The dog lifted its hind leg towards the fire hydrant.

I am not sure I like using the preposition "towards" in this sentence. I prefer "on", because it sounds nice, but I am not sure if it's correct at all. Is it correct? Why?

  • Are you using lift a hind leg as a euphemism for pee? Or did he pee after that? (Seriously) speaking. [note for readers: I mean this seriously, and am not being sarcastic]
    – Lambie
    Mar 25, 2019 at 20:00
  • Please ignore the top answer and go for at. Towards is okay, but on is really incorrect. It's absolutely unequivocally saying the dog is laying its hind leg on top of the fire hydrant.
    – kettlecrab
    Mar 26, 2019 at 4:25
  • 3
    @person27 - "Lifting a hind leg" is a euphemism for "having a pee", so on is perfectly acceptable in that case. But it is not clear from the limited context whether that is the case here.
    – MikeB
    Mar 26, 2019 at 10:15
  • @person27 you shouldn't use expressions like "the top answer" to identify an answer here. As people vote, answers move up and down. Also, some people view the answers in a different order from you. It's not clear which answer you're instructing us to ignore. Anyway, "on" is not incorrect - it's a very common idiom, and I am a native speaker. Mar 27, 2019 at 19:26
  • @DawoodibnKareem Native speaker and first time hearing it. I'd expect a casual conversation to include "my dog peed on the fire hydrant" rather than "my dog lifted a leg on the fire hydrant". Sounds absolutely foreign to me, and seems like a phrase you only see in writing that's never spoken. I have little room to talk though, since I haven't heard it, so I'll defer to more experience judgment.
    – kettlecrab
    Mar 29, 2019 at 4:38

4 Answers 4


I think an aspect of this that @Wilson is missing is that a dog "lifting its leg" is usually used as a euphemism for a male dog urinating [on something].

In my experience in this 'non literal' context, it takes the same preposition logically as 'urinate' would take.

The dog urinated on the fire hydrant.

The dog lifted his leg on the fire hydrant.

When I read the example "The dog lifted its hind leg onto the fire hydrant" it seemed very strange to me. It sounded like the dog literally lifted his leg and placed it on top of the hydrant.

"Lifted his leg towards" sounds like the dog is saluting the fire hydrant.

So, to me, as someone whose male dog spends a lot of time lifting his leg on things in my company, "to lift his leg on" is the most natural choice.

  • 1
    Let's see if this joke flies. Damn, fred2, doesn't your dog just pee? I agree about the placement thing. [guffaw]. You're a born comedian what with the lifting and saluting. :)
    – Lambie
    Mar 25, 2019 at 19:58
  • for me, the lift his leg means to pee. However, there is also the problem of aiming....
    – Lambie
    Mar 26, 2019 at 21:41

The dog lifted its hind leg towards the fire hydrant.

The leg is now nearer to the fire hydrant than before, or nearer than the other parts of the dog. This is what dogs usually do when they want to mark their territory by leaving their smells behind. Peeing in other words.

The dog lifted its hind leg onto the fire hydrant.

The leg is now resting on the fire hydrant, so that the dog is possibly standing with three legs on the pavement and one leg somehow on top of the fire hydrant. It's not what dogs usually do.

The dog lifted its hind leg on the fire hydrant

It's occurred to me that on has a markedly rarer meaning as a malefactive. Something like "He hung up on me!" means "he ended the phone call to my detriment, or against my will or interest". In that way, the dog lifting its leg on the fire hydrant sounds odd to me, but I'll accept it.

  • "The dog lifted its hind leg towards onto fire hydrant." does not make sense as written, did you mean "The dog lifted its hind leg onto fire hydrant."
    – firedraco
    Mar 25, 2019 at 16:26
  • Any other way of saying "The dog lifted its hind leg towards the fire hydrant"?
    – aLex
    Mar 25, 2019 at 16:52
  • @tefisjb I'm sure there are. See if you can think of one. What you come up with will completely depend on what you want to say. Mar 25, 2019 at 16:54
  • lifted its hind leg at?
    – aLex
    Mar 25, 2019 at 16:56
  • 1
    Sorry, no. I can't imagine a dog lifting a leg onto a fire hydrant. It would have to be some kind of contortionist. A dog lifting a leg on a fire hydrant just means it urinated. This makes sense. So definitely, use on, not onto in this sentence. Mar 26, 2019 at 1:23

At is for places:

The dog lifted his hind leg at the fire hydrant or when he got to the fire hydrant.

On and in do not work here.

Dogs generally just aim at the hydrant. They aim at the fire hydrant and hit the side of it, not the top. So on is out. Unless you have a really big dog.

So lifted at can be understood as aiming and peeing. Or it can mean that is the place where he lifted his hind leg.

Like: We stopped at the house for a cup of tea. :)


The scientists found that when away from their home area, these dogs were more likely to urinate frequently and aim their urine at objects in comparison to when they were walked close to home. The authors concluded “urination in female dogs does not function solely in elimination, but that it also has a significant role in scent marking…” peeing positions and what they mean, by vets

When they pee, the urine may fall on the object, nevertheless, they pee at an object like a fire hydrant or tree.

  • This is the only really correct answer thus far.
    – kettlecrab
    Mar 26, 2019 at 4:22
  • No, "lifted his leg on" or "lifted his hind leg on" is a fairly common idiom. It means "urinated on". This answer is incorrect. Mar 26, 2019 at 19:26
  • He peed on the firehydrant. He lifted his hind leg at the fire hydrant. Like aiming at, which is what dogs are actually doing...
    – Lambie
    Mar 26, 2019 at 19:36

A non-native English speaker, I often have to rely solely on the usage examples from original English language pieces of literary work and dictionaries; so looking for examples, I came across

The dog lifted its leg against the lamp..

And here's the example of using the preposition on in the context of a male dog preparing to pee.

That said, I absolutely agree on using the preposition "on" and can't but agree on the preposition "at" suggested in the answer and approved of in the comment on it, both being provided by native English speakers. At the same time, the other suggestions are well worth being taken note of, as quite possible alternatives.

As a side note, "hind" seems to be redundant, logically, in such a situation (IMHO)

  • 1
    You are right, 'hind' is redundant.
    – fred2
    Mar 26, 2019 at 16:22
  • @fred2 In front are the paws. You don't ask a dog to give you its front leg, do you?
    – Victor B.
    Mar 26, 2019 at 16:30
  • Yes, but I still say the idea is at an object, rather than on it. So, the underlying idea is aim at. They do, after all, take aim. –
    – Lambie
    Mar 26, 2019 at 19:50
  • @Lambie And I absolutely agree with you, having mentioned your answer, which I'd accept were I the OP.
    – Victor B.
    Mar 26, 2019 at 21:30
  • I am such a stupid nutter. Sorry about that. I misread....:(
    – Lambie
    Mar 26, 2019 at 21:34

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