Penis Crowning in Dogs: Why Does the Red Rocket Come Out?

Common Canine Questions


Ben Team


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dog red rocket

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.

Dog penis bone
A canine baculum. The red arrow is pointing to the place where a dog’s urethra sits. Photo from Wikipedia.

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.

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Written by

Ben Team

Ben is the managing editor for K9 of Mine and has spent most of his adult life working as a wildlife educator and animal-care professional. Ben’s had the chance to work with hundreds of different species, but his favorite animals have always been dogs. He currently lives in Atlanta, GA with his spoiled-rotten Rottweiler named J.B. Chances are, she’s currently giving him the eyes and begging to go to the park.

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  1. Rydal Avatar

    I shouldn’t have clicked on the turtle video. That took 30 years off my life and I haven’t even reached 30 yet… Besides that, thank you for the article! I’ve been curious about this subject for years and I’m considering studying towards becoming a veterinarian. It was quick and easy to read and straight to the point.

    1. Ben Team Avatar

      Ha ha! I did warn you, Rydal.
      Glad you enjoyed the article.

  2. Katie Avatar

    Thank you for the informative and humorous article. I stumbled upon your site while searching for more info about the appearance of my dogs “red rocket”
    He was sitting and I noticed it poke out a bit but this time it appeared a bit irritated with a small area of increased redness as well as what appeared to be his baculum! Is it possible for it to erode through the penile tissue? Or is it normal to be able to visualize it? He didn’t appear to be in pain although he also didn’t appreciate my impromptu examination. Thanks for any help you can provide!

    1. Ben Team Avatar

      Hey there, Katie.
      I’m super glad you enjoyed the article, but I am not super stoked about your description of your dog’s penis.
      I have never seen (or even heard of) a baculum protruding through the penile tissue.

      It sounds like it’s time for a call to the vet.
      Best of luck — my fingers are crossed for your doggo.

  3. Megan Avatar

    Why does the red rocket only seem to come out when the dog is sitting?

    1. Ben Team Avatar

      Hey there, Megan.
      Not sure if you mean that happens to your specific dog or you mean it more broadly, but the red rocket also comes out when dogs are standing or laying on their backs or sides.
      Thanks for checking out the site!

  4. Tracy Avatar

    I’m a retired vet tech, and this is the greatest … funniest article I’ve read in a very long time! Thank you:)

    1. Ben Team Avatar

      So glad you enjoyed it, Tracy. Thanks for the kind words.

  5. Esther Avatar

    At what age does the crowning start to occur?

    1. Ben Team Avatar

      Hey there, Esther.

      It isn’t entirely clear what the earliest age it can begin, but certainly by the time dogs begin to reach sexual maturity (somewhere around 7 months of age).

      However, I’ve found a few semi-reliable accounts of dogs doing so in the 3- to 5-month range (side note: if I’m hit by a bus, I’m gonna need someone to delete my internet search history now).
      How old is your dog? I’m guessing you’re asking because you’ve just witnessed the emergence of the red rocket.

      1. Esther Avatar

        Hey! So i actually don´t know the exact age because he´s a rescue, the vet calculates around 2-3 months, so I thought it was a bit early for that, or he´s a bit older than we think.

        1. Ben Team Avatar

          Ah, well both things are certainly possibilities — either your pooch is a bit older than you think or he’s just an “early bloomer.”
          Assuming there aren’t any complications, he doesn’t seem to be in pain or distressed by it, and it retracts normally after a brief time, it shouldn’t be a problem. But it’s probably worth mentioning to your vet anyway.

          1. Esther Avatar

            Great! Thanks for your help!!

  6. Sam Avatar

    Does anyone have any tips on removing smegma from walls and paintwork? Troy is a Dogue de Bordeaux so big baby that manages to leave splash from one end or the other where ever he goes. Any suggestions gratefully received x

    1. Ben Team Avatar

      Just when you think you’ve seen every dog question imaginable…

      That sounds like quite an unpleasant issue, Sam. Unfortunately, we don’t have any great recommendations for this particular problem.

      Honestly, you’ll probably have more luck finding answers from someone in the paint/finishing space than the dog-care world. There are certainly cleaning products that’ll remove just about anything, but we don’t know how your walls will handle it.

      Nevertheless, we’d love to know what you find out, so keep us updated! Best of luck!

  7. Val Avatar

    Why does my wiener dog get on his hind legs only to lick my great Danes red rocket??

    1. Ben Team Avatar

      Well, he is a wiener dog. (Rimshot)
      Jokes aside, Val, it’s likely a combination of curiosity and stimulation.

  8. Liz Avatar

    My little dog (Chihuahua plus, around 10 pounds) seems to have both priapism and paraphimosis. It happens mostly in the morning, or after a long nap. He’ll sit back on his haunches and very adeptly push is prepuce down enough to free his penis. Then it’s full out and erect. He licks it for a while and then it seems to retract. However before it’s all the way in, the prepuce rolls in on itself and he’s stuck out. It usually swells a little and he is in great discomfort. I used to put on the gloves and lube and actually push it in and pull up the skin. That takes two people though and my neighbors are good for holding him while I do it one time and that’s it and who can blame them. So I have lube and syringe and I squirt some inside the prepuce. He then goes to work on it. This can be an hour long activity because usually he needs to get some lube at least 3 or 4 times. He’s so amazing and sweet that he knows to sit on my lap and lean back while I do it. He has been examined by a surgeon and is 100% normal. (He’s neutered) This all started happening when he was about 3 years old. He got an ultrasound that showed a slight thickening of his bladder wall and some debris in his bladder. We switched him to a urinary tract healthy diet and the problem stopped. For about a year. Now it’s happening again. Every morning. He had another ultrasound today and all is well. My vet says the next step to think about is to either try prozac or surgically sew his penis to the inside of his prepuce in order to grow scar tissue that will keep it in place. This sounds awfully drastic to me and it’s irreversible if something starts to go awry. I know that scar tissue begets scar tissue and then what? I’ve brainstormed with some friends and come up with a few ideas that aren’t currently available. I thought a hormone treatment or something to keep him from becoming fully erect would work but nothing like that exists. I’ve asked about somehow adding some skin to his prepuce to make it more flexible and loose so it won’t roll in on itself. That would invite too many things to get in that shouldn’t. He is short, so 3″ grass sweeps his belly. My latest thought was to put a belly band on him at night but I’m sure he could get out of it. The last few times I saw him start to get it out I told him no, no and brought him to his food dish or out the door. Maybe I can treat it as a non desirable behavior problem, but I don’t want to cause him any damage if he’s doing it for a good reason. It’s not a hair, I wish it was that simple. The prepuce skin rolls in on itself towards the end of the retreat and then he’s stuck with a tootsie pop situation. He’s not even 5. I don’t know what to do.

    1. Ben Team Avatar

      Hey, Liz. So sorry to hear about your poor pooch! That sounds terrible, but we think it’s great you’re trying so hard to help him.

      Unfortunately, there’s not much help we can offer. Honestly, it sounds like the problem is even stumping your vet. We are intrigued by the management/training idea, as well as the belly band idea — if either of those works, it’ll eliminate the need for surgical procedures. We’d also say that it never hurts to talk to more vets. You may visit two or three who aren’t able to offer a solution, but the fourth may have a creative idea.

      We wish you the best of luck! Keep us posted!

  9. Juli Meguire Avatar
    Juli Meguire

    Thanks Ben – We’ve asked two vets, one said he didn’t know of anything that could help. The other said not to worry about it, sometimes little dogs just have that issue, there isn’t anything that can be done. It does get dried out but he doesn’t seem to have any problems because of it. Maybe as he gets older he won’t get ask excited as much. Regardless of the issue, I’m glad I have a happy dog.

  10. Juli Meguire Avatar
    Juli Meguire

    Sorry I forgot to mention that his hair down there is neatly trimmed so that is not causing the issue.

  11. Juli Meguire Avatar
    Juli Meguire

    Thank you for the article it’s the most informative in the subject that I’ve found to date. My 4.5 lb chihuahua’s penis is out pretty much all the time. I’ve become a pro at putting it away – to the point it’s no big deal to me. He knows we have to put it away before we go for walks or car rides etc. What seems to happen is that the tip of the foreskin folds in on itself and it never fully retracts in its own. Have you ever seen this, and is there anything that can be done about it? I’ve wondered if a bit of a circumcision might help, or would it make things worse.?. The other theory I have is that when he was neutered, a nerve was clipped so he can’t feel that it’s still out, because he didn’t have the issue until after he was neutered. I don’t know for sure but that’s the response that I give to people who are squeamish seeing his penis…put a disability on the issue and they are more forgiving. 🙂
    Thanks again for the article and any advice you can share!

    1. Ben Team Avatar

      Hey, Juli.
      That actually sounds a bit concerning. I’m not sure what can be done, but we’d definitely recommend pointing the issue out to your vet. If it is truly always out, the tissues could become dry and cause further problems.
      We’d love to hear what your vet says though!

  12. Janie Hecker Avatar

    Thank you for covering a topic that I have never seen discussed before. I guess it is considered embarrassing but I think the more knowledge we have, the better we can care for our beloved canines. It’s not a topic that is casually discussed among dog owners or even by vets (unless you ask). I found your article informative and respectfully funny which kept you reading. Thumbs Up!!! BTW…was that my dog you photographed where I clicked to get into the article???

    1. Ben Team Avatar

      Glad you enjoyed the article, Janie!
      That was just a stock photo, but if you’d like to share a photo of your dog with us, head over to our uploader!