How to Train Your Dog to Lift His Leg to Pee

How to Train Your Dog to Lift His Leg to Pee
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon2-4 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

So, your male pup squats or simply stands when he pees rather than lifting his leg. While most male dogs tend to lift their leg instinctively, there are some that simply never seem to acquire this seemingly natural action. Bear in mind that in the wild, lifting a leg to pee has a specific purpose to a male dog--it allows him to pee on vertical surfaces to mark his territory with his own unique scent.

If you or a neighbor has a male dog that yours can watch when he pees, it is possible he may simply imitate what he sees in a "monkey see – monkey do" fashion. The good news is that with a little hard work and effort, you can train your dog to lift his leg when he pees. One thing to consider, if you have your pup neutered the instinct to lift his leg when he pees may be diminished. 

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Defining Tasks

The reality is that not all male dogs lift their legs to pee, and for most, there's no real need to. But, if you want your pup to learn how to do so, it is a behavior that can be taught with plenty of time and patience. There are only a few ways to train your dog to behave this way, each of which is likely to take a few weeks to accomplish based on your pup's desire to learn and your dedication to training him. The most important thing to remember is that this is going to take some time and you need to be patient. 

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Getting Started

You can start training your dog to lift his leg to pee at any age, but the earlier you start the less time it is likely to take because you are teaching him what should be an instinctive behavior. No matter which training method you decide to use, you will need a few things:

  • Treats: You need an ample supply for this training.
  • A quiet place: Training always goes better without distractions.
  • A friend with a male dog:  Sometimes you need another male dog for yours to copycat.

The rest is up to you; you need plenty of time and patience if you want this training to be successful. 

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The Endless Treat Method

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1

Stock up

Stock up on a goodly supply of your pup's favorite treats. You will need plenty of them for this method, but it works very well.

2

Come, stand

Call your dog to come to you and have him stand in front of you. Give him plenty of time to relax and become calm before moving on.

3

Treats in hand

In one hand, place a large supply of your pup's favorite snacks and hold them in front of his nose. Let him smell them but not have any yet.

4

Leg lifts

With one hand, lift one hind leg and start feeding him the treats. Keep feeding them to him slowly and allow him to get used to his leg being in the lifted position. You will know when this happens because he will start to relax.

5

Repeat with command

Repeat the above until he associates the action with the treats and then introduce a command word along with the action. Repeat this until he will lift his leg to get the treat on command. Then move outside and continue the training.

6

When he pees

Now put this training to work the next time your pup goes out to pee. As soon as you see him preparing to pee, give him the command to lift his leg. If he does, reward him with treats. You may have to do this for a few weeks before he will simply lift his leg each time he pees without the need for a command. Be patient and it will happen.

The Copycat Method

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1

A Helping friend

Find a friend or family member with a male dog who already knows how to lift his leg and pee. He should also be one that your dog is okay around.

2

Schedule training sessions

Schedule daily training sessions where both of you can be there, plan for daily training for at least a week or maybe longer.

3

Let them play together

During the training sessions, let the two dogs play together and be sure there is plenty of water. The idea here is for your pup to observe the other dog lifting his leg when he pees.

4

Observe the action

Keep a close eye on your pup, especially when he pees. It may take several training sessions before he starts to mimic the action, but when he does be sure to immediately praise him and give him a treat.

5

Keep an eye on him on his own

You need to keep an eye on him when he is on his own and try to catch him when starts to lift his leg to pee. This is the time to give him heavy praise and lots of treats to encourage the behavior. Be patient, this is going to take some time, but the end result will be that he will eventually learn to lift his leg every time he pees.

The Every Time Method

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A bag of treats

Grab a bag of your pup's favorite treats, you will need them to reward him every time he even looks like he might lift his leg.

2

A quiet place to work

Find a quiet time of the day to work with your pup. You need to take him outside and stay with him frequently.

3

Observe and reward

While your dog may not raise his leg all the way when he pees, he may try or at least look like he might. Every time he does, you need to be there with plenty of praise and treats. The idea is to reward him for it and encourage the behavior.

4

Rewards get results

You might even try gently lifting his leg as he is peeing (if he will let you) and encourage him to keep his leg up using praise and treats.

5

Rinse, repeat, and wait

From this point, the rest of the training is all about repeating the process until your pup will finally associate lifting his leg to pee with praise and a treat. In time, he will instinctively lift his leg to pee. Mission accomplished.

By PB Getz

Published: 11/10/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Bailey

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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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1 Year

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He is only cocking his legs when out walking. If he goes in the garden he just stands there and urinates over his front legs. This is causing huge family stress and he smells all the time and is marking furnature carpet, his under coat is stained even with monthly trips to groomers and washing down each time. We really need help

July 6, 2022

Bailey's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Coral, I would start by purchasing a potty encouraging spray and spraying it on something you want pup to lift his leg against outside, like a tree, each time you are about to take pup potty right before you take them. Pup is lifting it on walks because he smells the other dogs' urine and is competing with them. You want to spray something higher up but still low enough for pup to smell, to give pup a target so they have to lift their leg to aim for it. If pup does well with other dogs, I would see if there are some friendly neutered dogs you know that you could go on walks, hikes, or have calm play dates with. Often a male dog this age is most motivated to learn to lift his leg when he gets around other males doing so. Make sure these interactions are safe and not super rough though. One on one play dates and walks together tend to be good ways to start if pup isn't reactive or aggressive toward other dogs. While in the home, I would have pup wear a belly band and be tethered to you with a hands free leash when not crated. Crate when you leave and overnight, so you can enforce no peeing inside. If pup starts to mark in the home, with pup tethered nearby to you, clap your hands three times to surprise pup (but not hit or yell), then quickly rush pup outside to offer the chance to go potty. Whenever you take pup outside and they go potty there, praise and offer a treat, so pup understands that peeing outside - especially if they lift their leg, is good, and it's just the peeing inside you don't want; instead of pup thinking you are clapping because they are going potty in front of you if you don't give the treats for pottying outside also. You might want to consider braiding or trimming the fur pup is peeing on to get it out of the way while pup is still learning how to do this better. This makes pup easier to clean but also makes pup feel is when they pee on themselves a bit more to help them realize. Be aware that the fur may grow back differently than it currently is. If that's a concern I would speak to a groomer about that and have them do it, or else, do something like braiding it out of the way instead. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

July 6, 2022

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Kobe

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pitbull

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4 Months

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We want to start training our puppy to go outside to use the bathroom. But first we want him to start using the pads indoors for when we’re not home so he doesn’t have to hold it. I. The beginning of his training he would use the bathroom on the pad but now he doesn’t. He just sits on the floor and pees all over his paws or poops on himself. How do I train him to use the pad?

Jan. 18, 2021

Kobe's Owner

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Alisha Smith - Alisha S., Dog Trainer

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257 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I am going to give you some training information on how to work with your dog to use a potty pad. Choose Your Spot Pick a space in your house where you want your dog to go. Obviously, you’ll want this spot to be a low-traffic area. Make sure this spot is easily accessible to your dog, and make sure the floor surface is linoleum or tile, as opposed to carpet. If your dog “misses,” it will be easier to clean up. If the only spot you can put the pee pad is a carpet, you might consider getting a small tarp to put underneath the puppy pee pad to guard against spillage. Choose a spot that is outside of your “smell zone.” An important tip to remember is to make sure not to let your dog decide the spot he likes. Not only might he pick an area you won’t like, but he’ll learn that he is in charge – not you – which can cause a host of problems down the line. Monitor Your Dog When you are potty training your dog, full-time monitoring is an absolute necessity. It’s impossible to correct bad behaviors if you don’t see them happen. Dogs have very short memories. It is important to catch your dog in the act. If your dog goes on the floor, and you try to correct him hours after the fact, he will be confused and upset, not knowing what he did wrong. This can hinder training and your relationship with your dog. Puppies, in particular, must be watched constantly. They have less control over their bowels and will go when they have to go. If you miss these moments, you lose precious training opportunities. Of course, it’s nearly impossible to be with your dog 24 hours a day, but try to spend more time at home during the weeks you are potty training – it will pay off in the long run. Learn Your Dog’s Schedule Dogs, for the most part, are predictable. They will go to the bathroom at predictable times. You should be able to learn when your dog has to go based on timing as much as on his signals. Take some time to study your dog’s bathroom habits. You’ll learn the amount of time after he eats or drinks that he has to go, and you’ll get in rhythm with his daily bathroom schedule. This will help you reduce accidents and speed up the potty training process. Studying your dog’s habits can also help you identify his bathroom “triggers” – like having to go after a certain amount of playtime. Once you learn your dog’s schedule, use it to your advantage in potty training. Bring him to the pee pad a few minutes before he normally goes, and encourage him. This will help him get used to going in the right spot, and help you establish repetition in your training. Choose a Command Word Dogs have keen senses – they respond to sight, smell, and sound. When you begin pee pad training, choose a command word and use it every time you take your dog to the pad. Just about any word will work. The tone of your voice is more important than the actual word. Try phrases like “go on” or “go potty” in a slightly elevated, encouraging tone. Make sure to repeat this same command, in the same tone, every time you take your dog to the pee pad. Avoid Punishment When your dog has an accident, it’s just that – an accident. When you punish your dog during potty training, he will become confused and scared. He doesn’t know what he’s done wrong, and can’t understand why the person he loves most is mad at him. Most importantly, it will not help his potty training. Positive Reinforcement Both human and dog behavior is largely based on incentives. Dogs’ incentives are very simple – they want to eat when they are hungry, play when they are excited, and sleep when they are tired. But the most important thing your dog wants in life is to please you. Use this to your advantage. Whenever your dog goes on his potty training pad, shower him with lots of praise. If he sees that he gets praise for doing his business on the pad, he will be incentivized to keep going on the pad – and he’ll be excited to do it! Potty training – whether it’s a pee pad or going outside – will take time, but if you do it right, can take less time. Many dogs are potty trained in less than two weeks. Just remember that you and your dog are partners. Do everything you can to help him learn the proper etiquette, and you will enjoy a long, quality relationship together. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thank you for writing in.

Jan. 19, 2021


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