How Do Dogs Learn To Lift Their Leg

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How Do Dogs Learn To Lift Their Leg

January 12, 2023 6 min read

Recent studies have shown that dogs learn how to walk by watching us. When they see us walking our dog, they too pick up some tricks! This is called observational learning or social teaching.

Many people believe this theory because it makes sense. We all know humans who cannot seem to get their feet wet due to fear of water. Therefore, we teach puppies how to swim using those individuals as examples.

Dogs are also very motivated when you play with them, so they will try to imitate your actions and behaviors.

They repeat

Brown Short Coat Medium Dog on Snow Covered Ground

Photo by Jozef Fehér onPexels

There’s no way of knowing for sure whether it was deliberate or not, but as soon as she sat down her leg lifted up automatically! She did this twice more before she understood what was happening and stopped.

It took us several minutes to figure out if she had learned something at this point or not, so we kept repeating the action until she did. It didn’t take long before she got it though – her legs lowered themselves once she noticed we were laughing at her!

At that age most dogs are pretty intelligent, they understand basic concepts like “sit” and “kneel,” but there is always an exception to prove the rule. This dog proved that every time!

By exposing your dog to new experiences, you can help them learn important lessons. If your dog seems distracted or irritable during times when they should be interacting with other animals or people, try giving them less exposure to those things to see if that changes their behavior.

They associate with each other

Close-Up Photo Of Dog


Recent studies show that dogs learn how to walk by observing their peers, especially young puppies!

Many dog owners may be surprised to know that most dogs begin walking on all fours around six months of age. At this stage, your puppy is probably learning how to balance on his/her paws and get some good workout moves for them.

At about eight weeks old, the pup will try putting one paw down next to the ground. The puppy will then push off the floor using his feet and shoulder muscles while keeping his body upright. This is called forward-walking or forelimb-on-ground. He’ll also back up a few steps before trying it again.

The trickier way to teach a dog to walk on its own is to have him watch another dog take a few steps first. You can even let him imitate what you do so he gets some tips from you as well.

They use a tool

From above side view of anonymous ethnic female owner in sneakers standing on street with dog on red leash near green shabby wall


Recent studies have shown that dogs learn how to lift their legs for elimination by observing their owners do it.

This theory was put forward in a paper published back in 2008 called “The emergence of voluntary voiding as a social learning paradigm in canines”. The authors conducted an experiment with eight puppies, all between six and nine months old.

During each test session, one of the researchers would pick up some food and place it somewhere out of direct sight. Then they would watch as the puppy either went directly to the toilet or waited a few minutes before going looking for the drop.

After recording this behavior twice, the researcher would say either ‘go’ or ‘no go’, depending on whether the dog had performed the action already or not. If they did perform the action, then they were given another piece of food as a reward. Two days later, the same process was repeated, but instead of saying if the dog went or stayed, the person conducting the test gave slight pressure with their hand when the dog needed to be prompted to go.

Based on these results, the team concluded that dogs learn to hold their leg down for elimination via observational learning.

They observe

Photo of Dogs on Grass


Recent studies have shown that dogs learn how to walk by watching their owners move! When they want to take a stroll, your dog can either choose to follow you in action or not, with little incentive otherwise.

If you’re walking your dog at night when there aren’t many people around, he may never pick up this trick. But during day time, when other people are around, it’s a different story.

Older dogs probably don’t need to see someone else doing something every few days to realize how to walk, but puppies do. Puppies look to their parents for examples, so offering up some tips once a week is enough to start working on it.

Once your puppy has learned how to walk, you can make sure his feet are always up and he’s got good traction by grooming him regularly and giving him quality pooch food.

They try different things

Chocolate Labrador Retriever Puppy on Floor


There are many ways dogs learn how to lift their legs for certain behaviors. Some trainers will look at what types of moves your dog makes and then teach you which part is struggling with lifting his or her leg.

The most common way is called visual reinforcement. This means teaching your dog to perform an action using pictures or videos. For example, if your dog does not want to get up off the ground, he may be taught to stand up by seeing someone else doing it.

Another technique used in training is the verbal reward. The trainer rewards the behavior with praise like “Good puppy!”

Yet another is positive punishment. This means taking away something that thing your dog loves to help him understand why this behavior is bad. A popular way to do this is to remove food during times when your dog should be walking.

What about those stubborn puppies?

If your dog is having trouble getting the hang of lifting his/her leg, there are several reasons this might happen. First, they could be learning very slowly due to health issues or physical limitations.

This would be similar to people who have knee or hip problems and need extra time to fully recover. Or maybe they are just not motivated to practice because they are not feeling well or hungry.

Sometimes, animals simply grow tired of practicing the same thing over and over again. If so, try giving your dog a break and trying again later.

They repeat until they get it right

Tilt Shot Photo of Dog Chasing the Ball

Recent studies have shown that dogs learn how to walk with their legs up by repeating the action over and over again. The researchers would ask the dog to walk with its leg up, then without, and eventually let the dog pick which foot is raised higher.

This process works because instinct tells most puppies to put their feet down when walking. It’s part of what makes them feel stable and confident while moving around.

But you can begin teaching your puppy at an early age to use his or her back feet as support instead.

They use rewards

Four Dogs on Pink Background

Recent studies show that dogs learn how to walk with a raised leg by observing their owner lift his or her foot and then rewarding them for doing so.

This theory is similar to what preschoolers must do when they are taught to take steps. Two-year-olds must be rewarded for taking small walks, so their parents start by helping them move around the house before teaching them to walk outside.

The important difference between toddlers and dogs is that while humans teach dogs to walk using this method, it can only work in very specific situations.

If you’re ever confronted with an aggressive dog, this technique won’t work. The chances of getting bitten are high enough that most trainers don’t recommend it.

That said, there is another way that dogs learn about lifting their legs.

They help each other

Two Dogs Chasing Each Other

This is an interesting way dogs learn how to walk! When puppies are very young, they need some assistance getting up from a sleeping position. You can start by holding their legs up while they push off with their feet. As they get slightly better at moving, you can let them pull themselves up until they are walking alone.

This process helps train your dog to use its own strength to stand up. The older dogs that you’ve seen lifting one leg may be using this technique already. For example, when he/she sees you approach, they will quickly drop their foot and then pick it back up as soon as you turn away.

If you want to teach your dog to do something more advanced like jumping or chasing, don’t start until they have mastered the simpler steps such as rising on two legs.

Yasi Soylon
Yasi Soylon

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