Canine Behavior/Mounting


QUESTION: You say that mounting is either sexual (but only if the dogs are of opposite sex, the male is intact and the female near or in estrus) or a show of dominance/demonstrating pack status. Ok....

Then why does my 9 year-old, neutered (since he was 8 months old) GSD insist on mounting my son's spayed, 2 year-old Lab? And why does our friends neutered male insist on mounting so many inanimate objects that his nick-name is "bucket-f***er"???

ANSWER: You didn't indicate in what forum (or what response) I said that sex or dominance were the only two times when a dog might mount, so I can't go back to review my earlier comment. It's possible that I did say that a few years ago. I'm always continuing my education and so that may have been my understanding at the time that I wrote that original response, but I have a much more nuanced understanding of this rather common behavior now than I did previously.

Today, I can tell you that mounting is quite often a reflection of poor social skills and nothing more. Dogs - male and female - will sometimes mount in an effort to solicit attention/play, as part of play or as a means to try to control a situation when they're feeling overwhelmed. You may have seen 2 dogs playing with high energy and suddenly a third will come in and try to mount one of them. That's generally viewed as the third dog feeling over stimulated by the activity/energy of the other two and so is attempting to control or calm the other dogs so he/she feels more comfortable.

In your case, without seeing your GSD or your friend's dog, I'd venture to say that it's poor social skills or learned behavior on both their parts. Mounting is a normal part of all dogs' behavioral repertoire and so will be used, tested and experimented with during various social situations. Dogs (just like people) tend to repeat behaviors that work for them - that satisfy some need they have. So, your GSD may get the attention he's seeking, either from your son's dog who may accept the solicitation and begin a game, or by attention from the humans in the room who then speak to him, laugh at him, chase him away or start a different game in an effort to redirect him. Your friend's dog may mount inanimate objects because it successfully gets attention from the humans in the room who may laugh and watch or speak to him or engage him in another activity to redirect him. Or because he's bored and it's a fun way to expend energy.

And then there's masturbation. Yes, dogs - especially males - will sometimes masturbate. Even neutered dogs. This is most often attributed to boredom. My older male will masturbate if we haven't been doing enough active play for a couple days. He will chase his tail, biting the very base of it or his hip. He'll sit down and hump as he scoots in a circle on the carpeted floor and then lick/groom his privates. He'll continue this for sometimes several minutes unless I interrupt him with an activity. My younger male doesn't masturbate and only mounts my older male if the older one is engaged with a long lasting chew toy and the younger one wishes to engage in a wrestle. I simply say "Don't hump your brother" and that ends the behavior.

Your dog mounting another dog is not likely to be masturbation, but your friend's dog who is mounting inanimate objects could be. It likely began as a boredom behavior - a way to entertain himself and expend some energy when nobody was around to play with him or when there was no other mental stimulation available to him - and has become a learned behavior either by self-reinforcement (it feels good) or by the humans in his environment reinforcing it with attention.

The best way to prevent your friend's dog's behavior is to provide sufficient physical and MENTAL stimulation so that he's not bored. And to never acknowledge him if he begins to mount any inanimate objects. Ignore that behavior, even leave the room and then after about a 10-20 second pause, call him from the other room and begin a game so that it doesn't appear to be a response to the mounting behavior. If he's doing it for attention, and every time he starts, the humans get up and leave the room without a word or a glance at him, he'll soon realize it's no longer working to get attention. But the key is to provide attention for another, more acceptable behavior such as bringing a toy or sitting politely near the human.

For your dog, providing sufficient mental and physical stimulation may reduce his efforts to mount your son's dog. But if the female dog is responding to being mounted by engaging in play, then it will be very difficult to curb the mounting behavior because it's being so heavily reinforced by the female dog's response. You may be able to prevent it before it starts simply by getting both dogs involved in an active game of chase or friendly wrestle before he tries to mount. If he's getting the game without having to first mount, then that behavior may extinguish on its own as he determines he can get the result (a game) with other behavior choices.

I hope this helps. If you could reply to this with a link to that previous answer, I may wish to go back and revise it as I didn't recall making such a definitive statement and I should correct it. . . Thank you for that assist.

Los Angeles Behaviorist

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Here's the link:

I didn't realize it was that old.

Last question...what about a neutered male who humps air?? It seems to be random and beyond his control.

Thank you!

Of course, to really address this, a full history would be needed - when it started, how long it's been going on, how long each incident lasts, how frequently they occur, what's going on in the environment in the few minutes leading up to them, how he behaves immediately afterward, can he be interrupted and redirected during an episode, how frequently does he pee and does it appear to be emptying his bladder or marking or dribbling, a complete medical history, and a whole host of other questions. This forum isn't really set up for that kind of intake and client history. So, to speak generally...

Air humping can be a sign of excitement or stress. In fact, there are two kinds of stress that we all experience: distress (fear, anxiety, conflict, etc) and eustress (happy excitement like winning the lottery, anticipation, sexual arousal, etc). For the most part, the body doesn't know the difference between the two - both involve increased heart rate and respiration, adrenalin and cortisol flood the body, pupils dilate, digestion slows, etc. The difference is the emotional response. But because the physical reaction is so similar, we often see behaviors that appear sexual during other kinds of arousal. So a dog humping the air could be super excited and unable to contain himself. He could be feeling stressed or anxious and unable to cope.

There is a saying in dog training when it comes to male dogs: If you see pink, he can't think. This is because no matter the kind of arousal/excitement, the dog will start to do what's called "penis crowning". This can be just the tiniest tip of the penis or a full display. The more pink showing, the more aroused the dog. The more aroused the dog, the less able he is to think clearly, respond to commands, remain calm... So, if it's just the tiniest tip of pink, and it's in a known environment such as pulling out the treat pouch and clicker for training (and the dog loves training), he may still be able to focus and comply with behavior requests, though he may be bouncing around between commands. If he's got a lot of pink showing, it's not likely you'll get any good responses or any good learning taking place because he's just too worked up.

But, if it seems to be happening truly at random - there are no consistencies of who is present or the activity that's occurring or about to occur, or any other environmental things that are similar across incidents, then this dog should have a complete medical workup including a urinalysis to check for infection as well as a neurological exam as seizure disorders can manifest in many strange ways and a seemingly random loss of ability to control a part of his body which is moving erratically can be indicative of a partial focal seizure.

Thank you for the link to the previous question/answer. I had a feeling it was back when I first started answering questions here (2009). I've learned soooo much since then that I almost wish most of my answers from back then would just leave the internet. ;-)

Los Angeles Behaviorist  

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Jody Epstein, CPDT- KA, APDT


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 5 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been professionally modifying behavior and training obedience for 7 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I have just changed the name of my business. It is no longer Good Dog! Dog Training. The new name is Nutz About Mutz!. If you see previous questions with the Good Dog! website information, that is my response.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a graduate education in animal behavior and learning. (While I completed my coursework and did the requisite research, I did not defend a dissertation. I am qualified, but not certified and so technically not a doctor. This is commonly referred to as Ph.D.-ABD which means All But Dissertation.) My educational focus was with non-human primates, but my personal interest is with domestic dogs and their relationships with humans and other animals. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences.

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