In search of ponies: No gender bias in dog leadership

If you have dogs around, you know as soon as the door is opened in the morning, they beeline for relief.

And if you yourself are awake enough, you know better than to stand gazing out the window while you sip your coffee because there's sure to be some squatting and leg lifting going on for a few minutes. But then some mornings you just plum forget not to look.

One morning, I forgot.

But my didn't-need-to-see-that moment was short lived as I watched a leg hike and prepared to turn away, only to stop dead in my tracks.

Predictable event "wrong" dog.

My foggy brain was slow starting, but not that slow and I watched intently, processing the fact that SHE was lifting her leg on the rose bush.

Yep, my dainty little girl was, for lack of a better description, going like a boy and the boys were all observing from a distance with looks of respect.

Now I say dainty, but that is something of an illusion with this girl. She has a dainty conformation with a sleek build, defined face and ears that stand high and alert.

And her personality is sweet and timid — among human friends that is.

In the dog world, she is tough as nails.

Always at the head of the charge, she is the hunter, protector, alerter, disciplinarian and the one who nobody dares to mess with — not bad considering she's the only girl in the bunch.

She's fast, agile, rough-and-tumble and a little scary when she gets her snarl on.

In some quick, strange way, it made perfect sense and my mind wandered back to that time I tried to put a sweater on her and she promptly rolled around in the mud until it stretched and tore and I relieved her of it.

Or the fact even when she has fancy gum-gentle chew toys, her favorite thing to do is chew on sticks until they splinter into a million pieces.

And the way she always sleeps one-eye open while the boys go belly up, snoring in the sun.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense, but I still did a little research just to make sure we didn't need to have a talk.

Apparently it's not entirely uncommon for female dogs to hike their legs and scent mark, they just don't do it quite as often as males and since unfixed males have a tendency to have some other attention getting behaviors (aggression, destruction, fighting, fence hopping) they get credit for the majority of the leg lifting.

Dominance, territory, breeding… all reasons why a girl in the dog world might stream vertical, just like her male equivalents.

Like any good leader worthy of respect, if she's going to be in command, she better be able to do everything her subordinates can do and do it better, and as a good leader she can't just say she can do it — she has to be able to prove it.

Of course I have no way of knowing if she was anointed pack leader because she can go standing up, or if that's just an inherited trait that came with the job.

But in all reality, it doesn't seem like it's a gender thing at all that got her where she is and more that she figured out how to do something different than naturally inclined.

If you apply Steve Job's gauge of leadership, the born direction of the stream, or the toughness aren't the determining factors, but it is rather, innovation (that) distinguishes between a leader and a follower.

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: or on the web at:

Speak Your Mind