Can Dogs be Transgender?

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Introduction

The short answer is that the question is probably incorrect! To be transgender, you need to have a sense of your own gender and identity which is not related to your allocated sex and therefore feel you are misplaced. This type of awareness is not evident in dogs, regardless of how clever they may appear.

Having said this, there have been cases where dog owners have felt that their dogs are transgender and they have therefore undergone gender reassignment surgery. Let’s take a look at why owners may have felt this and whether there may be anything in dogs being transgender.

Signs Dogs are Transgender

A story was reported in the Guardian newspaper regarding a 3-month-old dog who was believed to be transgender. The owners felt that their female dog was displaying unusual behavior. When the dog needed to urinate, it would squat on its training mat as it had been taught to do so, but when taken outside, she would cock her leg like a male dog would do.

The dog did have a small appendage at the back of her legs but the owners didn’t think much of this until they noticed that it caused some discomfort to the dog when it tried to sit down. The owners took the dog to the vet who told the owners that the dog may be a hermaphrodite (i.e. have male and female genitalia). The condition was able to be fixed once the dog was older.

The owners reported that the dog began to behave more like a male dog (e.g. mounting soft toys and cushions). When the dog reached six months of age, she was taken back to the vet who confirmed that she was an intersex dog and actually more male genetically, a condition known as "pseudohermaphrodite". 

In this case, there is a medical reason as to why the dog was the wrong sex and therefore displaying more tendencies towards one than the other. These signs include whining, male urination stances, excessive licking, and lying down. 

Body Language

Some signs a dog may give if they are actually a different gender include:
  • Whining
  • Whimpering
  • Licking

Other Signs

A few more uncharacteristic signs to watch for are:
  • Lying Down
  • Leg Cocking
  • Appendages

History of Dogs Being Transgender

While there have been medical cases of dogs being hermaphrodites, as mentioned above, the transgender terminology and mindset are fairly recent. This is because our culture has become more self-expressive in allowing others to openly explore their sexuality and identities and therefore determine if they are transgender or not. 

This has then been translated onto dogs and other animals to identify whether they feel the same way. While there is no evidence to suggest this, conversations on dog sexuality and identity are still a hot a topic as with their humans! 

Science Behind Animals Being Transgender

In the animal world, it is known that some animals are both male and female and can change sex. Some argue that there’s a definite biological difference between males and females, which others say this is not true. Humans have areas which overlap when it comes to biological sex characteristics and this could be even more apparent in the animal kingdom - and it’s not rare for people to empathize with dogs over other humans and this is a great way of acknowledging this. 

The correct term for animals that can change their sex is sequential hermaphroditism. This has three options: females can change into males (protogyny), males can turn into females (protandry) and simultaneous sex changes can occur where an animal is male and female at the same time and can change its sex at different parts of its life. This is common amongst fish and has been reported since the 1980’s.

In addition to animals changing sex, there are animals that are both genders at the same time or have aspects of both sexes (atypical). Examples of these animals are:

The clownfish. A very popular transsexual animal, clownfish are all born male and turn into females. 

Chickens and Cardinals. Although chickens and cardinals are not able to swap sex like fish, coral and snails do, they have been known to be half female and half male. The technical term for this is bilateral gynandromorphs and it been a topic of interest since 1923, when a doctor cut open a chicken to find it had ovaries as well as testes.

In 2015, a BBC story reported that this can also happen to lobsters, snakes, parrot, butterflies, and more. They don’t just have sexual organs of both sexes, but are ‘half sliders’ - they are half female and half male throughout their whole body.

Bearded Dragons. In 2016, another study highlighted that if bearded dragon eggs were in warmer temperatures, the male eggs can change and become female, but remain male genetically. This change is not just for social reasons, they can actually go on to reproduce and lay eggs which are viable.

With so many examples in the animal kingdom of fluid genders, it stands to reason the conversation on dogs being transgender is a logical step. However, these all have one thing in common - medical signs. Transgender is the emotional awareness of being perceived as “the wrong gender” and therefore changing this to match. These examples from the animal kingdom involve physical attributes from both genders which impact behavior. 

Different Training for Male and Female Dogs

If, for whatever reason, your dog has switched genders, you could be worried about training difference between the sexes. It is argued that male dogs are easier to train and are more affectionate than female dogs, who are more protective of their puppies and their owners, and are more aggressive too. In actual fact, no sex is superior as these qualities are just observations made from owners. No study has even proven that a dog behaves a particular way due to its sex. 

How a dog is raised and trained when it was a puppy affects its behavior. Dogs can be more aggressive or affectionate down to the environment in which they have been raised in.

The behavior that a dog displays depends on its training, but the dog’s sex can affect its ability to learn. Female dogs are naturally smaller and reach maturity quicker than male dogs. This early maturity, therefore, gives female dogs an advantage when training. This has nothing to do with intelligence, more the fact that a female dog is easier to train as it's matured earlier.

It is important to note, however, that if you have a male dog that has not been neutered, it's more likely to be high spirited, independent, and dominant. Therefore, start obedience training as soon as he is ready to be trained. It is worth neutering your dog whilst it is young, as this will make his behavior better and training him will be easier as he will be calmer, less likely to roam, and less aggressive. 

Safety Tips for Dogs Being Transgender:

  • It's important to have medical grounds for performing any surgery on your dog and this should be discussed at length with your vet. Many vets will not perform gender reassignment surgery on dogs unless there is a medical need.
  • Note that behavior alone does not determine a dog's gender. Unless there are major signs that your dog is actually a different sex than they were born as, just accept your pooch as an individual.

We Want to Hear About Your Experience with Transgender Dogs!