How to Tell If a Puppy Is a Boy or a Girl

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Physical differences between male and female dogs are both slighter and less obvious than those between other kinds of domestic pets or farm animals. Distinguishing between a male and female turkey, for example, tends to be quite easy, especially once they reach maturity. Differences in size and plumage between these birds are clear and striking. The male turkey is much larger, more colorful, and has a more dramatic appearance. Among dogs, average height and weight of females and males does vary, but the difference is normally only a few inches in the first case, and can be as little as 10 pounds in the latter. When we’re talking about newborn baby puppies, the differences are inconsequential. All newborn baby puppies are super tiny. Wondering how to tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl? Let’s investigate.

Why does differentiating sex in puppies matter?

Newborn puppies.
Stumped on how to tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl? The belly and rear end are the points to observe most carefully in determining a puppy’s sex. Photography by Soraluk Chonvanich / Shutterstock.

Even when dogs are fully matured, telling a male from a female dog can be difficult. How many times have you, as a dog owner, passed someone on the street or at the park and heard some variation of, “What a beautiful dog! May I pet her?” And how many times have you gently corrected, “Actually, he’s a boy!” I make that mistake all the time with other people’s dogs, and people make it all the time with mine.

If you’ve recently had or are preparing to welcome a litter of puppies, and people are asking to adopt one, they may have a specific sex of puppy in mind. So, you may be wondering how to tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl. Some people are particular about male or female puppies. Perhaps they’ve had better experiences with one sex of dog over another. Reasons can be difficult to parse, and impossible to understand or predict. If both you and the interested parties are patient, things will become clearer by the time they are ready to be weaned.

Can urination habits help tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl?

Some might huff at the very question, assuming that the stereotypical images of fully grown dog urination habits — squatting for girl dogs and the leg lift of boy dogs — will make the distinction clear enough. In baby puppies, however, one must remember that as puppies’ hindquarters develop and mature, puppies of both sexes squat. The positions that puppies take do not diverge for a while after whelping.

Indeed, male and female puppies may assume identical positions for up to two months. Puppies do not practice independent bowel and bladder evacuation in their first couple of weeks of life. Nor, for the first few weeks, do puppies have sufficient strength and stability in their hindquarters to make urinating activities distinguishable. Male puppies may not fully adopt the wonted leg lift until around their fourth month; for some male puppies, it may not become habitual until they are nearly six months old.

So, how to tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl:

A nursing puppy.
Don’t take a newborn puppy away from his mother for more than a few minutes. Photography by kukiatB/Thinkstock.

Still stumped on how to tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl? There is, in fact, a way to discern the difference between female and male puppies. Be cautious and patient, though. The relationship between newborn puppies and their mothers can be tenuous. Taking a baby puppy from a mother for more than a few minutes in the first several weeks after whelping can disturb their bonding. A mother dog may become wary of a puppy who spends too much time away from her and the rest of the litter.

Basically, male puppies can be distinguished by two small, raised circular marks on their bellies. People often ask where a dog’s belly button is located. Unlike in humans, the spot where the umbilical cord was attached to a dog disappears, healing over very quickly. It is right below the base of the rib cage. About an inch past that, there will be another small circular spot. This is where the penis will emerge.

Female puppies will have only the belly button mark, with the rest of their tiny little bellies bare. A careful examination of a female puppy’s rear end, from the base of the tail to the start of the lower abdomen, will reveal two openings. The anus, of course, will be just beneath the tail, and the vulva is a small, leaf-shaped structure located almost exactly between the legs.

Always exercise patience and caution when trying to tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl

To put it most simply, the best action for how to tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl is to examine a puppy’s rear end, right beneath the tail. Female newborns will have two points, male puppies only one. It is best to be patient and exercise great caution. In a puppy’s first few weeks, support a baby puppy with a warm towel, turn her over carefully, and only for a couple of minutes at most. Return the puppy to her mother and litter immediately after checking.

Baby puppies begin learning from their mothers the moment they are born. Handling newborn puppies too often before three to four weeks of age risks alienating the puppy from the mother, which can not only cause stress, but also trauma to newborns. For the sake of satisfying curiosity alone, under no circumstances should you poke or prod at newborn puppies as a way to tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl.

Thumbnail: Photography by Image Source Pink / Thinkstock. 

This piece was originally published in 2014. 

Learn more about puppies with

When Do Dogs Stop Teething? What to Know About Puppy Teething and Dog Teeth
A Guide for Introducing Dogs to Puppies
Training Your Puppy and Dealing with Puppy Problems

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