Copulatory reflexes in dogs (male / female)


Dogs’ instinctive and reflexive behaviour can be misinterpreted by their owners. The result can be an escalation of behaviour that we as humans treat with reserve, disapproval or even scorn.

An example would be copulatory reflexes in males or females. Contrary to the prose, this is a very common problem with which owners of quadrupeds have to contend. The situation becomes even more troublesome if the dog shows such behaviour in the presence of small children or our guests. What to do in such a situation? How do react properly to dogs’ copulatory reflexes? How not to behave in order not to escalate the problem? In our guide, we will answer all the embarrassing questions.

Where do a dog’s/dog’s copulatory reflexes come from?

Many dog owners tell of the embarrassment they felt when their beloved dog suddenly started making copulatory movements „with” human legs or some object. This happens occasionally at first, but over time it becomes more frequent. At a certain stage, no methods work and the dog almost automatically repeats the copulation reflex regardless of what objects are within its reach. To choose the optimal method of counteracting such a situation, first of all, we should try to understand the reasons for such behaviour. And this, despite appearances, is not too complicated. All we need to do is to reject the stereotypes we as humans are guided by.

Copulatory behaviour in dogs, which so often makes us angry, doesn’t have to have a strictly sexual meaning. It should be known that the copulatory reflex is one of the most basic behaviours determined by a dog’s nature. Procreative behaviour, which is aimed at preserving the species and transferring genetic material, can affect all dogs, regardless of breed. For quadrupeds it is an unconditioned reflex, just like for us sneezing, coughing or knee reflexes. Making movements identified with having sexual intercourse is not always motivated by sexual desire. First of all, it is important to know that the number of factors determines whether or not a dog will perform these behaviours.

Among the most important are:
  • genetic predisposition
  • testosterone levels
  • resistance to stress and tension
  • whether the dog has been neutered or not
  • proper socialisation
  • temperament and personality of the dog

Testosterone is secreted in the dog’s body as early as the fetal stage and immediately after birth. It is this hormone that determines reproductive behaviour and all other sexual activities. It is not surprising that puppies as young as a few weeks old can make movements that imitate copulation, even though the sexual sphere in a dog has not yet developed. The problem can be exacerbated during adolescence, when the dog increasingly discovers its nature, including sexual behaviour. The copulatory reflex in young dogs and puppies can also be a way of relieving tension and stress or a way of coping with difficult situations.

Hypersexual dogs

Dogs functioning in a natural environment, having contact with members of their species, traditionally relieve sexual tension – by copulation with a female. This can be a form of domination or confirmation of a strong position in the pack. At home, dogs do not have the opportunity to satisfy their needs in this way, so it is not surprising that determined by instinct, they practice sexual behaviour using other objects. These are usually furniture, toys, the owner’s legs or other objects in the vicinity.

Copulatory reflexes in dogs may also be accompanied by other hypersexual behaviours such as:
  • very frequent marking of sites with urine
  • spontaneous ejaculations of semen during sleep

How to react? Is it possible to try to teach a dog this type of behaviour?

As we mentioned at the beginning of this text, these reflexes are unconditional and it is important to understand the nature of the dog’s actions. The main mistake that dog owners make is to be shocked and embarrassed when they see their dog copulating with an object. Of course, from a human point of view, such behaviour is considered indecent. However, in the case of dogs, punishment will not have the desired effect. What is more, by reacting in such a way, we often only escalate the behaviour we want to eliminate. Often dogs want to draw attention to themselves by performing such reflexes. By making an „affair” of the copulatory reflex, we give a clear signal to the dog: it works, they are interested in me! It’s not hard to guess that since it worked once, the dog will only reinforce the frequency of such behaviour.

Instead of making a row, it will be much more effective to distract the dog from the performed behaviour. You can do this by giving him a command and showing him the treat that the dog will receive when the task is completed. This method is very often effective and can gently control a dog’s urges in the presence of children or guests. For the owner, sudden dog behaviour can be very stressful, but it is important to remember that dogs often carry it out completely subconsciously.



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