Why Does My Dog Hump the Air? …Not What You Think! Easy Breakdown!

small dog humping their owners leg

If you’ve ever felt embarrassed by your dog humping the air, fret not–you’re not alone! In fact, so many pet parents are baffled by this behavior and want their dogs to stop the habit ASAP. But what is it really that makes humping the air such a typical dog behavior?

While sexual arousal is one of the most common reasons for humping in dogs, many times, it’s not sexual excitement that triggers the behavior. Dogs may hump the air to release tension and stress, to get your attention, or even because of medical issues. 

Before attempting to stop this funny habit in your furry bundle of joy, let’s talk about the reasons that cause it, so you get to understand your dog better (and respond appropriately the next time it happens).

Reasons Why Dogs Hump the Air…and Other Things

Most people find it funny when dogs begin to hump the air, as well as pillows, legs, or anything in sight because it reminds them of that familiar behavior in humans that usually happens under the sheets. 

But while dogs have adapted well to human behavior, is it okay to think that humping behavior in dogs is simply what we think it is? Well, not really. Here are eight possible reasons for the behavior.

They Are Sexually Aroused

Yep, this is probably the first reason you thought of. The way dogs thrust their pelvic muscles repeatedly in the air or against whatever is at hand is most often because they are sexually excited. When male dogs sense that there are female dogs in heat nearby but can’t get to them, the male dogs could hump the air to release a buildup of sexual tension.

The same is true for female dogs in heat that can’t access males, humping the air to release their frustration or tension instead. 

However, if you have a neutered dog, you may wonder why they are also displaying this behavior. Don’t be too quick to rule out sexual arousal as the cause in that case because newly neutered dogs can still feel sexually excited. It can take a while for the change in their reproductive system to take effect.

In fact, did you know that male dogs can store sperm in their testicles for up to a month? Also, while castrations affect their sexual drive, they don’t get rid of sexual urges entirely, and neutered dogs may still feel the heat every now and then.

Something Excites Them

On the other hand, it could simply be due to a different kind of excitement–the return of a pet parent or an anticipated treat, for example. Dogs could also be excited when another dog they like being around is nearby, which makes them excited to play.

While not all dogs display this behavior when excited or happily anticipating something, some do, especially when excitement levels are through the roof.

The next time your dog starts humping the air, try to see whether something could be causing excitement to spike, such as when you’re picking up their leash (signaling that you’re going out for a walk) after staying home all day.

They’re Trying To Take Control

Dogs have a strong pack mentality; in that pack, there is a natural order where an alpha dominates over all the other dogs. Sometimes, dogs hump other dogs and even people’s legs to gain dominance over whoever they’re humping.

So if you catch yourself thinking, “Ooh, what a naughty little creature you are,” when your dog humps your leg (and then goes on to hump the air when you move or leave), you might want to consider the possibility that your dog could be trying to climb up the social ladder!

Another sign that this is happening is if you have several dogs at home and the humper is clearly nowhere near the top of the hierarchy. That may be causing some issues with dominance and control.

They Want You To Pay Attention

Or it could be something as simple as your dog wanting to get your attention. If you’ve formed a habit of playing with your dog, calling them, going to them, or even laughing every time they hump the air, your dog may think that doing the same thing again will surely get you to notice them.

Dogs are creatures of habit–and they are quick to pick up on your habits. So maybe your dog just really needs to go out to pee or is yearning for a snack. If your dog is humping around the time of the day when you usually do something together, maybe they’re just letting you know it’s time to get a move on.

It’s Just Play

Other times, there’s really nothing to dogs humping the air except them playing around. Other dogs like to play fetch. Some just enjoy humping the air. Young pups who aren’t used to playing with other dogs and are unsure how to play are more likely to hump the air. 

These dogs usually hump the air instead of chasing other dogs around or play-biting them because they just don’t know different ways they can play. If you notice that your dog does this when other dogs are present at playtime, you might want to introduce a few toys, like a ball, and demonstrate how to play by running or chasing them.

It’s a Way To Relieve Tension or Stress

Just like when the sexual urges are high, and dogs can’t do the deed with another dog, dogs may also resort to air humping when stressed or anxious about something. Notice whether your dog starts to aggressively hump the air when you’re in a new, unfamiliar place or when a new dog comes home.

It can signify that your dog is under quite a bit of stress. Help your pet relax by speaking soothingly, petting, or giving your dog a treat.

They Have Health Issues

However, air humping can sometimes signify that your dog is having medical issues or experiencing mild to moderate discomfort. Some issues that commonly lead to air humping in dogs include urinary tract infections and skin allergies.

If the former, your dog could whine, yelp, or let out a sound of pain or discomfort while peeing. On the other hand, skin allergies may cause your dog to scratch incessantly or make their skin reddish and irritated.

If you notice any of these symptoms, consult your vet. 

The Boredom Is Just Too Much

Lastly, dogs may also hump the air when they’re too bored. Dogs love physical activity. They need both mental and physical stimulation. If your dog doesn’t do anything all day, they could be bored out of their wits. It’s not uncommon for a bored dog to become desperate for anything to do, including humping the air.

To keep this from becoming a habit, ensure that your dog has enough activity, like park runs, games, and even training sessions that are great for sharpening their minds and helping them better adapt to their environment.


Humping in dogs can go from funny to embarrassing to worrying, especially when the behavior seems to occur out of the blue or becomes excessive. Understanding why our pets may exhibit this habit will help us give them the proper support, help, and even training they need.

So, next time your dog humps the air, it might not be for the reason you think. Make sure you consider whether they could be bored or want your attention. If you suspect it’s due to a medical issue, reach out to your local vet as soon as possible.

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