Why Do Some Male Dogs Squat to Pee?

Every day across America, the bathroom battle of the sexes goes on. Why can't the males in the house remember to put the seat down? Do they know the female members of their family might fall into the toilet if they have to pee and aren't paying attention to the seat position? We're all familiar with the urinary habits of men and women, but how about the positions taken by male and female dogs when nature calls?

Hungarian vizsla dog sitting at glass door looking inside
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We expect our male dogs to lift a leg when urinating, and the females to squat when they have to pee. Why, then, do some male dogs prefer to squat to pee? You can't ask your dog about his preferences, but knowing the reasons why a male dog may not pee conventionally also gives you a heads up if squatting indicates a problem rather than a preference.

Urinating and marking

Dogs do more than just relieve themselves when they urinate. They are also marking territory, and that instinct is stronger in intact male dogs than neutered ones. As PetMD notes, male puppies and adolescent dogs are more likely to squat than adult male canines. A study on intact beagles conducted in the 1970s showed males started leg lifting at about age 38 weeks. Marking dogs like to urinate on a high surface such as a tree because the urine flows downward and marks a larger area.

A puppy whose testicles have not dropped or a young male who has already been neutered don't have the desire to mark that drives older, intact males. The 1970s study found that intact female beagles, who do want to mark, often used a "handstand" when peeing. The dog would back up to a vertical surface, lift both rear legs off the ground and let loose. Never underestimate a female beagle — they know such actions mark more territory.

Neutering and squatting

Dog looking out of window
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Leg lifting in male dogs derives primarily from their hormones. Dogs with higher testosterone levels at birth are more likely to lift their legs than those with lower levels. Also, dogs neutered before reaching sexual maturity are less likely to lift their legs. Small dogs, neutered or not, are more likely to lift their legs than medium-to-large-sized animals.

Exactly why little dogs are more likely to leg lift than squat isn't known, but it's possible it has to do with marking and communication. Small dogs know they are vulnerable when bigger dogs are around, even if some of them don't act that way. Marking allows them to communicate without having to interact with another dog.

Submissive dogs

There's a dominant aspect to leg lifting. If your male dog is shy, sweet, and submissive by nature, he's more likely to squat and less likely to lift. A submissive dog isn't that interested in marking territory and challenging any dogs that move in on his "domain," according to PetPlace. There's also the fact that some dogs feel more comfortable peeing in this position.

Stressful situations

Male dogs in stressful situations, such as placement in a shelter or boarding kennel, may revert to puppyhood and squat during urination. This behavior occurs more at the beginning of the stay in a strange place, and within a few days the dog may have adjusted and returned to leg lifting to relieve himself.

Changing positions

If your male dog used to lift his leg to pee but has begun to squat, that may indicate a health problem. He may no longer lift his leg because he is in pain, whether it is due to arthritis or another issue. A trip to the vet and a thorough examination is necessary. If your dog receives medication for his discomfort, it's possible he'll return to leg lifting.