Have you ever wondered why some dogs lift their hind legs before going to the bathroom? The science behind the gesture suggests it’s not only a matter of relieving their bladders. It serves to communicate something to other dogs, too.
According to a study cited by Mental Floss, dogs are fully capable of relieving themselves through the ordinary squat method. The method of lifting their hind legs is exclusively reserved for instances in which they want to “mark” their territory or signal their presence to other dogs.
There are actually two layers to this method of communication. The first layer pertains to the dog’s urine, which contains their pheromones. Pheromones are chemical substances that are meant to affect the behavior of another individual of the same species. By leaving traces of their urine somewhere, dogs pass on sensory information about themselves that’s easy for other dogs to find.
The second layer pertains to the act of leg lifting itself. Dogs are said to lift their hind legs in a “racehorse” stance because that stance makes it easier for them to direct their pee onto a vertical surface. That allows their scent to linger for longer than it would on a flat soil surface. In the case of small dogs, the upward spray of urine also acts as a bluff; it creates the impression that a bigger and stronger dog was in the area.
Male dogs often practice this behavior when they reach puberty. Oftentimes, such behavior is a way for them to assert themselves. The leg lift isn’t exclusive to males, however, as some female dogs also do this when they’re in heat and want to communicate their mating potential to the opposite sex. Most dogs cease this behavior after being neutered or spayed, although it may persist for other reasons.
Understanding Your Dog’s Marking Behaviors
Marking is a normal and instinctive behavior among dogs, especially those who haven’t been spayed or neutered yet. It helps to understand why dogs feel the urge to mark and to identify other factors that may be at work in your dog’s urination habits.
Excessive marking may be a sign of an underlying medical issue that needs to be treated or a behavioral issue that is best addressed through dog training. For the latter, consider purchasing training gear like custom dog collars, a custom dog harness, a dog leash of appropriate length, and dog treats. Use these to establish a training regimen that will help your dog learn where they can safely mark their territory and where they should avoid peeing.
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