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?
Masturbation 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.).
Sexual 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 Excitement
Some 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.
Masturbating can become a compulsive habit, especially if a dog does it in response to stress. Compulsions like mounting and masturbating can interfere with a dog's normal functioning.
Dogs 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 skinallergies, 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.
What to Do About Excessive Mounting and Masturbation
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 Help, for information about finding one of these experts in your area.
Mounting During Play, in Response to Stress or for Sexual Reasons
- If your dog mounts infrequently (once or twice a day at most) and it isn't bothersome to you, other people or other dogs, it's not necessary to stop his behavior.
- If your dog's mounting or masturbation does bother you, other people or other dogs, try to distract your dog. If you can, get his attention before he starts mounting or masturbating. Some dogs display amorous-looking behavior before mounting, so if your dog sidles up to something or someone and starts to pant, lick, whine, paw or rub against the person, dog or object, he may soon start to mount or hump. If you see your dog performing any of the behaviors above, or if you see him start to mount someone or something, toss a toy, play a game, give your dog a chewie, or ask him to perform some previously learned basic obedience skills or tricks that he enjoys (sit, down, shake, etc.).
- If you have an intact male dog, consider neutering him. Although neutering doesn't always stop a dog from mounting or masturbating, it does reduce his sexual motivation-especially if the behavior is triggered by the presence of a female dog who's in heat. Likewise, if you have an intact female dog, consider spaying her. It might reduce her motivation to hump other dogs, especially if she only mounts when she's in heat or when she's around other female dogs in heat. Spaying or neutering your dog has other benefits, too. It prevents the birth of unwanted puppies, and it helps prevent serious medical problems like mammary and testicular cancers.
- Be warned: If your dog mounts other dogs, he may get himself into trouble. Many dogs don't like to be humped. They might take offense and start a fight with your “amorous” dog. If you have a hump-happy dog, you might want to teach him to leave other dogs alone when you ask him to. To learn how to teach your dog a “leave it” cue, please see our article, Teaching Your Dog to “Leave It.” Once you've taught your dog what “leave it” means, you can start using it during his interaction with other dogs. Watch your dog carefully when he plays with his pals. As soon as you see him preparing to mount another dog tell him to “Leave it.” Remember to reward him if he does. If he doesn't, end his play session and work on leave it without other dogs present for a while longer. If your dog habitually humps other dogs, you can also try teaching him to play games with you so that he's less interested in other dogs. Tug and fetch are great!
- If your dog has developed a habit of mounting you or other people, discourage him from humping by pushing him off, turning away, sitting down or somehow adopting a position that prevents him from mounting. If your dog won't stop, say “Nope!” and immediately take him to a quiet, safe room for a short time-out. (Make sure that there aren't any fun toys for him to play with in the time-out area.) Leave your dog alone for one to three minutes. When the time-out is over, let your dog out and behave as if nothing happened. There's no need to act like you're angry. If your dog tries to mount again, repeat the sequence above and give your dog another time-out. If you have to give your dog a time-out more than a couple of times, you may start to have trouble catching your dog when you say “Nope!” If that's the case, it will help to clip a lightweight two- to four-foot leash onto your dog's collar and let him drag it around at home when you're there to supervise him. Then you can pick up the leash when you need to take your dog to his time-out area. Be sure to remove the leash when you can't supervise your dog so that it doesn't accidentally get caught on furniture or get wrapped around your dog's legs.
Discouragement by itself won't prevent mounting from reoccurring. You must also do some preventative training. You'll need to teach your dog a behavior that he can perform instead of mounting when he's around people-something that he can't do while humping. Train him to sit on cue, for example. After your dog readily sits for a treat when you ask him to, you can start using that skill to discourage humping. As soon as you see your dog start to mount, say “Sit.” If he sits, praise him happily and reward him with a tasty treat. Then you can ask him to sit a few more times or perform other tricks he already knows. When your dog has performed some polite behaviors and calmed down a little, you can offer him few minutes of play with a favorite toy. This may alter your dog's motivational state so that he's no longer interested in humping. If the humping occurs in specific contexts, such as in response to exciting or chaotic interactions between people (hugging, greeting, arguing, etc.), ask your dog to sit and stay whenever you do the things that trigger his mounting behavior. Remember to reward your dog frequently if he behaves politely instead of mounting.
If your dog only mounts when dealing with stressful situations (greeting new people, for example), avoid those situations whenever possible. If you can't avoid a situation or thing that makes your dog anxious, try to reduce his stress as much as you can. For instance, if your dog finds visiting the veterinary clinic stressful, take him to the clinic for frequent social visits. During these trips to the vet's office, give your dog plenty of tasty treats and make sure that nothing unpleasant happens. After a few weeks or months of occasional “cookie trips” to the vet's office, your dog will start to enjoy going there. That change in his feelings will make future visits to the veterinary clinic much less stressful for him. If your dog becomes anxious when he greets new people, distract him when he encounters strangers so that the experience is less overwhelming for him. Try teaching your dog to sit for delicious goodies or fetch his favorite toy when new people visit your home.
- If your dog licks to stimulate himself infrequently (once or twice a day at most) and it isn't bothersome to you, it's not necessary to stop his behavior.
- If your dog's licking behavior does bother you or causes irritation to his skin, try to distract him, preferably as soon as he starts to lick himself. Toss a toy, play a game, give your dog a chewie or ask him to perform some previously learned basic obedience skills or tricks that he enjoys (sit, down, shake, etc.). You can also try moving your dog to a different location.
Compulsive Mounting and Masturbation
- As soon as your dog starts to mount or masturbate, try to distract him. Toss a toy, play a game, give your dog a chewie or ask him to perform some previously learned basic obedience skills or tricks that he enjoys (for example, sit, down and paw).
- If your dog's behavior has become compulsive and interferes with his normal daily life, you may need to get help from a qualified professional. Please read our article, Finding Professional Help, for information about locating 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 or academic training and extensive experience treating compulsive behavior, as this expertise isn't required for CPDT certification.
To learn more about resolving compulsive behaviors, please see our article, Compulsive Behavior in Dogs.
The ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist specializes in the resolution and management of pet behavior problems only. Please do not submit questions about medical problems here. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact his veterinarian immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk.
If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary care, please read our resources on finding financial help.
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