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Why Does Your Girl Dog Lift Her Leg To Pee? Female Marking 101

Why Does Your Girl Dog Lift Her Leg To Pee? Female Marking 101

Why Your Girl Dog Lifts Her Leg“Get a female,” they said.

“Girls don’t mark,” they said.

Yeah, right.

One of the supposed perks of having a female dog is the fact that they generally don’t stop to mark trees on walks. Walking a boy can take forever because he’ll lift his leg and squeeze out just a few drops of pee at every tree, fence post and bush.

Most girls don’t mark their territory. But some do.

Matilda does.

And it’s kind of hilarious when she’s wearing a dress – she looks like a walking contradiction.

She’s not obsessive about marking, the way some dogs are – she’ll usually do it only a few times each walk.

Today, I’m going to find out why.

The Science Of Peeing Female Dogs

I have a few questions.

Does spaying affect marking?

Does personality affect marking?

Why do male dogs do it more often, and most females, never?

The Illusion Of Bigness

The physical act of lifting a leg allows your dog to pee higher.

To other dogs, a higher stain appears to have been made by a larger dog. 

In my research, female urine marking appears to be more common in small dogs, especially chihuahuas.

I’m thinking it’s about size insecurity. A little female doesn’t want other dogs knowing how tiny she is.

The Case Of The Peeing Jack Russell Terriers

I found an interesting study observing 6 spayed and 6 intact, not-in-heat Jack Russell terriers.

For both spayed and intact: around half the time they peed, they were marking. The older the dog, the more often she marked. They marked more often when they weren’t close to home. Spaying had no significant effect on how often the dogs marked, but dogs in heat do mark more to advertise the fact that they’re ready to mate.

Their peeing stances ranged from squat-lift (the most common amongst them), squat, arch-raise, combination and handstand.Why Female Dogs Lift Their Legs

Since this study only followed 12 dogs of the same breed, I feel the need to keep digging.

Avoiding The Butt-Sniffers

Another interesting motivation for dogs to mark – to avoid butt-sniffers.

Dogs were observed to step away and urinate as other dogs were sniffing their butts. The sniffers would then sniff the urine instead.

While they love sniffing, dogs don’t enjoy being sniffed. The close contact with strangers can be scary for them. Less-than-confident dogs probably feel awkward, probably the way lots of humans feel weird at parties.

Making a mark gives other dogs the opportunity to sniff and learn more about their new friend without overwhelming her.

How To Get Your Female Dog To Stop Marking

It’s normal and healthy for your female dog to want to mark.

But walks can be tedious if she’s stopping every few feet on your walks.

She might also be pulling on her leash to reach her desired canvas.

You should allow your female opportunities to mark at the beginning and end of your walk, and anytime when she’s hanging out in your backyard. It’s an important part of dog-to-dog communication. Dogs can learn a lot about each other from urine markings, even avoiding conflict by making a no-stress social connection.

If she’s marking excessively, and squeezing out a few drops because she’s running on empty, feel free to rush past her targets.

Tell her “leave it,” or call her name to get her attention, then use very light pressure on the leash if she doesn’t hurry along. (Use a harness if your dog is not fully leash-trained – even gentle reminder tugs can hurt her neck if you’re using a flat collar.)

Praise her for returning to your side. Speed up the walk, jog, and change directions to keep your walk interesting, and she won’t mind having fewer opportunities to mark.

Stop Your Dog From Lifting Her Leg In The House

You might be surprised to find your “potty-trained” dog marking inside your house.

She might suddenly begin marking because she has reached maturity, or even because she’s stressed. She may be using her urine to communicate her fears – she might be feeling insecure.

Be sure to clean up stains with an enzyme cleaner. Dogs return to their own scent to mark, so if you do not clean the stains correctly, she will keep peeing in the same spot. An enzyme cleaner is the only way I know of to make her stop. Bleach or regular carpet shampoos will not break down the enzymes that keep her coming back to the spot.

You can’t punish your dog for a urine stain you discover long after the act. You can only correct her when you catch her by interrupting her and taking her outside. You’ll need to watch her closely and restrict her freedom in your home until her behavior has changed.

Lifting A Leg To Poop

When we’re at the park, Matilda works extra hard to impress other parkgoers by lifting her leg to poop. She’s able to tack her poop onto a tree trunk or bush. It’s very impressive.


Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny lives to help pet parents make the very best choices for their pets by providing actionable, science-based training and care tips and insightful pet product reviews.

She also uses her pet copywriting business to make sure the best pet products and services get found online through catchy copy and fun, informative blog posts. She also provides product description writing services for ecommerce companies.

As a dog mom to Matilda and Cow, she spends most of her days taking long walks and practicing new tricks, and most nights trying to make the best of a very modest portion of her bed.

You'll also find her baking bread and making homemade pizza, laughing, painting and shopping.

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Friday 24th of June 2022

I can tell you from personal experience that spaying a female dog does not curb them from marking. My female American Bulldog marks her yard all the time and she is spayed. She also has the flexibility to pee almost a foot up the base of a tree lol.

Lindsay Pevny

Wednesday 27th of July 2022

That's impressive! Matilda still marks, too, even though she's been spayed years ago.


Tuesday 26th of April 2022

I’m late to this party but loved your article! My dog is 50 lbs and she marks like crazy, often doing handstands! I’ve heard many times from strangers that they’ve never seen a large female dog do this and that it’s unusual lol. My dog is also extremely dominant, borderline arrogant, but I love her dearly. :)

Doctor of Common Sense

Sunday 2nd of June 2019

1) Stop calling dogs “boy” and “girl”. 2) Stop dressing your dog with human-like clothes (eg. a “dress”)


Lindsay Pevny

Monday 3rd of June 2019

Sorry to hear you're offended by my content! It must be awful to have such strong feelings about people you've never met. I hope you feel better soon.

Will A Micro Prong Collar Stop Your Toy Dog From Pulling? - Little Dog Tips

Friday 4th of August 2017

[…] know what motivates your curious dog on a walk, and use that as a reward. Do she love to sniff and lift her leg on trees? Reward her with those […]


Friday 11th of March 2016

I've got the reverse problem! Well not really a problem, but my male dog doesn't lift his leg when he pees. I brought it up to the vet, thinking he might have hip/back problems that don't allow him to lift. But turns out he's fine, just chooses not to lift. Do you have any insight into the science behind why a male dog wouldn't lift?

Lindsay Pevny

Friday 6th of May 2016

Is your dog often around other dogs? I have heard that male dogs may not lift until they see other dogs doing it.

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