What’s the Deal With... Dogs Who Will Only Squat to Pee?

Dog Squatting
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Squatting and leg lifting are acceptable behaviors in dogs of both sexes. You heard right: Males may squat to relieve themselves, and females may choose to lift a leg.

Studies suggest that regardless of whether or not a canine is spayed or neutered, some dogs will choose to only squat when it's time to do their business.

But why?

The Story Behind Squatting

Most of the time, squatting to urinate is normal — and not a sign of a health problem.

“I wouldn’t worry unless it’s a change,” says board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Sueda, DVM, of the VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital. "Say, if a male dog who has always lifted his leg suddenly stops, and starts squatting."

No one knows for sure how or why leg lifting got, ahem, kick-started. There are only theories about urination styles, including one that surmises that males lift their back legs to better mark territory, as well as to spray higher and appear bigger to other pups who sniff their urine. Others speculate that leg lifting evolved as a way for dogs to simply avoid urinating on themselves.

When Squatting Should Be Taken Seriously

A new squatting behavior may be a sign of a medical issue, including arthritis, orthopedic problems and even a hormonal or neurologic condition.

Squatting may also be a symptom of urinary incontinence, Dr. Sueda adds. “The dog may not realize that he is urinating and only squats in reaction to a stream of urine coming out,” she says.

If you do notice a change, visit your veterinarian. A physical exam and bloodwork may reveal the root cause of the problem.

But if it’s not a new behavior, don’t sweat the squat. Unless the pooch shows signs of pain or discomfort, he’s probably doing his business as usual.


For answers to other curious questions about animals, check out our other "What's the Deal With . . ." stories.

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