Have you ever walked in to find your dog humping a couch or stuffed toy? It's undoubtedly an awkward situation, and many owners are keen to screech out in disgust. But what is this behavior all about?
Believe it or not, dogs do masturbate! It's a part of their sexual health, just like humans. The only difference is that dogs don't have the social decorum we do to know not to do that in public view.
All dogs can masturbate. That includes males, females, and even unspayed or unneutered canines.
It's a common misunderstanding that spaying or neutering a dog will eradicate masturbation. While it can minimize the frequency, dogs still do it after their procedure.
All dogs are different, and some grow out of frequent masturbation. Others will continue doing it for years. It all depends on their needs and how you respond.
Why Do Dogs Masturbate?
There are many reasons why a dog masturbates. From your dog's perspective, it's nothing more than a natural behavior. But its root can stem from many different things.
Here are a few reasons why male and female dogs masturbate.
Dogs have sexual needs. It's not something any dog owner wants to think about, but it's the reality. They have urges and sexual instincts that they must meet.
When no other dog is around, they'll turn to whatever they can find. That includes a stuffed animal, a pile of pillows, or even their owner's leg.
You can typically see when masturbating is a sexual act. Your dog might display other signs, such as putting their tail up, licking their genitals, and being playful.
The sexual release is normal. If it's not bothering another person or animal, it's usually no cause for concern.
Again, all dogs are different. Usually, intact dogs will only masturbate once or twice a day.
Your Dog is in Heat
Sexual instincts can occur at any point. But dogs will experience intense urges to mate at specific times. For females, the desire to mate occurs every six months or so. When this happens, your dog is "in heat."
Your female dog will have a strong urge to mate and get pregnant. They'll likely bleed a bit as well.
The heat period can last up to four weeks. After that, their reproductive window closes until the next heat cycle. Then, it all happens again!
When females can't mate, they masturbate by humping objects and licking themselves.
Be extra careful during the heat period. Females are eager to mate; some become escape artists to find any male dog to fulfill that need.
Your Dog Senses Another Dog in Heat
It's not just your female dog you have to worry about in times of heat. If you have a male dog, they can experience a similar urge. It all comes down to scent!
Females in heat give off a distinct scent. It's pheromone-based, so you can't smell it. But the sensitive olfactory glands of a male dog can!
It's common for male dogs to hunt down females in heat. It could be a neighbor's dog they're sensing, so you must be extra careful about keeping your pup contained. Otherwise, you'll have a litter of puppies on your hands.
Interestingly enough, some male dogs will masturbate more often when it rains. It sounds like a strange old wives' tale, but there's some science behind this phenomenon.
A study in India showed that dogs mate more during the rainy season.
It's likely due to the abundance of water and food during that time. Rainy season maximizes survival rates for the young, so many dogs will have the urge to mate during those times.
It doesn't matter where you live. Some dogs still have those instincts. As a result, they masturbate more whenever it rains.
It's a weird fact that not too many people know about, but it can help you understand your dog's behavior a little better.
Of course, masturbating is not always linked to sexual instincts. Sometimes, it's a way of playing!
Humping is a standard play behavior for dogs. It can present some problems, but for the most part, it's innocent.
You can tell that it's not related to sexual instincts because your dog will start humping without displaying an erection or any discharge.
Typically, the reason for humping stems from mental arousal and stimulation. Your dog gets excited, and the best way they know how to control that energy is through masturbating.
A Response to Stress
On the other end of the emotional spectrum, masturbating can be a response to anxiety and stress.
Canines react in many ways to complex emotions they don't understand. Sometimes, they destroy your favorite pair of shoes or chew on furniture. In others, they turn to masturbating.
Whatever the case, this response is a coping mechanism. They don't know what to do with their feelings, so they resort to masturbating to get rid of the nervous energy they're dealing with.
You might notice this behavior whenever you leave your dog alone for a long time or when they're in unfamiliar surroundings. It even occurs with poorly socialized dogs encountering others for the first time.
Unfortunately, masturbating can turn into a compulsive habit. It usually doesn't start that way.
For most dogs that compulsively masturbate, it begins as a response to stress. But the more the dog does it, the more it becomes engrained in its head that it's the right thing to do.
Once it becomes compulsive, it can interfere with a dog's life in many ways. The best thing you can do is contact a trainer or behaviorist to work with your dog and find healthier ways to cope.
A Show of Dominance
As you probably know by now, humping and masturbating can be a show of dominance. Canines operate on a social hierarchy. In the wild, there's always an alpha and multiple followers.
The alpha dog frequently humps the smaller dogs to keep them in their place. The others will respond by showing their bellies in submission.
It doesn't matter that your dog is no longer in a canine pack. You and your family are their new pack! The social hierarchy still exists. As a result, masturbating and humping will still occur.
Typically, dogs will hump smaller dogs or other pets. You may need to contact a trainer if they hump you to show dominance.
Last but not least, let's talk about medical problems. Dogs are not immune to health issues, and many conditions can lead a dog to masturbate more often than average.
In these cases, it's not about sexual instincts or gratifications. Usually, it's an attempt to get relief!
The most common health problems of masturbation include urinary tract infections, incontinence, allergies, and priapism.
Urinary tract infections and incontinence can be painful. Infections often cause a burning sensation. Meanwhile, the inability to urinate can cause the bladder to fill to the point of pain.
In both cases, masturbation is your dog's attempt to address the problem.
The same goes for skin allergies. You might not see rashes or inflammation, but allergies often affect the delicate skin of the groin.
Humping and licking the area provides temporary relief.
Priapism is when the erection of a male dog lasts for more than four hours. Their penis becomes engorged and stays that way despite the absence of any stimulation.
Again, humping and limping is an attempts to "correct" the problem.
If you suspect health issues are to blame for your dog's masturbation habits, take them to the vet as soon as possible.
Should You Stop Your Dog From Masturbating?
Nothing makes a situation more awkward than having your dog masturbate in the living room! But what shoruld you do about it?
How you respond ultimately depends on the situation. Generally, vets recommend letting your dog do its thing if it's not causing harm.
As long as your pooch focuses on a pillow, blanket, or stuffed animal, it's OK. The behavior is natural, and there's no cause for concern at that point.
It's when they try to hump other pets or humans that you should take action.
Have a conversation with your vet about the best course of action. They can rule out any potential health issues and discuss the possibility of spaying or neutering.
The procedure won't eliminate masturbation entirely, but it can provide more hormonal balance to prevent heat cycles and strong urges that make masturbation an everyday thing.
Training also works. You can provide a command to distract your dog and pull focus away from its masturbation. Positive reinforcement goes a long way;
you can teach your dog not to masturbate as often as they are. If you need help, contact a professional trainer or behaviorist. They can work with you and your dog to see results.
Masturbation is one of those behaviors that owners hate seeing. Most view their dogs as furry children, so the thought of anything sexual can make you uncomfortable.
However, masturbation is perfectly normal. It doesn't always have a sexual connection and is often a response to your dog's experiences.
It's up to you whether you decide to train your dog not to masturbate. It's always a good idea to end the behavior if it's causing trouble for you, your family, or other pets.
Fortunately, dogs learn quickly, and trainers can help you adopt the proper techniques to make a difference.