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Friends, dog lovers, it’s time we had the talk about a… sensitive topic. It may be a bit uncomfortable, but let’s try to be mature about it, shall we? Let’s talk about humping and why our furry friends do the bump n’ grind on other dogs, our legs, their beds and the occasional throw pillow.
The Male Myth
Here’s the deal. Some dogs never hump. Some twerk it like they’re auditioning for a Miley Cyrus video. But fixed or not, both male and female dogs do the hind-legged hokey-pokey. They may do it for different reasons, but they’re equal opportunity offenders.
Okay, but why?
Because They’ve Read Fifty Shades of Grey-hound
You’ve heard people say humping is all about dominance and that’s (mostly) true. Dogs often mount other animals and even people to assert their social status or assume control. Both male and female dogs will mount to display dominance. But be careful not to let things get too out of control. While it’s normal for dogs to establish a hierarchy in a pack, you don’t want anyone to get hurt.
They’re Just Playing
Dog owners often feel confused, embarrassed or even upset when their dog mounts another and it’s not about mating. To address this we would remind you that people sometimes do the deed for reasons other than making babies too. Canines have their reasons, as well.
According to the ASPCA, humping can be part of normal play behavior without being purposefully sexual. Dogs don’t usually display erections or ejaculate in the context of play. Think of it as awkward wrestling. (Awkward for us anyway, pups don’t really care.)
On the other hand, poorly or under-socialized dogs may mount other dogs in response to a play invitation such as a play bow. In a play bow, a friendly dog pushes down with his front legs extended, shoulders and chest low to the ground and his rear end pushed up. With tail wagging, this is the universal “let’s play!” posture for dogs of all ages and breeds and it’s used to communicate to both canine and human friends. But under-socialized pups may not understand normal play behavior and can misinterpret it as an invitation for a friskier encounter. They get overexcited and anxious in social situations, and relieve this tension by indiscriminate humping. (And you thought your social anxiety was bad?).
While this isn’t inherently dangerous, an unsuspecting or unwilling humpee may growl, snap or even bite the less-socially-savvy humper, increasing their anxiety.
They’re Bored or Stressed
Dogs that are neglected, left alone or confined for long periods of time will do anything to soothe boredom and anxiety. Some resort to destructive chewing, licking, digging, howling or barking. Left untreated, these behaviors become compulsive habits that can be tough to break.
For some stressed out dogs, humping can become a compulsive habit and in extreme cases, it can interfere with normal socializing, playing, eating and sleeping.
If you suspect your dog is bored or stressed, tame compulsive behaviors by giving them plenty of exercise, a variety of toys in different shapes and textures and walks to explore beyond their own home. If you’re typically gone for long periods of time, consider doggie daycare or paying someone to check on them. No one likes to be left alone all day.
Is your female dog spayed? No? Female dogs often hump furniture, people and other dogs to cope with strong sexual urges, especially if she’s in heat. Unless you plan to responsibly breed your female dog, get her spayed, ASAP. Spayed females do not go into heat, are less susceptible to certain types of cancer and typically live longer, healthier lives.
They’re In Pain
Injuries, tumors, urinary blockages or urinary tract infections can be quite painful. Dogs may rub themselves in order to relieve discomfort. If your dog recently started humping for no apparent reason, have your vet check them out.
What To Do When Every Day is Hump Day
So you don’t want your Great Dane getting her groove back with your leather sofa or that weird guy’s Chiweenie at the park. We get it. Here’s how to curb the urge and manage their mounting:
- Rule out injury or infection.
- Make sure they’re not bored or stressed. Increase exercise and playtime.
- Redirect and reinforce. When they start humping, gently but firmly redirect your pup’s attention to positive play with a toy, treat, or a learned skill such as sit, roll over or paw. Enthusiastically praise the desirable behavior.
- Halt the humping before the other dog has a chance to retaliate. It may be funny at first, but an unwillingly mounted dog can turn quickly with an angry bite. Can you blame them?
Learn more about stopping this behavior in this video:
If your dog simply will not stop and her behavior is interfering with normal dog life, consult a canine behaviorist. Check out this article about finding a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. If you can’t find a behaviorist in your area, find a Certified Professional Dog Trainer specifically with professional or academic training and experience treating compulsive behaviors (not all dog trainers have this).
How do you stop your dog from humping other dogs, things or people?