When you notice a dog humping the air, it’s likely due to excitement or changes in its body or development. It’s usually something that occurs when a dog feels a sudden emotional rush, giving them away from expressing those feelings. There are several reasons dogs hump the air, whether they are young puppies, physically active adults, or older dogs.
While this behavior may seem initially harmless, many dog owners prefer to discourage it, as it can be disruptive and difficult to control. It’s also essential to get familiar with the common reasons why dogs perform this action and similar behaviors.
Dog Humping: It’s a Sign of Dominance
When a dog humps the air or attaches itself to another dog or person, this can signify dominance.
They see this as a way to display their social status in a group, and since dogs are pack animals, this is common in showing other dogs, animals, and even humans, that they have an authoritative role or purpose.
While dogs are loyal to pet owners and human companions, they may feel the need to express claim over a person, item, or space as their territory. When dogs hump the air, they let everyone know their intention of taking control.
Dog humping is common when male dogs are ready to mate. This humping behavior is a way to show female dogs their intention to mate, which can quickly lead to sexual behavior.
This display of eagerness to engage in sexual behavior is standard in all dog breeds, including Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Doodle breeds.
It’s a typical animal behavior where dogs can show excitement as they reach sexual maturity. It’s normal to notice dog mounting, followed by dogs humping the air or towards each other.
This mating behavior will not occur between dogs that are neutered or spayed. While this is normal behavior for dogs, humping motions will decline for mating, especially when neutering.
However, they may continue seeking attention or showing excitement by humping the air like a puppy or an active adult.
A Display of Excitement (or Anxiety)
One of the most common reasons for air humping is excitement. They may be happy to see someone that’s been away on vacation, such as a human companion or another dog.
Dogs may change from humping the air to attaching themselves to a toy, such as a stuffed animal or blanket, to show excitement.
A dominant dog may display arousal towards another dog in this show of excitement. However, it can be a sign that they are over-excited and alternate humping motions with jumping, running, and circling humans and other pets.
Dogs may hump the air to gain attention, especially if they feel social and want to express their desire to play or go outside for a walk. They may attempt to get a dog owner’s attention, even if they know that their rowdy behavior is unwanted because they need or want immediate communication.
In most cases, this behavior stops once a dog engages in play with their human companions or seeks the attention they crave from their owner.
A Form of Playing Behavior
As puppies learn to interact and communicate with humans, they may not have fully developed social skills when they begin to hump the air and jump with over-excitement.
Some dog breeds are more prone to showing their desire to play or go outside with this behavior, especially if they are puppies or young adults.
While it’s normal behavior to initiate play with owners, regularly engaging in puzzles, exercise, and play with dogs can curb these actions.
Tips on Reducing or Stopping Humping Behavior in Dogs
While dogs’ humping behavior may seem comical and harmless, it can quickly become an annoyance for pet owners and guests. In some cases, dogs that engage in humping and mounting will continue unless they are actively discouraged at a young age.
The following tips can help keep your dog from humping and mounting:
- Recognize when your dog is about to engage in humping or air humping, and quickly but gently discourage this behavior with a quick “sit” or a similar command. Within a short time, dogs will understand that this is not allowed, and they will either stop entirely or reduce this behavior.
- Since male dogs are most likely to hump the air, especially when displaying sexual or mating behavior, neutering is a great option to stop or curb these actions.
- Some dogs may have medical conditions that lead to this behavior in rare circumstances, such as a urinary tract infection, a rash, or skin allergy, which is relieved with humping or mounting actions.
- Seek professional dog training services, which can provide clear instructions and support in helping curb unwanted dog behaviors and activities. This dog training also gives dog owners the tools and techniques to keep their dogs under control.
- Engage in regular play and exercise with your dog, as this will help them stay active and less likely to overreact with humping or mounting motions when they return home. If a dog doesn’t adapt well to a leash-free park or outdoor space, it may be ideal for keeping the leash on until they are ready to display improved behavior.
Dogs are eager to please, and while humping behavior is an annoyance and challenging to discourage, it can be successfully done with patience and perseverance.
While most dogs adjust to commands from their owners, it’s also important to consider incentives, such as play, treats, and other rewards to encourage better dog behavior.
Professional training and keeping a close eye on medical conditions, or health concerns, are also essential in maintaining your dog’s well-being while developing structure and routine.
In most cases, dogs thrive best with a standard routine, including specific mealtimes, playtime, and exercise. They will know when to expect certain activities and won’t overreact or become too excited when their life is more predictable and enjoyable.