Male or Female Puppy – How to Tell

Written by Chanel Coetzee
Published: September 12, 2022
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When pups are born, their physical differences aren’t very obvious. However, figuring out the sex of your puppy can be really straightforward if you know what you are looking for.

Handling puppies after birth is not recommended because it could make the mother and pup anxious, and you could hurt their fragile little bodies.

In addition, moms and pups need to bond after birth, and if you handle the puppies for long periods of time or too often, the mom could reject them.

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Comparing Male and Female Puppies

Physical AppearanceGenerally bigger than femalesGenerally smaller than males
Sexual OrgansThe penis is located just under the belly buttonVulva located between the hind legs and shaped like a leaf
BehaviorMale puppies are more independent and aggressiveFemales mature faster and are easier to train
Growth RateMales have a slower growth rateFemales mature faster than males
Mating Behaviors (Adults)Males become aggressive towards other males when a female in heat is around.Females come into heat twice every 24 months, lasting 2 to 3 weeks at a time.

Key Differences Between Male and Female Puppies

There are very few differences between male and female puppies. However, there are a few key differences that can help tell them apart, which include:

  • Their size
  • Males are generally more muscular and have larger heads
  • Genitals are different shapes and positioned differently
  • Males and females exhibit different behaviors, especially during mating season
  • Growth rate

Male vs. Female Puppies: Physical Differences

There are two distinct physical differences between male and female puppies: size and genitals.


Male puppies are generally larger than female pups, with some exceptions. However, the difference in size is not that noticeable after birth; it becomes more prominent in adults.

It can also depend on the breed of the puppy because, in some breeds, males are much larger than females, like Mastiffs and Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs.

In addition, males typically develop a more muscular build and larger heads. This is very prominent in Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, and Stafford Terriers.

Sex Organs

The most obvious physical difference between male and female puppies is their genitals. However, removing a pup from its mother during the weeks following birth can disturb their bond and force the mother to reject the puppy. In addition, it can make the mother and puppy very anxious.

But, removing the pup from its mother for 3 to 4 minutes one time will allow you to check its genitals. Ensure to handle the puppy with the utmost care, as they are extremely fragile. Turn it around, so its back fits perfectly in your palm.

Both genders have nipples, but if you look at the puppy’s belly button and see a raised circular appendage (penis) underneath it, it is a male.

Females’ bellies are bare, but if you focus your eyes downwards between their hind legs, underneath their anus, you will find their vulva, which is shaped like a leaf.

Male vs. Female Puppies: Temperament and Behavior Differences

While there are differences in behavior between male and female puppies, it’s usually dependent on the breed and how they are raised.

However, one of the most prominent differences is how they differ when trained. For example, female puppies mature more quickly than males, which makes it easier to train them.

This does not mean that they are more intelligent than the males; it only means they are more obedient because of their early maturity.

Urination Patterns

Urination patterns are not the simplest way to tell the two genders apart because both sexes rely on their mother to help them evacuate their bowels in the first few weeks of their lives. Their mother has to lick their genitals and anus to help stimulate a bowel movement.

In addition, the mothers will often eat the feces for two reasons. The first is to clean up the nursery, and the second is to obtain nutrients the puppies didn’t absorb.

Once the pups start urinating on their own, both males and females will squat until around four months old, when most males will begin to lift their legs. However, not all males do this: many continue to squat for the remainder of their lives.

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Mating Behavior and Reproduction

Female puppies generally sexually mature at six months old, while males can take up to 12 months. The females come into heat twice a year unless they were spayed. Each heat cycle can last 2 to 3 weeks. When going through estrus, females will secret bloody discharge, attracting male dogs’ attention.

You should neuter or spay your dogs if you do not plan on breeding, since going through two estruses a year can be extremely messy. In addition, females need to be contained during this period because they will find a way out to mate.

Getting your pup spayed at a young age (the best time is 6-9 months) is better for their overall health. This is because they will be less prone to health issues like ovarian and uterine diseases. In addition, spaying has positive effects on their behavior, making them calmer and less aggressive.

Male puppies are dominant and very energetic. If they are not appropriately trained, they might even dominate their owners. That’s why it is so essential they are trained and socialized from a young age. In addition, males tend to be more independent.

If you have a male pup and do not intend to breed, it’s always best to neuter him. Once they are no longer intact, they are generally more passive and less aggressive, and there is less chance of them roaming.

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Male vs. Female Puppy: Growth Rate

Male puppies do not mature as quickly as females, which means they have a slower growth rate. So, people who don’t enjoy the messy puppy stage would have an easier time with a female puppy.

It is generally easier to train females because they are more mature and will pick up on commands quicker.

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About Having More than One Puppy

If you are opting to keep two puppies or adopt two puppies simultaneously, you need to know it won’t be easy. Owning more than one pup includes several pros and cons:


  • They are fun to watch – Watching more than one adorable pup getting up to all sorts of mischief can provide you with hours of entertainment.
  • The pups will drain each other of energy – When you own a single puppy, they expect you to provide them with hours of exercise and enrichment; however, if you have two, they will play with each other and use up all their excess energy.
  • Improved bite pressure – While small, puppies can do some significant damage with their sharp teeth. When there are two pups, through play, they learn how to bite with less force.


  • Housetraining could be tricky – Of course, having two untrained pups will be messy, especially since they evacuate their bowels every 20 to 30 min. However, that is not the only concern. If one of the pups is stubborn and less obedient, it could rub off on the other. With males, this is especially difficult because if one marks inside, the other will cover it with their own scent.
  • They can’t be left alone – If your home is empty during the day, having more than one puppy won’t be a good idea. They are mischievous and can cause all sorts of havoc together. For example, while one could be chewing the bed post, the other could be ransacking the shoe closet. In addition, puppies need a lot of attention and affection, so only consider multiple pups if you work from home.
  • The pups get too attached to each other – While this might not seem like a con, it could potentially be one. Puppies that are left alone often could bond too much, which makes them closer to each other than the owner. This can impact their training and social skills and could even cause them to shy away from people and feel more comfortable around other dogs.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Mariia Boiko/

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About the Author

Chanel Coetzee is a writer at A-Z Animals, primarily focusing on big cats, dogs, and travel. Chanel has been writing and researching about animals for over 10 years. She has also worked closely with big cats like lions, cheetahs, leopards, and tigers at a rescue and rehabilitation center in South Africa since 2009. As a resident of Cape Town, South Africa, Chanel enjoys beach walks with her Stafford bull terrier and traveling off the beaten path.

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