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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1

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.

Written by PB Getz

Veterinary reviewed by:

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Chance

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German Shepherd

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2.5

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Question

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My dog and his brother have never lifted their legs since we got them at 4 months old. It has never affected their lives in any way. What reason would one have to train this behavior other than the dog getting pee on itself?

Sept. 21, 2023

Chance's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Honestly, there generally isn't a reason why you need a male dog to learn this unless they are getting pee on themselves or it bothers the owner because it doesn't seem "masculine" that they don't lift their leg - which is a factor for some people. If your dog isn't soiling themselves and it doesn't bother you, you don't have to teach this. Often a male dog will soil itself when it first gets around other leg lifting males and begins to attempt to leg lift but lacks the coordination to aim well. Teaching leg lifting can simply help that male dog get past the awkward learning phase faster by developing that balance more quickly. If you anticipate that your male dogs will be getting around a lot of other leg lifting males in the future, there is a good chance you might run into this - since it's not usually until a male gets around other males leg lifting that they begin to attempt it themselves. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Oct. 9, 2023

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Sully

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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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One Year

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My dog is almost a year old and still doesn’t lift his leg up to pee. He pees all over his front paws and we constantly have to wash them. Is he ever going to lift his leg up to pee? Or is it too late to train him?

July 1, 2023

Sully's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, So most young males actually learn this from being around other males. I would spend some time at the part letting him watch other males leg lift onto trees and things, letting him sniff where they went potty, so he is encouraged to try to mark over where they went - thus having to lift his leg to reach it, and by letting him play with another small and friendly male who leg lifts regularly, if he is also social, so that he will have a role model for this to motivate him. The above will often be enough to motivate a young dog to learn over the next six months, and gain balance to be able to do it through some awkward trial and error; however, you can also help facilitate him learning balance by teaching a leg lifting trick by watching youtube videos on that. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

July 10, 2023


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