Dogs have a talent for making the most basic of bodily functions into weird, ritualized moments. Take pooping, for instance: Dogs' pooping habits have been perplexing humans since, well, since we started following them around to pick it up, presumably.
There are some weird dog defecation quirks that seem universal, like pups' pickiness when it comes to finding the perfect spot to do a number two. Other odd pooping habits are a little more niche, but even more head-scratching, like the tendency some dogs have to lift their legs when doing the deed. If your doggo is a member of this mighty minority of puppy poopers, here's everything you need to know about why it's a thing.
Why do dogs lift their legs to go to the bathroom?
Most dog parents (or just humans aware of dogs' existence) know that many male dogs lift their legs to pee. For the most part, this is a marking-related urge—and one that's much more common among male dogs who aren't neutered. By lifting their rear leg to pee, male dogs are better able to spread their scent. And, for male dogs who are intact, that means spreading the hormone scents that could attract lady dogs to them for sexy times too (which explains why the behavior is significantly less common among male dogs who are neutered before they reach sexual maturity).
But does your dog also lift his leg to poop? That doesn't seem as normal, but the reasons that drive it are similar. Going to the bathroom is a big method of communication for dogs. When it comes to going number two, dogs are often concerned with marking their territory as much as with relieving themselves. Many dogs circle and search for the perfect spot to do the deed and some even continue moving during the act.
So how does lifting a leg during number two do for a dog? It can serve several functions. For one, it could just help, well, move things along.
Another potential reason dogs get their feet involved in their number two ritual? Scent spreading. While lifting a leg during urination obviously spreads the scent by extending the area covered by pee, leg lifting during defecation could be more about the post-poop impact. Dogs' feet have scent glands of their own and the scent left by their feet can actually be more pungent and longer-lasting than the scent left by pee or poop. When your dog lowers his foot back to the ground, he could be working to stamp out a little of that scent to leave behind (this is also the driving motivation for dogs who like to kick backwards at the ground after using the bathroom).
In addition to the scent glands on their feet, dogs' anal glands obviously play a big role in spreading scent-related intel when a dog goes out for a potty break. It's possible that, by lifting a leg while pooping, dogs are helping to express their anal glands to spread their scent for the dogs that will pass that spot after them.
Do female dogs lift their legs while pooping?
Leg lifting during bathroom breaks is not limited to male pups. Some female dogs lift their legs to pee—although it is less common and, as a general rule, female dogs who lift their legs don't lift them as high as their male counterparts. In female dogs, leg-lifting during urination seems to be correlated to size, with small and medium-sized dogs engaging in the behavior more frequently than larger lady dogs.
While there's much less information about poop-related leg-lifting out there in general, there's no reason to assume this is a purely (or even primarily) male behavior.
Is it a problem if my dog lifts his leg while pooping?
Here's the good news: Unless this behavior comes with signs of distress (whining, whimpering, bloody stool, etc.), there's no reason to worry about your dog lifting their leg to go number two. Yes, it's a little weird and no, not a lot of people are out there openly talking about this phenomenon, but rest assured that there is plenty of anecdotal evidence out on the great wide web to suggest that your dog is not alone if they lift their leg to poop.
Dogs do a lot of wonderfully weird things and, if lifting a leg while pooping is on the list of quirky behaviors your dog exhibits, know that, for the most part, it's just that: a quirky behavior.