Don't freak out. It's perfectly normal.

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one dog nuzzling another dog representing the story of why dogs get stuck together when they mate?
Credit: Kailey Whitman

If you're new to dog breeding, you might be concerned the first time you see canines mate. They seem to have a hard time detaching from one another after they do the deed. Why do dogs get stuck while mating? It's called a copulatory tie, and don't worry, it's perfectly normal. Read on to find out why it happens, what it means, and if you should intervene.

Why Dogs Get Stuck After They Mate

Dogs get stuck together as the final step in their mating process. It's something that nearly all canines do, including wolves and foxes. During intercourse, a part of the male dog's penis called the bulbis glandis swells and prevents him from pulling out. Essentially, the pair are locked together until the swelling subsides.

"Unlike cats who are fertile every 21 days, dogs only come into heat twice a year. From an evolutionary perspective, the copulatory tie helps them make the most of every opportunity to produce offspring," Marty Greer, DVM, author of Canine Reproduction and Neonatology and co-owner of Veterinary Village in Lomira, Wis., says. "It improves the likelihood that semen reaches the eggs by pushing it forward and acting as a plug to keep semen inside the female."

How Long Do Dogs Stay Stuck Together After Breeding?

Dogs remain stuck together at the end-stage of mating for five to 45 minutes, says Greer. The male dog dismounts and ends up rear-to-rear with the female. Dogs new to mating may experience a bit of anxiety at being locked together, but it's a natural process. Help your dog to remain calm and stand still until the two can safely separate. This will occur on its own once the male dog's arousal subsides.

Does Getting Stuck Mean the Female Dog Is Pregnant?

The longer dogs are stuck together in a copulatory tie, the greater the chance that the semen will reach the eggs. But pregnancy in dogs is never guaranteed, Greer says, "Just like in people, not every mating is successful."

According to the American Kennel Club, a veterinarian can determine if your dog is pregnant with an exam or an ultrasound around 25 days after mating. You may also see signs of pregnancy about three weeks after mating, such as:

  • Greater appetite and weight gain
  • Swollen belly
  • Larger and darker nipples
  • Vomiting and reduced appetite

If you're worried your dog has accidentally become pregnant, reach out to your veterinarian as early as possible to discuss options.

Can Neutered Dogs Still Get Stuck?

It's rare, but not impossible for a neutered dog to get stuck when pairing up with a female. "It's more likely if your dog is recently neutered. That's because he may still have higher testosterone levels than he will later on," says Greer. Testosterone increases a dog's sex drive and affects the swelling of the bulbis glandis. However, even with less of the hormone, your dog can still become aroused, have intercourse, and end with a copulatory tie.

What to Do When Dogs Get Stuck While Mating

You might be tempted to try to separate dogs when they're stuck in a copulatory tie during mating. But hold up: Pulling dogs apart can seriously injure them and doing so won't stop a pregnancy from occurring. Instead, encourage your dog to remain calm. Although watching dogs in this awkward position may be agonizing for you, it's simply a part of canine mating.

To prevent unwanted pregnancies, keep male dogs away from fertile female dogs so mating doesn't take place. "A female is potentially fertile four weeks after the start of her heat cycle," notes Greer. "When the bloody discharge dissipates, that's when she's most fertile."

But do remember that keeping a male dog from a female that's in heat can be difficult ... very difficult, sometimes. Dogs on the scent of a mating-ready female have been known to knock down people and break through doors and crates. The only foolproof way of avoiding pregnancy is to spay or neuter your dog.

Seeing your dog stuck during mating may be hard to watch, but it's not harmful. In fact, if you're looking to breed your pooch, a copulatory tie is a positive sign—one that might mean that some furry bundles of joy are on the way soon.