What Does a Dog’s Peeing Position Mean?

By Jennifer Coates, DVM

An old study from the 1970s identified 12 positions that 60 intact male and 53 intact female adult beagles used to pee:

  • Stand: Standing normally
  • Lean: The body is leaning forward and the hind legs are extended to the back.
  • Flex: The hind legs are partially flexed so the rear end is slightly lowered. The hind feet usually remain under the body (no straddle).
  • Squat: The hind legs are straddled and sharply bent to bring the hind end close to the ground. The back is kept straight.
  • Handstand: Both hind feet are lifted off the ground. They may be unsupported or placed against a vertical surface.
  • Arch: The hind legs are usually spread and bent to bring the hind end close to the ground. The back is rounded, and the tail is lifted away from the ground.
  • Raise: One hind leg is bent and raised off the ground but the leg is kept relatively low.
  • Elevate: One hind leg is bent and raised off the ground. The foot and leg is held high.
  • Lean-Raise: A combination of the Lean and Raise postures.
  • Flex-Raise: A combination of the Flex and Raise postures.
  • Squat-Raise: A combination of the Squat and Raise postures.
  • Arch-Raise: A combination of the Arch and Raise postures.

The researchers found that females squatted most of the time but that the squat-raise was also quite popular. Females used most of the other positions too, albeit on a limited basis. Male dogs, on the other hand, had a more restricted repertoire. All of them demonstrated the elevate posture and some used the raised position, but the squat-raise and lean-raise only occurred rarely and the other positions weren’t noted at all. Keep in mind, however, that all the male dogs in this study were mature and intact.

 

What Does a Dog’s Peeing Position Mean?

 

Now that all the positions that a dog is likely to take to urinate have been identified, the question “Why?” has to be asked. What does it mean when a dog picks a particular posture at a particular time?

It’s important to remember that urination serves two purposes for dogs—elimination and marking. Both male and female dogs scent mark, but the behavior is more pervasive in males. Dogs who are marking preferentially urinate on vertical surfaces. If they urinate high up on that surface, the urine can flow downward covering a greater area, which leaves a stronger message to anyone who subsequently passes by. Peeing up high may even make a dog seem bigger than he actually is. This is probably why the elevate posture is so popular among males.

Interestingly, leg-raising is a behavior that only develops in male dogs as they mature. The authors of the study on beagles note that the lean posture, which deposits urine directly on the ground, “is typically used by male puppies and juveniles.”

But what about females? That’s where the handstand posture comes in. There’s no better way for a female dog to urinate at least as high as and maybe even higher than a similarly sized male can.

Research supports this hypothesis in female dogs. A paper published in 2004 looked at the urinary behaviors of six spayed and six intact female Jack Russell Terriers while they were being walked close to and further away from their “home area.” The scientists found that when away from their home area, these dogs were more likely to urinate frequently and aim their urine at objects in comparison to when they were walked close to home. The authors concluded “urination in female dogs does not function solely in elimination, but that it also has a significant role in scent marking…”

So, when dogs take a position that results in their urine hitting an object above the ground’s surface, chances are they are doing so to maximize the value of the scent they are leaving behind.

It’s important to note how many peeing positions are perfectly normal for both male and female dogs. Which ones they use depends on many factors including the dog’s location, age, sex, and possibly their reproductive status. The only time to be concerned is when a dog that usually pees in one position switches to another. This could be a sign of pain or another medical problem that needs to be addressed.

Problem Urination in Dogs

By Dr. Becker

If when you arrive home your excited, delighted dog leaves a little puddle of pee at your feet (or even on your feet), it could be your furry family member is dealing with a submissive or excitement urination problem.

It’s important to understand your piddling pooch has very little control over the situation, so it’s pointless, unkind and confusing to punish her for the behavior.

The first thing to do is make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out a physical cause for her random peeing. Urinary incontinence is a disorder with similar symptoms but very different causes.

These can include a birth defect, central nervous system trauma, damage to the pudendal nerve, bladder stones or a urethral obstruction, age or hormone-related incontinence, or a disease of the kidneys, adrenal glands, or the bladder (including infection).

Many causes of urinary incontinence are serious and require medical intervention, so it’s essential to rule all those things out before deciding your dog’s dribbling problem is behavioral in nature.

Once your veterinarian gives your pet a clean bill of health, the next step is to determine the trigger for his inappropriate urination.

Excitement Urination

Generally speaking, if your dog doesn’t pee when you look him in the eye, bend over him, or greet him face-to-face – in other words, when you’re in what canines consider a dominant position – he’s an excited rather than a submissive dribbler.

His triggers are probably playtime and when family members come home or guests drop by. If he’s still a puppy, he’ll quite likely outgrow the problem if addressed correctly, so the challenge is to avoid as many triggers as possible.

Managing Excitement Triggers

Take playtime outdoors whenever possible, and when it isn’t possible, make sure your dog has had a chance to relieve himself before engaging in play. Prepare an area of your floor with newspaper or puppy pads before play begins.

This should help keep accidents to a minimum, but when he has one (and he will), don’t discipline or punish him.

The best approach is to simply stop the action, grab some treats, and take him outside to his potty spot (or to his puppy pad). Give him lavish praise and treats the second he pees where he should. Once that’s done, clean the floor without making a fuss.

If your dog tends to leak when you come home, make sure to keep greetings on your end very low key. Move around quietly and speak in a calm, soothing tone.

If that doesn’t alleviate the leaking, try ignoring him when you first arrive home to help him learn to calm down on his own. Once he’s relaxed and if he hasn’t peed, offer him praise and treats.

Boosting a Submissive Dog’s Self-Confidence

Submissive peeing is most often seen in timid, nervous, shy dogs. Common triggers for these dogs include being greeted or approached by someone, or being yelled at or disciplined. Many pets with this problem have a history of receiving harsh punishment for peeing accidents.

If your dog has a submissive urination problem, it’s extremely important to avoid scolding or punishing her when she has an accident. This will only increase her anxiety and make peeing mistakes more likely.

A much better approach is to give your dog plenty of affirmative, high quality attention to build her confidence. Use positive reinforcement behavior training to teach her basic commands like sit, stay, come, and drop it, as well as simple tricks. Lavish her with praise each time she does what you ask.

The goal is to give your dog tons of opportunities to succeed and earn praise, while avoiding situations that trigger submissive peeing.

How to Approach a Submissive Dog

It’s also important to approach a submissive dog using non-dominant body language, which means you should:

·     Avoid direct eye contact

·     Approach from the side vs. head-on

·     Lower yourself to your dog’s level

·     Scratch her under the chin vs. the top of the head

When your shy dog has an accident (and she will), as I mentioned earlier, it’s extremely important not to raise your voice or punish her. Instead, handle the situation as I outlined above for dogs with excitement peeing.

Calmly get a few treats and take your pup outside to her potty spot (or to her puppy pad). Praise her like crazy and offer treats the second she pees where she should.

If she tends to dribble when you arrive home, make sure to keep greetings low key. You can also try ignoring her when you first come through the door to help her learn to self-soothe. Once she’s calm and as long as she hasn’t peed, give her some loving attention and treats.

Additional Suggestions

Something else to consider is a wrap (belly band) for male dogs or bloomers (I call them hot pants) if your dog is female.

 

You can put it on before indoor playtime or when you’re expecting guests. It’s important to remove it once the situational trigger has passed, since you never want to leave urine against your dog’s skin.

A wrap or bloomers will not only save your floor, it may also help gently remind your pup that if he pees, he won’t be able to walk away from it. Canines are naturally disinclined to soil themselves. I have clients whose dogs have been completely cured of excited or submissive urination after a few weeks or months of wearing a wrap.

It’s also important with a leaky dog to continue to offer lots of praise and treats whenever he pees in his outdoor potty spot and on walks.