Mounting, thrusting (humping) and masturbation are normal behaviors exhibited by most dogs. Dogs masturbate in various ways. They mount and thrust against other animals, people and objects, such as wadded-up blankets, dog beds and toys. Sometimes, dogs just rub against people or objects (without mounting them), or they lick themselves.
Puppies often mount and hump their littermates, other playmates, people and toys. Some experts believe that this behavior functions as practice for future sexual encounters. As puppies reach sexual maturity, they start to mount other dogs in sexual contexts. After they’re neutered or spayed, many male and female dogs continue to mount and even masturbate because they have learned that the behavior feels good.
Intact (not neutered) males will often masturbate if prevented from approaching a female in heat. Often, during courtship, females in heat mount and hump their male “suitors.” Female dogs also commonly mount and hump other females when one or both are in heat.
Why Does Your Dog Do It?
Sexual BehaviorMasturbation is part of normal sexual behavior for both altered (spayed or neutered) and intact dogs. Both male and female dogs mount other dogs, people and objects. Most people don’t realize that this behavior isn’t limited to intact male dogs, nor do they know that neutered males can display erections and ejaculate just like intact males. Sexually motivated mounting and masturbation are often accompanied by “flirtatious” body language and courtship behavior (tail up, ears rotated backward, licking, pawing, play bows, etc.).
Play BehaviorSexual behaviors, including mounting and thrusting, are part of normal play behavior. Dogs don’t usually display erections or ejaculate in the context of play. Some poorly socialized or undersocialized dogs excessively mount other dogs in response to play solicitation. They don’t seem to know how to play well and get overaroused during play.
Response to Stress or ExcitementSome dogs respond to stressful or exciting situations by mounting or masturbating. For instance, after meeting a new dog or person, an aroused and excited dog may mount another dog, his owner or a nearby object, like a dog bed or a toy.
Compulsive DisordersMasturbating can become a compulsive habit, especially if a dog does it in response to stresspulsions like mounting and masturbating can interfere with a dog’s normal functioning.
Social BehaviorDogs sometimes mount other animals and people to display social status or control. A dog mounting for this reason may or may not display an erection, but he’s unlikely to ejaculate.
Medical Problems to Rule Out
Various medical problems, including urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, priapism (persistent, often painful erections) and skin allergies, can influence a dog’s mounting behavior. These issues can be serious if not properly treated and require medical attention rather than behavioral treatment. Dogs suffering from one of these or other medical issues often spend a lot of time licking and chewing the genital area. If you notice your dog excessively mounting, licking or chewing himself, or rubbing his body against things, take him to a veterinarian to rule out medical concerns.
If you think your dog may become aggressive if you stop him from mounting other dogs, people or objects, do not attempt to do so. Instead, consult a qualified professional, such as a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or Associate CAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB). If you can’t find a behaviorist in your area, you can seek help from a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT), but be sure to determine whether she or he has professional training and extensive experience successfully treating aggression. This type of expertise isn’t required for CPDT certification. Please read our article, Finding Professional Behavior Help, for information about finding one of these experts in your area.