Can Dogs Be Gay? Animal Sexual Behavior Explained

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Two happy friends Pomeranian Spitz dogs lying on the grass on rainbow LGBT color flag smiling with tongue out at summer

Pup owners have a tendency to anthropomorphize their dogs. After all, many of us consider our furry friends as beloved family members. It’s natural for us to attribute human behavior, emotions, or traits to our pups. So, when your male dog humps another male dog, you may wonder, “is my dog gay?” We’ll dive into the fascinating science of animal sexuality to help you understand your pup’s behavior.

Can A Dog Be Gay?

Dogs are not gay as we define homosexuality. For humans, being gay means having a sexual or romantic attraction exclusively to a person of the same gender. Although it’s common for us to try to decipher our dog’s behavior in human terms, a canine’s sexual activity can’t be defined in the same way as humans.

It helps to understand the important distinction scientists make when it comes to sex — that sexual attraction and sexual behavior are two separate phenomena. Dating as far back as the late 1800s, scientists have observed what they call same-sex sexual behavior (SSB) in more than 1,500 animal species, including insects, arachnids, fish, birds, mammals, and, yes, domestic dogs.

These same-sex behaviors take the form of courting displays, mounting, oral sex, anal coitus, and other signs. It’s important to note, however, that members of these species also regularly engage in different-sex sexual behavior (DSB). So, essentially our world is filled with bisexual beings (to put it in human terms).

Can Dogs Be Attracted To The Same Gender?

There’s no evidence that dogs are sexually or emotionally attracted to their same-gender canine counterparts. For reasons still not well understood, humans are one of a select few species that can be exclusively gay. Other animals that have demonstrated exclusive homosexual orientation include domesticated rams, female Japanese macaques, and male ostriches, flamingos, and penguins.

On the other hand, some animals are particularly indiscriminate when it comes to their sexual partner’s gender. Scientists think it largely boils down to gratification. For example, bonobos, African apes that are closely related to humans, have a hearty sexual appetite. And studies have found that around 75% of bonobo sex is nonreproductive, with nearly all being bisexual. 

Why Is Same-Sex Sexual Behavior So Common In Animals?

Scientists are still attempting to get to the bottom of this question. After all, SSB is seemingly an “evolutionary paradox” to the survival of a species. Many biologists believe that SSB is an ancestral trait that evolved once or a few times in each species’ common ancestor.

Others hypothesize that each ancestral species mated indiscriminately in elemental developmental stages when these species were simultaneously evolving traits to recognize a compatible mate, e.g., differences in odor, size, shape, color, etc. In other words, these primitive species couldn’t yet differentiate gender.

Although there’s no clear-cut reason for SSB in so many animals, researchers have found evolutionary benefits for these behaviors in specific cases. For example, studies into the Laysan albatross on the Hawaiian island Oahu show that female-female pairing contributes to the fitness of the species. Due to a shortage of males in the population, females pair to provide the optimal care for offspring.

Why Do Male Dogs Hump Other Male Dogs?

Although we’re programmed to perceive humping or mounting as only sexual in nature, mounting behavior in our canine companions often occurs for very different reasons, according to the American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and other experts. Keep in mind dogs not only mount other dogs, but they also hump people’s legs, furniture, blankets, dog bed, etc. Some of the reasons male dogs hump other male dogs include:

  • Play behavior: Mounting is a normal part of dog play. Although it’s more common in puppies, some adult pups mount during playtime.
  • A show of dominance: Sometimes, especially in older dogs, mounting is a means of displaying control, dominance, or social status.
  • Response to overexcitement or stress: Some dogs use humping or mounting as a way to cope when they become stressed or overly excited in a variety of situations.

What Do I Do If My Dog Humps Too Much?

While mounting or humping can be perfectly normal behaviors, some dogs take it to the extreme. If your furry friend frequently humps people’s legs or other animals (or if you just can’t stand the occasional occurrence), a bit of training can usually nip it in the bud. We recommend these online dog training courses if you need some guidance. However, if your pup is exhibiting aggressive behavior along with humping, you may want to consider a certified animal behaviorist.

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