Why Do Male Dogs Lift Their Legs To Urinate?

You’ve seen, even as a kid, that some dogs lift their legs to pee. Now that you’re older, you know your dog will lift his leg and squat to pee. Your dog lifts their leg to leave their mark on a tire, a fire hydrant, a tree, or your unsuspecting friend standing next to you as you talk. He’ll leave his mark on anything vertical. But why do male dogs lift their legs to urinate? What is the origin of this behavior? Why does the doggie lift only happen on vertical objects? You’ve probably never thought so much about doggie bathroom habits before, have you?

Why Do Male Dogs Lift Their Legs To Pee?

The Origin Of The Behavior

The dog lift begins when male dogs are between 6-12 months old. Dogs that have been neutered and those that haven’t will both lift their legs to pee. However, this behavior is more common in non-neutered dogs. Neutered dogs tend to squat.

So, really, why do male dogs lift their legs to pee? Well, for your pup, it’s about the message they’re trying to get across and their personal preference. When dogs do the doggie lift, there’s a lot more to it than relieving themselves. The dog’s way of telling other dogs “I was here” is to use urine to mark his territory.

By peeing, the dog sends the animal community a detailed message. Dogs’ noses have approximately 300 million olfactory receptors, so they can learn a lot from scents such as urine. To put that into perspective, humans only have six million receptors.

With such sophisticated noses, dogs can evaluate and learn much from each other’s urine. A dog’s urine can contain a lot of information such as their social status, whether they’re neutered or spayed, their gender, stress level, and general health. When the dog is peeing, he wants to make sure other animals get this info right in the same way you’d articulate your social media posts.

As the U.S. Air Force says, “Aim High”

When you see a dog lifting leg to pee, it’s because this will allow him to aim his pee higher. The height of the mark they leave when they do the doggie lift can determine their social status.

A big dog will leave a high mark, and a small dog will leave a lower one. The dog will want to ensure its mark is as high as possible to have a strong presence.

A dog aims to have the optimal mark to show off its stature. Scents last longer on poles, trees, hydrants, and other vertical objects since their scent will last much longer on them. Your dog will mark the spot he wants to get the placement ideally. The smell will disappear a lot faster if the dog just pees in the grass.

Encouraging The Behavior

You don’t need to be worried or try to stop your dog lifting leg to pee. Lifting its leg to pee is OK as long as the dog isn’t doing it in places he shouldn’t. The doggie lift makes your pet feel good, knowing he has passed on his message and left his mark as high as he could get. Sometimes, you’ll notice your dog lift his leg on every pole and tree he can find. He can do this because he doesn’t need much urine to leave his message.

When your dog does this, he’s passing the message to other dogs that walk by that he’s stamping his presence and leaving a short message. Even though a walk can get disruptive because of this habit, there’s no harm to your dog in the process.

Consider consulting a trainer if you want your walk to be continuous and not be disrupted by these short stops. You could also try walking beside or in front of your dog rather than behind him and keeping the leash short. By doing this, you tell your dog that you’re in charge and establish dominance over him.

Why Do Maile Dogs Lift Their Legs To Urinate?

Other Considerations And Solutions

If your dog is having trouble doing the doggie lift, visit the vet and ensure he’s healthy. He could be experiencing pain. Talk to a trainer if your dog keeps lifting his leg to pee on the furniture, the neighbors’ lawn, the side of the couch, or in other inappropriate areas.

If the cause of this behavior is emotional or physical, the trainer will give you some house training tips or offer solutions for inappropriate urination.

If you’ve trained your dog to use pee pads inside the house you may find that he does the doggie lift inside as well as a natural part of the urination process. Unfortunately, that can mean he is peeing on a wall or something else inappropriate that is near the pee pad. A simple solution for this is the Pico Potty Wall. It is designed for this very situation. Trying to stop your dog from leg lifting inside but not outside could send very confusing messages. The Pico Potty Wall can give you and your dog the best of both worlds and allow him to relieve himself the way he wants to in both environments.


When you go to the bathroom, no one tells you how to do it. Don’t expect that you should tell your dog how they should go either. If he wants to do the doggie lift, let him. You should only let him know when he isn’t in the right spot.