If you own a male dog, you will likely see a bizarre red protuberance emerge from his belly region at some point in time. It can be a shocking sight that causes some owners to recoil, but it can cause others – especially those who know what it is — to giggle like a grade-schooler.
It’s nothing to worry about; it is just your dog’s penis. You may see it emerge occasionally in a process called penis crowning.
We’ll explain everything you need to know about this phenomenon below, including the reasons it happens and what (if anything) you should do about it.
I’m going to try to be an adult about all of this, but I make no promises.
Penis Crowning in Dogs: Key Takeaways
- Your dog’s penis may come out (“crown”) anytime he gets aroused.
- “Arousal” in this sense doesn’t only include sexual arousal — it applies to virtually any type of excitement.
- Penis crowning is perfectly normal, and there’s not much you can do to stop it.
The Anatomy of Male Dogs
To begin, we need to explain the basic anatomy of your dog’s genitalia. There are a number of differences between a dog’s genitals and those of a male human, but they’re pretty similar to those of many other mammals.
All male dogs have a penis, and intact (non-neutered) males have two testicles just like most other mammals.
However, the penis of dogs is positioned a bit farther up the abdomen than it is in humans, and it is typically held inside a sheath called the prepuce (which is the technical term for foreskin).
The prepuce is covered in fur like the rest of your dog’s body, but his penis is covered in a mucous membrane that gives it a red or pink appearance.
There are a few other differences of note, including the fact that a dog’s penis has two bulbous glands near the base (called the bulbus glandis), which swell when your dog becomes fully erect, right before ejaculation.
You can see a photo of an erect canine penis (including swollen bulbus glandis) here. Fair warning: That’s a pretty graphic, in-your-face photo.
The bulbus glandis helps keep the penis inside a female dog’s vagina during copulation. Colloquially, the bulbus glandis is sometimes called a “knot” and dogs are often said to be “tied” or “knotted” when it swells during mating.
Another important difference between dog and human genitalia is that a dog’s penis features an internal bone. Called the baculum or os penis, this anatomical feature is actually pretty common in the animal kingdom and found in species ranging from raccoons to walruses to chimpanzees.
The baculum provides rigidity (even when the penis is not fully erect) and makes copulation easier. In fact, male dogs typically achieve penetration before becoming fully erect, thanks to the presence of the baculum.
Dogs only become fully erect after achieving coitus – were they to become fully erect beforehand, they’d be unable to insert tab A into slot B, as the swollen bulbus glandis is too large to fit into a female dog’s vagina.
You can see the ramifications of this in the following video. Even though this dog is not aroused, his baculum is preventing him from squeezing through his doggie door.
Why Does Dog Penis Crowning Occur?
Penis crowning usually occurs for one simple reason: arousal.
But note that “arousal” in the veterinary context doesn’t just mean sexual arousal – virtually any type of excitement can cause the red rocket to make an appearance.
It certainly can occur when your dog is interested in getting a little action, but it can also occur when your dog gets excited about other things, ranging from food and awesome-smelling stuff, to belly scratches or a ride in the car.
As you can see in the video below (which we include because, well, science), this golden retriever’s red rocket starts to emerge because he seems to be excited and having a good time.
Of course, playtime with other doggos may also cause your dog’s penis to crown. But even in these cases (which may involve dogs of either sex), it still doesn’t necessarily indicate that your dog is sexually aroused.
Rarely, a dog’s penis may not fit well inside the prepuce, which can cause it to make more frequent appearances than normal. This may cause the penis to dry out, but it usually doesn’t cause significant, long-term problems.
Eww… Why Is Stuff Coming Out of My Dog’s Penis?
Penile discharge – technically termed smegma – may be a bit revolting, but it is usually normal, common, and no cause for concern. It may vary in color from yellowish-white to slightly green.
You may (and I apologize for putting this image in your head) even see your dog licking it from time to time.
This doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem, but excessive licking or discharge may indicate the presence of an infection. So, make sure to have your vet check out your dog if the amount of discharge or frequency of your dog’s licking seems unusual.
Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to go pound my head against a wall until I forget this entire section. Feel free to do the same.
Does Penis Crowning Occur in Neutered Dogs?
Some owners are surprised to see a neutered dog’s penis emerge, but this is a common occurrence. It doesn’t mean he wasn’t neutered properly or that he’s still capable of siring puppies. It just means he’s aroused.
But remember: Arousal in dogs isn’t always sexual, and penis crowning can occur because of any type of arousal.
So, when you start scratching your dog’s belly so vigorously that he can hardly contain himself, he may, uh, fail to contain himself.
The same thing can happen when two dogs become excited during play. You may even see them engage in humping behaviors while showing off their red rocket for all to see. But these behaviors are not inherently sexual; they’re really just a type of play.
Does the Red Rocket Mean Your Dog Is Attracted to You?
Don’t flatter yourself.
While your dog certainly loves you, you’re still safely inside the friend zone, so don’t worry. Penis crowning doesn’t indicate that your dog is sexually or romantically attracted to you. As we’ve explained, it just means that he is excited.
As a related aside, dog humping behavior isn’t intrinsically sexual either. Many dogs who become excited and can’t figure out a good outlet for their zeal often begin humping things. This may include your leg, other dogs, or inanimate objects.
What Should I Do About My Dog’s Penis Crowning?
In most cases, you don’t have to do anything when your dog’s penis crowns. There’s really not much you can do.
As long as your dog is acting normally and doesn’t appear to be in discomfort, there’s usually no need to worry. Just try to ignore it, and it’ll retreat in time.
But, if you notice any of the following signs or symptoms, make an appointment with your vet to have things checked out:
- Excessive amounts of discharge
- Very frequent licking or licking that lasts for a long time
- The penis doesn’t retreat into the prepuce after a reasonable length of time
- Your dog appears to be in pain or discomfort
- The presence of blood
Discharges or excessive licking may indicate the presence of an infection, while penises that fail to retract or cause your dog pain may indicate one of two different veterinary emergencies.
One such problem, called paraphimosis, occurs when a dog’s penis crowns and then becomes “stuck.” This is usually due to hair from the prepuce getting trapped inside the opening of the sheath.
The other reason a dog’s penis may remain out and about is a condition called priapism, which is essentially an erection that does not become flaccid as it should.
Insert the “Little Blue Pill” disclaimer here.
If you suspect that your dog is suffering from either of these conditions, you’ll want to spread a thin layer of a water-based lubricant to your dog’s penis to prevent it from drying out. Then, hop in the car and drive right over to the vet’s office.
Your vet will work to remove any hair that’s getting in the way so that your dog’s penis can retract normally. Because this is a painful condition and the treatment isn’t exactly a day at the beach, many dogs will be put under general anesthesia during the procedure.
Finally, the presence of blood may signal a variety of problems, ranging from bladder stones to blood clotting disorders. Accordingly, you’ll want to head over to the vet and get your pooch checked out.
How Can You Stop a Dog’s Penis from Coming Out?
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to prevent the red rocket from making an appearance. As explained earlier, penis crowning occurs because your dog is excited, and you certainly wouldn’t want to deprive your dog of the things that bring him joy.
Just do your best to ignore it and try not to let it embarrass you – it’s a perfectly natural phenomenon that can occur for a variety of reasons besides sexual arousal.
If you notice your dog’s penis crown while you are giving him attention, just stop and move on to other things. It’ll likely retract soon, and you can forget the whole thing.
So, there you have it. Your dog’s “red rocket” is actually his penis. It’s no big deal, and you should try not to let it bother you.
It could be worse — you could have a pet turtle instead of a dog (careful clicking on that link — some things cannot be unseen).
Feel free to let us know if you have any additional questions about your dog’s equipment in the comments below, and we’ll try to answer them.