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Why Do Dogs Hump the Air: Understanding this Funny Behavior - PawSafe

Why Do Dogs Hump the Air: Understanding this Funny Behavior

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

why dogs hump in the air

If you have ever wondered why dogs hump the air, you’re not alone. Humping is one of those unconventional habits canines seem not to get enough of. This behavior is not just an amusing, sometimes embarrassing, quirk. It can give you a deeper look into their health and psychology.

Air humping is when a dog thrusts their hips forward and backward in the air without any object or living being to hump. This behavior can be embarrassing and confusing for dog owners, especially when it happens in public. Some people assume that air-humping is a sign of sexual frustration or aggression, but this is not always the case.

In this article, we will explore the reasons why dogs hump the air. We will look at the possible causes of this behavior, including medical conditions, anxiety, and social cues. Using expert sources like UC Davis Veterinary Material, let’s delve into air mounting in dogs.

We have all seen it: our furry friends humping the air, a pillow, or even your leg. While it may be amusing, it can also be slightly confusing and unsightly. You can check our article on why dogs hump a certain person if you deal with that problem.

Dogs can be like enigmatic puzzle boxes, with each move and gesture being a potential clue to their inner thoughts. When it comes to weird behaviors like rolling in grass, eating poo, chasing tails, digging, and humping, there’s little to say besides that’s the way of the dog.

First of all, it is crucial to understand that humping is a natural behavior for dogs. It is a way for them to release energy, relieve stress, and explore their surroundings. However, when it comes to air humping specifically, there are a few reasons why dogs might engage in this behavior as covered below.

Overall, while air humping may seem strange to us humans, it is a natural behavior for dogs. It is important to understand the reasons behind it and to redirect the behavior if it becomes excessive or inappropriate.

The Science Behind Air Humping in Dogs

Most people take increased humping as an immediate sign that a dog needs to be neutered or spayed because they want to mate. However, you may be surprised to know that humping often has nothing to do with reproduction and mating. 

When it comes to dogs humping the air, there are a few different factors that could be at play. The behavior often has as much to do with social interactions, excitement, greetings, and communication as it does with sexual motives.

9 Common Reasons for Air Humping In Dogs

Dogs humping the air is nothing new. Here are some common reasons for this strange yet natural behavior:

1. Excitement and Play

Excitement is the most likely reason for your dog’s humping. Dogs are known for being playful and dramatic, and dancing in the air can be a part of their play behavior. It can be a way for them to express their excitement and enthusiasm. 

Wagging tails and happy barks usually accompany this type of air humping. The behavior is especially common in younger dogs who are exuberant and full of energy, but it happens in older dogs, too.

2. Displacement Behavior

Displacement occurs when a dog is faced with conflicting emotions, stress, or a challenging situation as a way of releasing tension. This behavior can happen in instances that cause mixed emotions. These include a dog not wanting to engage with a person it loves or when a dog really wants to do something they know they shouldn’t, like jumping on you.

Springer’s research shows that dogs often display displacement behavior to appease humans or perceived threats. Scratching, yawning, stretching, and shaking are other displacement examples. Air humping, in this context, is a way for dogs to release pent-up energy and tension.

3. Attention Seeking

Dogs crave attention from their owners. Air humping can be a way for them to get attention, especially if they have learned that this behavior gets a reaction from their owners. If your dog air humps and you give them attention, even if it’s negative attention, they may continue to do it.

4. Stress and Anxiety

Similar to displacement behavior, dogs may hump the air when they are feeling stressed or anxious. This can be a sign that your dog is experiencing some form of discomfort or pain, whether physical or psychological.

Signs of anxiety include restlessness, pinned ears, whale eye, hiding, and stiffness. If you notice your dog air-humping frequently, it may be a good idea to take them to the vet to rule out any underlying medical issues.

5. Sexual Frustration

Sexual frustration is what most people believe causes dog humping. This behavior is more common in unneutered male dogs, but it can occur in females as well. Also, neutering and spaying sometimes reduce but never eliminate mounting.

If your dog is air-humping excessively and you suspect sexual frustration may be the cause, consult with your vet to discuss the best course of action.

6. Initiating Play and Greetings 

Humping can be a social behavior among dogs. When dogs meet, they often engage in various behaviors to establish a connection and communicate their intentions. Humping can be seen as a way for a dog to initiate contact by getting the attention of another dog.

7. Hormonal Influence

Another factor that could influence air humping behavior in dogs is hormones. Male dogs, in particular, may be more likely to hump the air when they are experiencing a surge of testosterone. A ResearchGate study shows that Dog Appeasing Pheromones can prevent testosterone surges, so it’s worth discussing with your vet if your dog has this issue.

8. Medical Issues

Urinary tract infection, skin irritation, allergies, or prostate conditions can cause itching or discomfort in the genital or abdominal area. This prompts a dog to engage in humping as a way to alleviate the irritation or pain. Watch out for signs like decreased urination, discomfort when peeing, different-colored pee, and even increased peeing if you suspect a medical condition.

9. Imitating Other Dogs

Dogs often mimic the behaviors of other dogs, so if they see another dog humping, they may copy the action without understanding its significance.

Do Neutered Dogs Still Hump?

It’s worth noting that neutering and spaying can have an impact on air humping behavior in dogs. Neutering removes the testicles, which are responsible for producing testosterone. As a result, neutered dogs may be less likely to hump the air or do so less frequently. 

However, neutered dogs can still engage in humping for other reasons like excitement, stress and anxiety, medical issues, and attention-seeking.

When to Be Concerned About Your Dog’s Humping

If your dog’s humping behavior seems excessive or sudden changes in behavior are observed, it may be a cause for concern. In such cases, it is essential to consult a veterinarian or an animal behaviorist to rule out any underlying medical or behavioral issues.

Excessive Humping

If your dog is humping excessively, it could indicate an underlying medical issue, such as a skin allergy or an infection. It could also be due to a behavioral issue such as anxiety or stress.

Sudden Changes in Behavior

It is important to note that humping behavior is a natural behavior for dogs, but excessive or sudden changes in behavior could be a sign of an underlying issue. By consulting a veterinarian and an animal behaviorist, you can determine the cause of the behavior and take appropriate action to address it.

How to Manage Air Humping in Dogs

If your dog is humping the air excessively, there are several ways to manage this behavior. Here are some techniques that may help:

Training Techniques

  • Redirect their attention: When you notice your dog humping the air, try to distract them by calling their name or giving a command and then offering them a toy or treat. This will redirect their attention and help them learn that humping the air is inappropriate behavior.
  • Teach a “stop that” command: Teach your dog a “stop that” command, which can be used to interrupt the humping behavior. When your dog starts humping the air, say “leave it” and offer them a more appropriate activity, such as playing with a toy or going for a walk.
  • Reward good behavior: When your dog is not humping the air, reward them with praise and treats. This will reinforce good behavior and help them understand that humping the air is not desirable.

Professional Help

If your dog’s air humping behavior is persistent and difficult to manage, it may be helpful to seek professional help. Here are some options to consider:

  • Consult with a veterinarian: A veterinarian can help determine if any underlying medical issues may be causing the air humping behavior. They can also recommend behavior modification techniques or medication if necessary.
  • Work with a certified dog trainer: A certified dog trainer can guide how to modify your dog’s behavior and teach them more appropriate ways to express themselves.
  • Consult with a veterinary behaviorist: A veterinary behaviorist is a veterinarian who specializes in animal behavior. They can provide a more in-depth evaluation of your dog’s behavior and develop a behavior modification plan tailored to your dog’s specific needs.

Remember, managing air humping behavior takes time and patience. With consistent training and professional help, if necessary, you can help your dog learn more appropriate ways to express themselves.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do dogs hump as a sign of dominance?

Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not hump as a sign of dominance. In fact, dominance theory has largely been debunked in recent years. Humping is a natural behavior that dogs engage in for a variety of reasons, such as playfulness, excitement, or even boredom.

Why do some neutered dogs still hump?

Neutering can reduce a dog’s sex drive but does not always eliminate humping behavior. Dogs may still hump due to other factors, such as anxiety or habit. If your neutered dog is humping excessively, it may be worth consulting with a veterinarian or animal behaviorist to determine the root cause.

Is humping a sign of anxiety in dogs?

Humping can be a sign of anxiety in some dogs. If your dog is humping excessively or in inappropriate situations, it may be a sign of stress or anxiety. In these cases, it is important to identify the underlying cause and address it through training or other interventions.

Can humping be a learned behavior in dogs?

Yes, humping can be a learned behavior in dogs. Dogs may learn to hump from other dogs or from humans. If your dog has learned to hump from another dog, it may be helpful to limit their exposure to that dog. If your dog has learned to hump from humans, it is important to redirect their behavior and provide appropriate outlets for their energy.

Do female dogs hump?

Yes, female dogs can hump just like male dogs. Humping behavior is not limited to one gender or the other. Female sexually-charged humping mostly happens when the dog is in heat, but other reasons like excitement and anxiety can also cause the mounting.

How can I stop my dog from humping everything?

Stopping humping behavior in dogs can be challenging, but it is possible with consistent training and redirection. Appropriate outlets for your dog’s energy, such as regular exercise and playtime, can help reduce humping behavior. It may also be helpful to redirect your dog’s attention when they begin to hump and reward them for engaging in alternativ-e-archive behaviors. Consulting with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist can also help address humping behavior.

Final Thoughts

Dogs humping the air is a natural and normal behavior that humans often misunderstand. It is usually a harmless way for dogs to relieve stress, excitement, or even boredom. However, it can also be a sign of a medical issue or a behavioral problem that requires attention.

If your dog is humping the air excessively or inappropriately, it is important to observe their behavior and consult with a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer. They can help you determine the underlying cause and provide you with the appropriate treatment or training plan.

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Tamsin De La Harpe

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Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.