Monday, November 3, 2014

Why Do Male Dogs Lift Their Legs to Urinate?

I documented our puppy's development by taking a photo each week and noting changes in his biology and behavior.
Was Gus a
late bloomer?
Most dogs begin lifting their legs somewhere between 6 and 12 months of age.  Yet even at a year, Gus was not yet a leg-lifter.

Boys squat to piddle
until at least six months.

It wasn't until 14 months that Gus lifted his leg to urinate. This caught my attention and I wondered about the biology of leg-lifting, so I did a little research. This is what I found out.

Leg-lifting behavior is hardwired, not learned. Within the first few months of leg-lifting, dogs reveal a side preference as to right rear or left rear leg-lifting. Leg-lifting side dominance is consistent with side-preference of front paw use. (See my post about canine side-preference.)

He's a southpaw.

He's a righty

In dogs, muscle strength develops front to back. Head first, then neck, front legs and paws, finishing up with hind legs and tail.   This means puppies don't have the muscular wherewithal to stand on three wobbly legs while one is lifted.
Getting up on the couch? Little guys use their front
legs because that's where their strength is.  Within a
few months they jump up using their hind legs.
The onset of sex hormones such as testosterone, even in dogs who were neutered at a very young age,  is directly related to when dogs lift their legs. Since the behavior is related to sexual maturity, and some breeds mature more quickly then other, then my question is:
Is timing of leg-lifting breed specific?  

If anyone knows the answer, please comment.


  1. My pup is still squatting, so we shall see if he lifts. My other border rarely lifted his leg, he squatted all of his life.


  2. My two female dogs have LEARNT to lift their legs since living with and going on walks with my male dog.

  3. Both my female Schipperkes sort of squat and lift their legs most of the time, just occasionally do they just squat, I'll have to be more attentive next time we go walkies to see which leg they lift.....

  4. wow! thanks for sharing this info, i have long wondered about this behavior. I can report our Barkley is a righty as he enjoys sharing all scents with Dottie B.