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Ask A Vet: Do Dogs Know Their Gender? (Updated 2023)

Do Dogs Know Their Gender

Have you seen…

A male pooch peeing like a ‘girl’?


A female Fido mounting on a male dog?

Well, these odd situations can make you puzzled.

And left with questions like…

“Are dogs aware of their gender?

And how do they tell if other Fido’s girl or boy?”

Keep reading to discover:

  • Whether dogs know their gender or not.
  • 3 things canines do to tell other dogs’ gender.
  • How a dog’s peeing position says about their sex.
  • 3 easy ways to find out if your dog knows their gender.
  • And a lot more…

Do dogs know their gender?

Dogs don’t know their gender. But they’re aware of their sex by smell and instinct. Each Fido has a distinct odor, even female dogs in heat smell different. So it helps canines identify males from females. Also, dogs know their sex instinctively. And it’s due to the surge of hormones during puberty.

How to find out if your dog knows their gender

Okay. Before we dive into the topic…

Let me clear some things first.

Sex and gender are different

People often use these words interchangeably.

But, you can decide sex at birth.

On the other hand…

Gender is how an individual identifies.

So it might not always correspond to their biological sex. 

For example, a female at birth may like girls. While a male can also fancy boys.

Now, when we talk about dogs…

There’s no doubt that canines know their sex. 

But, they aren’t aware of ‘genders.’


Dogs don’t identify another Fido by social norms.

They recognize a pooch as a girl or a boy by their organs and distinct scent.

And this is where a dog ‘sorts‘ males from females.

So how will you know if your Fido is aware of their sex?

#1: By how your dog pees

Observe How They Pee To Find Out If Your Dog Knows Their Gender

The easiest way to determine if your Fido knows their sex is to observe how they urinate.


It’s a common belief that male dogs lift their leg while peeing. While female canines always squat.

“Why do they do that?”

Vets say lifting one leg when peeing is ‘urine marking.’

“What is it?”

Based on experts, dogs do this to leave their scent on something they want to claim.

And usually, male dogs are more prone to ‘urine mark’ than females.


Urine marking in males can be due to sex hormones.

Young male Fidos pee with their rear legs on the ground.

But as they mature sexually, the surge of hormones makes them more territorial.

Hence, the ‘scent marking.’

Also, male dogs will pee this way when they smell a female Fido in heat.

They do it to mask the scent of the female dog. And it’s to prevent other male Fidos from finding it.


Although much of the statement above is true…

Female dogs may also lift their leg while peeing

“Really? Why’s that?”

A study confirmed that female Fidos mostly squat while taking a leak.


Researchers also found that female dogs may ‘urine mark’ too.

60.8% of spayed and 56.7% of intact female dogs did this.

Plus, they can also scratch the ground after peeing like male Fidos to spread their scent more.

But here’s the thing.

The study says that female Fidos usually do this outside their homes.

So if you want to observe your pooch…

Do it inside than outdoors. This is to prevent your dog from being too territorial and peeing unusually.

So, we’ve learned that male Fidos tend to lift their leg when peeing. While females usually squat.

However, here’s another situation.

If you observe that your Fido suddenly changed their peeing position…

There might be a medical condition behind it. And it’s also related to a dog’s sex.

Have you heard of ‘hermaphrodite’ dogs?

Being a ‘hermaphrodite’ means having a female and male sex organ.

And this can also happen to our furry pals.

However, it’s a rare case like Molly’s story.

Molly’s a Jack Russell Terrier. And her parents adopted her, thinking she was a female due to the appearance of her genitalia.

But one day, Molly’s parents noticed she squats while peeing inside the house.

However, she oddly lifts her leg when she does it outdoors.

Now, is this territorial behavior?

It could be.

But sometimes, female Fidos can do it if something’s wrong with their sex organ.

So Molly’s parents took her to the vet. 

And there, they knew about her actual condition.

Molly has underdeveloped male testicles.

Also, her genitalia appears like a female dog’s on the outside. But it’s a male Fido’s organ on the inside.

Because of this, Molly may have trouble peeing over time.

So her vet and parents agreed to surgery to correct her sex organ.

Now, what we’ve learned here?

A dog’s sex can indeed affect how they urinate. 

So their peeing position can help you determine if your Fido knows their sex.


Trivia: Did you know dogs can ‘fake’ their height using their pee? Research shows that small male Fidos raise their legs as high as they can to appear bigger to other dogs.

Some tiny canines may also handstand while peeing to look taller to Fidos, who’ll see their urine marks. Like this wise adorable pug:

You might also like: Why Is My Dog Suddenly Peeing A Lot (In The House)? 27 Tips

#2: By how your dog reproduces

Next, I might be stating the obvious here…

But what better way will you know if your Fido knows their sex through this?

Come to think of it.

If dogs aren’t aware of their sex…

They won’t be able to reproduce.

You’ll know if male dogs know this fact if they can get a female Fido pregnant.

On the other hand…

You’ll also see female dogs in heat tolerate this behavior to mate.

“But how do they do it?”

It’s all because of a dog’s sex and instinct

For instance, a male Fido will have a surge of hormones that makes him act like he’s in heat during puberty.

They may hump the air or mount on your arm. And it’s also hard to stop a male dog from sniffing a female in heat.

In contrast…

Female dogs will get the attention of male Fidos by showing their rear ends. And also, by peeing everywhere – ‘urine mark.’

So, because of the dogs’ sex hormones…

They’ll have an innate urge to mate. And dogs know how to do it instinctively.

It’s like Fidos have a built-in chip in their minds programmed for mating. And also for other natural processes like giving birth.

Continue reading: How do you know when a male dog is ready to mate?

#3: By avoiding the use of behavior as an indicator of sex


You may have seen a female Fido humping a male dog.

And thrusting is typical behavior of male canines. 

So you might wonder…

“Is she not aware of her gender?

Does the female Fido thinks she’s a male?”

Vets bet to disagree.

Dr. Landsberg told PetsWebMD that females could also display this behavior.

They can hump stuffed animals lying around or even your cat.

“But why?”

Female dogs usually do it when they’re in heat.

However, they may also hump uncontrollably due to:

  • UTI.
  • Vaginitis.
  • Excitement.

So, female Fidos know they’re not males when they do it.

And the motive for a dog’s humping isn’t always sexual.

Can dogs tell other dogs’ gender?

Dogs can tell other dogs’ gender or sex, to be exact. Every canine has a unique scent, so they use it to identify someone. As a result, dogs may also know other Fido’s sex at a distance.

So it’s similar to how someone can know if a fruit’s ripe by its smell. Or if the food you left on the table has gone bad.

“How do they do it?”

Canines can tell other dogs’ gender or sex, not due to their appearance or bark.

But because they do 3 things when they meet new Fidos.

#1: Inspecting the other dog’s ‘equipment’

Since it’s hard to tell male and female dogs apart by their appearance…

Canines do a body check first.

They’ll take a good look at the new Fido’s rear end.

And since dogs have better noses than eyes…

They’ll also do the next step.

#2: Sniffing the other Fido’s bum

This behavior may seem disrespectful.

Well, fearful dogs might not like this. So they can become aggressive.

But don’t worry.

Usually, it’s how Fidos greet each other.


Inside a dog’s anus are tiny pockets called ‘anal sacs.’

These glands link to a tube that contains a foul liquid with a fishy smell.

And dogs release this fluid every time a stool passes through their anus.


“What does the fluid do?”

The smelly liquid is like a dog’s Facebook account.

It holds information about a Fido. Say their gender, breed, and mood when a dog secreted it.

So, by sniffing the other dog’s bum, a Fido can tell their gender.

Reading tip: 7 Reasons Why Dogs Smell Other Dogs’ Poop + Potential Dangers

#3: Smelling the other dog’s pee

Like a Fido’s anal sacs secretion…

A dog’s pee is also rich in information.

Experts say that canines can tell these things by sniffing other’s urine:

  • Diet.
  • Stress. 
  • Health.
  • Hormonal status.

A study proved the latter.

Based on it, 98.6% of male dogs detected the pee sample of a female Fido in heat.

And it’s because they sniffed it longer than the urine samples of spayed female dogs and male Fidos.

So the next time you see your pooch sniffing the ground

You know they’re only ‘reading yesterday’s newspapers.’

They smell dried urine marks of other dogs to know more about them.