How to Tell If a Puppy Is a Boy or a Girl

When a litter of puppies is whelped, you may be wondering how to tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl. Here are some helpful tips on how to figure out a puppy's gender.

A pile of puppies.
A pile of puppies. Photography by Image Source Pink / Thinkstock.

Physical differences between male and female dogs are both slighter and less obvious than those between other kinds of domestic pets or farm animals. Distinguishing between a male and female turkey, for example, tends to be quite easy, especially once they reach maturity. Differences in size and plumage between these birds are clear and striking. The male turkey is much larger, more colorful, and has a more dramatic appearance. Among dogs, average height and weight of females and males does vary, but the difference is normally only a few inches in the first case, and can be as little as 10 pounds in the latter. When we’re talking about newborn baby puppies, the differences are inconsequential. All newborn baby puppies are super tiny. Wondering how to tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl? Let’s investigate.

Why does differentiating sex in puppies matter?

Newborn puppies.
Stumped on how to tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl? The belly and rear end are the points to observe most carefully in determining a puppy’s sex. Photography by Soraluk Chonvanich / Shutterstock.

Even when dogs are fully matured, telling a male from a female dog can be difficult. How many times have you, as a dog owner, passed someone on the street or at the park and heard some variation of, “What a beautiful dog! May I pet her?” And how many times have you gently corrected, “Actually, he’s a boy!” I make that mistake all the time with other people’s dogs, and people make it all the time with mine.

If you’ve recently had or are preparing to welcome a litter of puppies, and people are asking to adopt one, they may have a specific sex of puppy in mind. So, you may be wondering how to tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl. Some people are particular about male or female puppies. Perhaps they’ve had better experiences with one sex of dog over another. Reasons can be difficult to parse, and impossible to understand or predict. If both you and the interested parties are patient, things will become clearer by the time they are ready to be weaned.

Can urination habits help tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl?

Some might huff at the very question, assuming that the stereotypical images of fully grown dog urination habits — squatting for girl dogs and the leg lift of boy dogs — will make the distinction clear enough. In baby puppies, however, one must remember that as puppies’ hindquarters develop and mature, puppies of both sexes squat. The positions that puppies take do not diverge for a while after whelping.

Indeed, male and female puppies may assume identical positions for up to two months. Puppies do not practice independent bowel and bladder evacuation in their first couple of weeks of life. Nor, for the first few weeks, do puppies have sufficient strength and stability in their hindquarters to make urinating activities distinguishable. Male puppies may not fully adopt the wonted leg lift until around their fourth month; for some male puppies, it may not become habitual until they are nearly six months old.

So, how to tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl:

A nursing puppy.
Don’t take a newborn puppy away from his mother for more than a few minutes. Photography by kukiatB/Thinkstock.

Still stumped on how to tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl? There is, in fact, a way to discern the difference between female and male puppies. Be cautious and patient, though. The relationship between newborn puppies and their mothers can be tenuous. Taking a baby puppy from a mother for more than a few minutes in the first several weeks after whelping can disturb their bonding. A mother dog may become wary of a puppy who spends too much time away from her and the rest of the litter.

Basically, male puppies can be distinguished by two small, raised circular marks on their bellies. People often ask where a dog’s belly button is located. Unlike in humans, the spot where the umbilical cord was attached to a dog disappears, healing over very quickly. It is right below the base of the rib cage. About an inch past that, there will be another small circular spot. This is where the penis will emerge.

Female puppies will have only the belly button mark, with the rest of their tiny little bellies bare. A careful examination of a female puppy’s rear end, from the base of the tail to the start of the lower abdomen, will reveal two openings. The anus, of course, will be just beneath the tail, and the vulva is a small, leaf-shaped structure located almost exactly between the legs.

Always exercise patience and caution when trying to tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl

To put it most simply, the best action for how to tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl is to examine a puppy’s rear end, right beneath the tail. Female newborns will have two points, male puppies only one. It is best to be patient and exercise great caution. In a puppy’s first few weeks, support a baby puppy with a warm towel, turn her over carefully, and only for a couple of minutes at most. Return the puppy to her mother and litter immediately after checking.

Baby puppies begin learning from their mothers the moment they are born. Handling newborn puppies too often before three to four weeks of age risks alienating the puppy from the mother, which can not only cause stress, but also trauma to newborns. For the sake of satisfying curiosity alone, under no circumstances should you poke or prod at newborn puppies as a way to tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl.

Thumbnail: Photography by Image Source Pink / Thinkstock. 

This piece was originally published in 2014. 

Learn more about puppies with

36 thoughts on “How to Tell If a Puppy Is a Boy or a Girl”

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  3. I am not weighing in on this to give advice but to share that I have had one female dog who had only one puppy on her first pregnancy and my husband brought the puppy in to show me. He was on his way to work at a turkey farm ( true story) We were wondering if the mother was pregnant due to nipple changes and we were sure we could feel a puppy in her abdomen. Anyways the mother had no other puppies and she also rejected the one puppy that I hand fed and had her for 15 years.

  4. Thank you Christie, I totally agree with you. There is no reason to be or vicious to anyone.
    If you don’t agree, so be it. There is certainly a far better way to express you dislike for what someone says then put the down.

    Have some respect people!

  5. I’m amused at all the vicious maligners of author Melvin Pena. I found his article–which is and should be geared to the average person, not Ph.D.s, DVMs, etc.–very intelligent and informative. Furthermore he has a very spirited, interesting writing style. But then again I humbly defer to all his attackers as I only have 3 university degrees, scientific experience working in some of the world’s top medical and veterinary laboratories, had responsibility for nationwide health matters at a federal agency, and have an I.Q. of 165. Also I’ve had dogs, cats, horses (14 at the same time), birds, and more speies of little animal boys and girls. Plus I’ve interacted with many wild species, including but not limited to walruses, penguins, wolves and elephants. (Translation for you malicious attackers: I’ll spell it out to you–I’m being sarcastic when I say I defer to you.) Shame on you. You owe Melvin Pena an apology.

    1. It sounds like you feel insecure since you must discuss all your degrees and experience. Personally, I just wanted to know the difference between the puppies gender instead of being forced to read about Turkeys and other animals! This article was Too Much Information (TMI). I could care less about either of your degrees as long as he knows about dogs.

  6. Once when our dog was about a year old, my neighbor’s grandkids were playing with her.
    She rolls over onto her back when she is happy and wants a belly rub.
    So the little kids, all under the age of 3 and half, were gently rubbing her chest and tummy.
    The oldest boy, l00ked up and asked me “How do you know she is a girl?”
    I said “Because her name is Lilly”, and all the family laughed.

    I did like the article, and one of the most important things noted in it, was please DO NOT handle a tiny puppy very much, and dont turn them over. She told of the upsetting of the mom and the puppies if they are handled too much. The way we tell if the puppies are boys or girls, just wait till they fall asleep after nursing, and chances they will sleep on their backs.

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  12. I have a four month old molitipoo he’s so Harry I can’t tell if it a boy or girl please help me I don’t want to give my puppy a girls name if it’s a boy and I don’t want to give a girl a boys name

    1. By the time he/she is 8 months old you will know for sure what gender your pet is as the anatomy is more pronounced. If you see 5 or more protruding tags on the belly of your pet of course it’s a girl.
      You can always choose a gender neutral name like Hudson, Blue, Marley, Sam

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  14. Hi all, I don’t think that this article was odd or stupid; I found it very interesting and informative. Grate article!

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  16. This is the stupidest article I have read. It is not at all difficult to tell the gender of a dog or even a puppy.

    1. Michaela Conlon

      Hi there Bonnie,

      Thank you for commenting. If you have any specific questions or concerns regarding this article, please contact our team through this link:

      1. No questions are needed. Most kids can tell the difference between Male and female dogs. This is a ridiculous article.

        1. Some of the comments were unnecessarily harsh. For someone who is about to pick up an eight week old puppy, this basic education is helpful and very useful. Thank you.

    1. Michaela Conlon

      Hi there Sam,

      If you have any specific questions or concerns we can help you with, please contact our team through this link:

  17. Thanks to Frank and others!! I’m new at this, but i didn’t think my 8yr old dog would mind ME handling her young pups … and it seems she doesn’t. I make a point to let her see what I’m doing and only handle them at her level so she can see. I have NOT let anyone else handle them though!! She’s a Cha-weenie (small breed) and this is her third litter. Still, it’s MY first time helping. She developed hypocalcemia after her first or definitely second litter and has continued with that even when not pregnant or nursing. So yes, I’m extremely concerned about her health!! Thanks again for your most helpful input!! As this was my dad’s dog first, but i made a death bed promise to take care of her.

  18. I agree with frank. I originally wrote and long reply but this is better. The author is just ignorant to that fact. Plain and simple he was better off just not posting his inaccurate article and that is a fact jack.

    Gobble gobble gobble ????

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  21. What a strange article. It’s almost as if the author is afraid of using the proper anatomical terms or giving actual educational comparison views. I’d also wager more people can tell the difference between a male and female dog than between turkeys. Adult dogs are NOT difficult to tell apart if you look- plenty of animals like parrots and snakes there is no difference, but dogs? Easy. Even cats are harder. The idea you shouldn’t touch the puppies at all for several weeks is also odd- unless the bitch has significant trust issues, it’s often best practice to handle the puppies often for health checks, to make sure they are gaining adequate weight, etc.

    1. Thank you Frank, I got very worried reading the article as I have handled the puppy under the vigilant eyes of the mother.

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