Whether you’re a new dog owner, an experienced canine enthusiast, or you don’t even have a dog but are curious to learn more about certain canine behavior, you’ve come to the right place.
You’ve probably already seen your fair share of dogs humping the air or humping people’s legs and wondered – why do dogs do that?
Humping (or as I like to call it – reverse twerking) is a normal type of behavior that our four-legged friends sometimes exhibit – and although it might seem strange and even hilarious to humans, dogs don’t consider it weird.
From Chihuahuas to Golden Retrievers, all dogs hump the air for a number of different reasons and although your first instinct might tell you that it’s a type of sexual behavior – this isn’t always the case.
Of course, a dog humping the air could indicate sexual frustration but it could also be a sign of attention-seeking, compulsive behavior, excitement, anxiety, boredom, play behavior, or an underlying medical condition.
If you’re wondering whether your dog humping the air is something to be concerned about, you need to learn about the potential reasons behind the behavior in order to determine whether or not you should intervene.
So, why do dogs hump the air? Let’s dive in and find out.
Why Does My Dog Hump The Air?
As we’ve already explained, humping or mounting is a common canine behavior and it’s present in the majority of both female and male dogs – yes, you read that right – even female dogs hump the air sometimes.
In fact, even dogs that have been spayed or neutered sometimes display humping behavior – sometimes they’ll hump objects like their favorite toy or a stuffed animal, sometimes people, and sometimes other dogs.
The most common reasons why dogs hump the air are the following:
• Due to over-excitement
• Display of play behavior or dominant behavior
• Due to activation of sex hormones/sexual frustration
• Obsessive-compulsive behavior
• Poor socialization during their puppyhood stage
• Attention-seeking behavior
• Underlying medical issues, such as a UTI, skin allergy, priapism, or irritation of the genitals.
As you can see, dog mounting or humping is completely normal behavior and is most likely not caused by sexual attraction – although it’s easy to think so at first.
In fact, if you’ve ever wondered if our canine companions feel something more than platonic love for us – check out our article about whether dogs can get sexually attracted to humans or not.
Most dogs usually start to exhibit humping behavior while they’re still puppies – at around two weeks of age puppies start humping each other as a normal part of playful behavior while socializing.
Young puppies don’t reach the sexual maturity stage until they’re at least a year old, so if your male puppy is humping the air, it’s usually a sign that they’re just pleased to see you or they want some playtime.
So, although humping is typically not a sign of sexual behavior, this doesn’t mean that in certain cases, it’s not – that’s why we’ll go over the sexual side of humping first, before we explain all the other reasons a dog might be humping.
Air Humping As A Sign Of Sexual Behavior
Sometimes, air humping is just what it looks like – if an unneutered male dog reaches his sexual maturity stage and becomes sexually frustrated, he’s going to need to find a way to release his pent-up sexual energy.
If you see a sexually mature male dog humping the air or his favorite stuffed animal, there’s most likely a female dog in heat somewhere in the area, and the male dog can sense her.
If you own a male dog and you want to keep him in check so that he doesn’t reproduce too soon, or at all – you need to learn how to spot the signs that a male dog wants to mate.
On the other hand, spaying or neutering your dog doesn’t always mean that your pooch will stop humping after they’ve been fixed.
Even though a fixed dog’s reproductive organs are removed, their adrenal glands (which also secrete sex hormones) are left intact – therefore, fixed dogs can still achieve an erection and may want to spend some sexy time with the air or their favorite blanket from time to time.
One thing to keep in mind though, is that freshly neutered male dogs can still be fertile for up to a month after the procedure – this is due to a dog’s ability to store sperm for long periods of time.
The next time you ask yourself: “why do dogs hump the air?” – first try to figure out if the dog has maybe reached sexual maturity and is in need of a release, that could be the reason behind their incessant hip-thrusting
6 Reasons For Air Humping That Aren’t Related To Sexual Behavior
Now that we’ve explained why dogs hump the air for sexual reasons, it’s time to explain in more detail, the other reasons behind dogs air humping.
1. Playful Behavior And Excitement
Why do dogs hump the air? It could just be out of excitement.
When talking about excitement in dogs, we’re not referring to sexual excitement but physiological excitement in general – which can take on many forms.
A dog that lacks social interaction can easily become over excited when they’re around other dogs in the dog park – due to poor socialization in puppyhood, these pups might not know exactly how to play with their peers, so they might overreact.
This is also true for dogs who mount humans when they meet them – it might just be their strange way of saying hello when they get too excited.
Excitement can also build up when a hyperactive dog is near their favorite toy or another object, like a blanket – so the dog starts humping said object to release some pent-up energy.
However, there are certain measures you can take in order to help a dog that’s missed early socialization if this is the case for your puppy.
2. Stress And Anxiety
Displacement behavior, such as air humping, occurs when a dog experiences conflicting emotions and tries to deflect the stress and anxiety that have built up.
Anxiety and stress are triggers for arousal and excitement and a dog might simply hump the air just to try and alleviate the pressure because they don’t know of a better way to do so.
Apart from humping the air, other displacement behaviors that dogs might exhibit when stressed are sniffing, scratching, dog mouthing or nibbling, yawning, shaking, etc. – all of these are just different ways a dog tries to cope with their conflicting emotions.
Although this type of stress relief is common in dogs, you should pay attention to why your dog is exhibiting certain displacement behaviors in order to be able to help them cope with external stimuli a little easier.
Some dogs that were raised improperly or neglected during puppyhood can become overly attached to their new owners and might suffer from separation anxiety when they are left alone – if you suspect your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, there are certain things you can do to fix this.
Check out our article on how to keep your dog entertained while at work for some tips and tricks on how to make work days easier for both yourself and your new puppy.
Although only a small portion of dogs suffer from separation anxiety, a large percentage of dogs are known as velcro dogs, due to their love of being near their humans – some are even known to follow their owners into the bathroom.
Some dogs are known to be the ultimate attention-seekers and will do whatever it takes to get you to focus on them when your attention drifts elsewhere.
Dogs will mostly try chasing their tail, barking, sniffing you, or rubbing themselves on you if they want to grab your attention, but if all else fails, they won’t shy away from air humping or leg humping as a means to an end.
This usually develops over a period of time and as a result of you giving your dog attention when they hump the air or your leg – if you pet your pup when you realize that they’re trying to catch your eye, it will only reinforce the humping behavior.
Therefore, if you want the humping to stop, you shouldn’t positively reinforce the behavior in your pup by giving them attention when they hump.
Unlike cats, who are able to chill all day without doing anything and still feel superior to everyone – dogs are creatures that need stimulation in order to stay happy.
On that note, check out our list of the 13 undeniable reasons why dogs are better than cats.
Dogs humping the air might simply be down to the fact that they have nothing better to do – if you think about it, certain dog breeds are meant to have a job or a purpose in order to thrive and function at their best.
Breeds like the Golden Retriever were created to retrieve waterfowl, Bloodhounds were created to track the scent of wild game, and Pointers are meant to point where a bird is – you get the idea.
If a dog has an inherent capacity to do a certain task but is hindered or prohibited from following their own ingrained instinct, they can quickly become bored – and, as you probably already know, bored dogs tend to engage in all sorts of unwanted behavior such as digging, scratching, chewing, and humping.
If you think that air humping is a sign that your dog might be acting out of boredom – try taking them for more walks or exercising together. If that fails, you can always turn to a dog trainer to help curb any undesirable doggy behavior.
5. Compulsive Behavior
Another reason why your dog might be air humping is that it’s become a compulsive behavior.
If left unmanaged and perpetuated for a long period of time, air humping can develop into ingrained dog behavior.
If a dog humps pretty much anything, anyone, and anywhere, all the time – this can quickly morph into a canine compulsive disorder, which can lead to some problems.
If this is the case with your dog and you see that it’s getting out of hand – it’s definitely time to put your foot down and put a stop to the behavior.
6. Underlying Medical Issues
Why do dogs hump the air? They might simply have a medical issue.
Another reason why your dog might be humping the air is that they could be suffering from an underlying medical problem and they’re simply trying to ease the discomfort or pain they’re feeling.
The most common medical conditions that could lead to air humping in dogs are the following:
• Urinary Tract Infection or UTI
• Skin allergies
• Inflammation or irritation of the genitals
• Bladder stones
UTIs, anal gland problems, prostate problems, and bladder stones might be the cause of your dog’s incessant air humping, due to the uncomfortable and often painful feeling that they cause – they can also cause a change in your dog’s urine color.
The best way to find out if your pup has UTIs or prostate problems is to keep an eye on your dog’s urine color – you can do this easily with a dog urine color chart.
Allergies, such as food allergies or reactions to certain chemicals, can also cause dogs to hump anything they can in order to scratch that uncomfortable itch on their private parts – local irritation of the genital area can also be caused by dermatitis or bug bites.
It’s also worth saying that in rare cases, what looks like harmless air humping might actually be a seizure – sometimes, canine seizures can take on a unique form of air humping, depending on the part of the brain they occur in.
If your dog is often air humping and is not responding to external stimuli while doing so, this might be a sign that they’re suffering from seizures.
If at any point in your dog’s life you suspect that they might have an underlying medical condition, it’s best to consult a veterinarian and get a professional opinion.
Should I Stop My Dog From Air Humping?
Now that we’ve covered the seven main reasons behind air humping in dogs, you might be wondering whether or not you should intervene and stop the behavior.
The truth is, you should first determine the exact cause behind your dog’s reverse twerking in order to be able to act accordingly.
If your dog displays air humping, humping other dogs, or humping their favorite blankie from time to time, without causing any injury or embarrassment – it’s most likely not a cause for concern.
However, if your pup is humping the air, inanimate objects, other dogs, or humping people’s legs more than just once in a while and seems to be doing it uncontrollably – it could mean that there’s an underlying behavioral problem or an undiagnosed medical condition that you should address.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Air Humping?
Air humping and mounting can be reduced (but not completely eliminated) with a simple spaying or neutering procedure – these surgical procedures are minimally invasive and dogs heal quickly from them.
Other than fixing your dog, the best way to try to eliminate the behavior is to first figure out what’s causing it.
If there are too many stress triggers around your dog that cause them to air hump, try to get rid of them and observe whether or not this helps lessen the behavior.
If you suspect that there’s an undiagnosed medical problem that’s the driving force behind your dog’s behavior – consult with a veterinarian.
What you can do
If, by process of elimination, you’ve reached the conclusion that your dog’s humping behavior is not caused by a medical condition, you can try curbing the behavior yourself.
The next time your dog displays air humping or mounting people’s legs try the following:
• Push the dog off of the person, then proceed to sit down facing away from the dog.
• Remain seated facing away from the dog and continue what you were doing.
• Try telling them “NO” in a firm but calm tone of voice so that you don’t frighten them.
• Give the dog a chew toy, a dental stick, or a treat as a means to divert their energy elsewhere.
If you manage to redirect your dog’s attention elsewhere, they will most likely stop humping.
However, if all else fails and you just can’t get the dog to obey you, you can always turn to a qualified behaviorist or dog training classes for help.
Now that you know the different reasons behind this peculiar canine behavior, you’re bound to have an easier time living with your dog.
Keep in mind that reverse twerking is a completely normal type of behavior that our canine companions indulge in and that it’s nothing to be ashamed of – in fact, air humping usually only elicits a laugh from anyone present.
So, the next time you and your friends come across a dog humping the air and someone asks: “Why do dogs hump the air?” – you can bust out the useful information you’ve learned in this article and explain the behavior like the smartypants you are – your friends will certainly like you even more for it.
Jokes aside, remember to always keep a close eye on your dog’s behavior in order to be able to act accordingly, especially if their behavior changes abruptly.