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Battle of the Sexes: Male vs. Female Dogs

Male dogs offer some unique challenges that the unwary should know about.

Just one vet’s observation: Male dogs tend to act first and think later. By: zingpix

You’ve set your heart on a puppy and decided on the breed. You’ve always had female dogs before, but the breeder has only male puppies available. What do you do?

You may wait for another litter and keep your fingers crossed for a girl, or perhaps you’re tempted anyway and decide to go with a boy.

When our adorable puggle came into our lives, we viewed the puppies with the intention of getting a boy, but the husband and my oldest child fell in love with a girl. This tiny puppy with a wrinkly face made a connection that was worth more than sticking with a set gender — so we came home with a girl.

Girls vs. Boys

Fast-forward 5 months later, and my general — and sweeping — observation is that female dogs are more “cerebral” than males.

They tend to think things through and work out cause and effect — at least when it comes to food. In my experience, male dogs tend to act first and think, ahem, later.

This observation set me thinking about other differences between males and females. Let’s take a look at the intimate quirks that people don’t generally discuss that can come as a surprise to the newbie dog caretaker.

Even after years of practicing the leg lift, some older male dogs may not be able to pee without splashing themselves. By: abbynormy

Boys and Their “Habits”

The most obvious difference between male and females is how they eliminate. While girls squat to urinate, boys classically cock a leg. However, some boys are better at this than others.

Lifting a Leg

A young male dog may squat before he learns to lift a leg.

This can result in his male anatomy squirting urine over the back of his front paws, meaning he needs a wash each time he goes. Some adult dogs still manage to squirt themselves despite being on 3 legs.

Of course, cocking a leg also means that male dogs pee higher, so it dribbles down things — which can lead to unsightly stains if he marks his territory in the house. On the one hand, this is better for your lawn, since a male is less likely to pass a concentrated puddle on the grass, which kills it.

However, the upside of cocking a leg is during potty training. Male dogs have a habit of sniffing first, maneuvering alongside their chosen object and then lifting the leg. This gives a vigilant person time to intervene and take the dog outside to the favored toilet spot.


Contrast this with girls, who squat.

In a small female puppy, sitting down can easily be mistaken for urinating, which sometimes results in chastisement when the innocent pup didn’t do anything wrong.

In addition, the adult female dog can sometime attract disapproving glances when she urinates on a walk. Passers-by may incorrectly assume she has squatted to move her bowel and scowl because you didn’t pick anything up.

This dog lover discusses the finer points of deciding whether one should get a male or female mini Aussie shepherd:

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“Winky”-Related Issues in Male Dogs

For those who previously had female dogs and are used to a nice bare tummy to tickle, a male dog rolling over to present you with a “winky” can be rather an eye-opener.

In addition, male dogs are rather fond of washing “downstairs” in noisy slurps. Although some people argue that this is just the dog keeping himself clean, it’s amazing how the need to wash decreases after neutering.

Another issue to be aware of is “winky juice” (sorry). I’ve had more than one red-faced person rush a male dog in as an urgent case because of a sticky discharge from the dog’s penis.

A white- or cream-colored penile discharge is normal, so don’t worry about it. If, however, that discharge is yellow-green, this indicates an infection. Treat this at home by bathing the offending area with weakly salted water.

Male Dogs’ Erections

Things can get worse for the unwitting because male dogs often like to display their “lipstick” (I swear, I’m not making these terms up — this is just another common euphemism).

Again, this is just a sign of excitement and nothing to worry about — things pop back into place once the dog calms down.

Rarely, however, the erect penis can become so engorged it gets stuck outside the sheath. This can become a medical emergency if circulation gets cut off. If you’re feeling brave, apply Vaseline, place an ice pack over the offending area and try to slide the sheath back over the top. If this doesn’t work within a few minutes, contact your vet.

Perhaps a girl dog was a good decision after all…


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS. It was last reviewed Oct. 11, 2018.