If you have bought or adopted a male puppy, you are probably keen to monitor their progress and development, and look out for the numerous “firsts” that occur during your pup’s early weeks and months with you as they transition from a puppy into a fully grown adult dog.
While most adult male dogs cock their legs to pee, this is an adaptive and sometimes learned behaviour, and not one that puppies display from birth-and very young puppies don’t have either the urge nor the stability on their paws to cock their legs to pee!
If you are wondering when your male pup might start cocking their leg to pee, or are concerned that your pup is of an age when they should be cocking their leg but aren’t doing this, in this article, we will look at when and why your male puppy will start lifting their leg to pee, as well as why they might not be doing so at all!
The simple reason for why male dogs cock their leg to pee is because doing so - peeing on a vertical surface - distributes the scent of their urine over a larger area than if they simply squat to pass water. This is a form of scent marking that most male dogs display, and such behaviour is often related to sexual urges in unneutered male dogs and younger dogs who have reached sexual maturity prior to neutering.
Scent marking in this way serves as an indicator to other male dogs that your dog is around, and to female dogs that they are looking for a mate. However, even neutered male dogs commonly lift their legs to pee as well, and will often do this multiple times when out on walks in order to cover as much ground as possible. This is a form of territorial marking-your dog will likely lift their leg and pee on things around the borders of their garden to warn other dogs that this territory is taken, and they will do the same when out on walks too.
Dogs will also pick up on the scent cues from other dogs that have walked along the same path and scent marked there, and they will often deliberately target spots where other dogs have peed to mark over the top of them.
How pups learn about cocking their legs can help to explain when they will start doing it themselves-and they may learn from observation of other dogs, or simply begin to do so intuitively as they get older and are keener to scent mark and declare their territory, lifting their legs to distribute the scent of their pee over a greater area.
For most pups, lifting a leg happens as a result of a combination of their development triggering more territorial urges in them, finding areas where other dogs have urinated and aiming to cover the scent with their own and so, lifting their legs to pee higher, and from observing other male dogs lifting their legs.
Male pups that live with another adult male dog that cocks their leg, or that spend a lot of time with another male dog that does this (or at a park where lots of other male dogs play) may well begin cocking their leg earlier than they might have done otherwise, because dogs learn huge amounts through observation, and are great mimics!
Male pups are unlikely to start cocking their legs until they reach sexual maturity, as they will have no real urge to scent mark prior to this point. When your pup starts approaching the age at which they begin to manifest sexual behaviour and taking an interest in the ladies, they are more likely to instinctively start to scent mark and so, lift their leg, and take more of an interest in observing other dogs doing so.
The age at which any given dog reaches sexual maturity can be variable - an average is between six to nine months of age, but larger breeds like the Rottweiler often develop a little more slowly, so it could be even later.
Some male pups don’t begin lifting their leg until well after they reach their first birthday -and some dogs will simply never do it! This is absolutely no problem and doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with your dog - unless of course they appear to be trying to lift a leg but change their minds, which can indicate balance issues, discomfort or pain, and so, should be checked out by your vet.
Dogs that are neutered before they reach sexual maturity or very soon afterwards may not cock their legs unless they learn this by observation, as their urges will be checked before they have fully developed.
Even dogs that usually cock their legs may squat to pee on occasion too, if they are desperate to go or when they need to pee a lot, such as the first time they are let out in the morning.