If you own a dog, you have plenty of time to think about its grooming habits. This is because you are usually the person who just stands idly by while she goes about her business.
With all this thinking time, you might have wondered why dogs often lift their legs to urinate even though it is not anatomically necessary. (Dogs can squat and pee with no problem.) So why are they doing it? Why do dogs lift their paws to pee?
The answer has a lot to do with how dogs communicate with each other. You probably (correctly) assume that dogs view urination as a way to ‘mark’ their territory. This is true, but it’s the way they do the tagging that is important. By lifting one leg, a dog can better direct a stream of urine to a vertical surface where the odor will persist. If a dog squats or extends its hind legs backward (called the “racehorse position”), the urine will be directed to the ground and absorbed into the ground. It’s the dog equivalent of a dropped call.
Small dogs find the leg lift especially helpful. Spraying upwards indicates that they are bigger than they actually are. It’s a kind of canine bluff to help ward off large dogs who might perceive their territory as being occupied by an easy target.
Many male dogs start out in the racehorse position and then move on to a leg lift once they hit puberty. Nor is it exclusively the domain of men. female dogs will mark territory, although they can use a “squat-raise” hybrid that does not spray urine as high.
Dog urine is full of information for other dogs, conveying details about health, gender, and even stress levels, so it’s important that they get it right.
[h/t Pet Place]