroundings.


5. Social Learning

Dogs are keen observers and can learn behaviors from others around them. If a female dog grows up around male dogs who lift their legs to urinate, she might mimic the behavior, which is a form of social learning, showcasing how dogs can learn and adapt.

dog peeing on tree
Image Credit: ThamKC, Shutterstock

6. Size

Many pet owners notice that smaller female dogs are much more likely to lift their legs to pee than larger dogs. This might be related to wishing to leave their scent as high up as possible in the vertical space for taller dogs to detect it.


7. Health Considerations

In some cases, a change in urination posture can indicate discomfort or health issues. If a female dog who normally squats suddenly starts lifting her leg, it might be worth discussing with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health concerns.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Normal for Female Dogs to Lift Their Leg to Pee?

Yes, it’s normal for some female dogs to lift their leg to pee. While it’s more common in males, females can adopt this posture for various reasons, including territorial marking, dominance, or simply mimicking behaviors they’ve observed.

How Do I Distinguish Between Normal Behavior and a Health Problem?

Observing your dog’s overall behavior and health is essential. If the leg lifting is the only change and your dog seems healthy and comfortable, it’s likely just a behavioral quirk. However, if there are other changes in behavior, appetite, or general wellness, scheduling a visit with the vet is necessary. When in pain, dogs might vocalize while they pee or tuck their tail right after a peeing attempt, and these should be red flags.

A dog peeing in the grass.
Puppies and senior dogs urinate twice as often as adult dogs. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Is Leg Lifting in Female Dogs a Sign of Aggression?

Leg lifting in female dogs is not usually a sign of aggression. It’s more often associated with territorial marking or asserting dominance in a non-aggressive manner. Aggressive behavior usually involves signs like growling, baring teeth, or aggressive posturing.

How Common Is Leg Lifting in Female Dogs Compared to Male Dogs?

Leg lifting is less common in female dogs than male dogs, but some female dogs adopt the posture for various reasons, and it happens more often than people think.

How Can I Understand My Dog’s Behavior Better?

Observing your dog in various situations, learning about canine body language, and understanding your dog’s history and environment can help you understand their behavior. Building a strong bond through training, play, and positive interactions can also make it easier for you to notice the nuances of their behavior.

french bulldog lifting leg to pee
Image Credit: MR.SOMKIAT BOONSING, Shutterstock

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Summary

While it can be hard to pinpoint the exact reason a female dog raises her leg to pee, it’s perfectly natural for her to do it. Some females might find it more comfortable, while others might mark their territory if other dogs are around. It can help them orient themselves if they are far from home, and if you haven’t spayed the dog yet, she might do it to signify sexual readiness.

Finally, they might do it because they mimic a male dog doing it. However, if your dog switches positions suddenly and displays other signs, like vocalizations while urinating or changes in appetite, schedule an examination with your vet to rule out any underlying health issues.

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Featured Image Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock

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