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Handling Hounds That Hump

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 13 Jan 2014 | comments*Discuss
Humping Mounting Dominance Sexual

A dog that mounts and humps everything is one of the most frustrating and embarrassing problems many pet owners have to deal with but understanding the reason for the humping can go a long way towards helping to stop the problem.

Oh My God – What is he Doing?

There can be nothing worse than inviting visitors to your home only to have your dog launch himself at a nearby sofa cushion and start thrusting his pelvis frantically, amid the horrified stares and embarrassed laughter. Or worse having your dog clinging to your guests’ legs, humping enthusiastically – not to mention the dog who accosts every other dog in the park, trying to mount their heads. Dogs have been known to mount not only other dogs and people but stuffed toys, furniture and any other soft item.

Why is My Dog Humping?

Most people instantly jump to the conclusion that their dog’s humping behaviour must be sexual or a form of dominance but in many cases, they are wrong: this is a complex behaviour with many possible causes.

Sexual Reasons

Yes, some dogs do actually hump for sexual reasons, especially in unneutered dogs who will respond very strongly to the scent of a female in oestrus. For example, males will mount other males who have just been with females in heat and are covered with their scent; females not in heat may mount those that are and sometimes females in heat will even mount inexperienced males. A sexually aroused dog may simply have the urge to hump and will grab the first thing that comes to hand, even if it is not another dog.

But even neutered and spayed dogs can display sexual humping behaviours, flirtation with the opposite sex and even masturbation. This may shock many pet owners but it is actually quite logical, given that humans do not necessarily stop displaying sexual behaviours just because they have had a vasectomy or a hysterectomy. However, in general, neutered and spayed dogs are much less likely to display humping behaviours therefore if your dog’s mounting behaviour is causing a problem, you may want to consider neutering or spaying as a first course of action.

Social Anxiety or Excessive Excitement

This is probably one of the most common reasons dogs hump but is often misinterpreted as dominance or sexual behaviour. Often when dogs become very aroused and excited – such as when visitors arrive – they will feel a need to release the excessive tension and energy through humping. If this only occurs once in a while, it may be best simply to laugh it off. However, if your dog consistently harasses guests then it would be good to interrupt his behaviour and prevent him from further mounting by giving him an alternative action to follow, such as a command (eg. “Sit” or “Down”). If it is just too much, you may need to consider putting him in his crate when visitors arrive, at least until he has calmed down slightly. You can also tone down your praise and general excitement when interacting with your dog to prevent hyping him up to unbearable levels.

Similarly, dogs that are feeling very anxious, particularly in the presence of other dogs, may hump to release their tension. This is often mistaken for displays of dominance when in fact, it may be the complete opposite. Dominant dogs tend to be confident, secure individuals who rarely have assert themselves – it is the middle-ranking, anxious dogs who most often get into fights and try to hump other dogs. If your dog is routinely trying to hump other dogs, then this can be a sign that the situation is too much for him and he is feeling overwhelmed by social pressure. You should then think about removing him from such situations in future (perhaps go to the dog park at a quieter time) – aside from anything else, a dog that keeps coping with their social anxiety by humping other dogs risks eventually meeting a dog who will respond in an aggressive manner.

Boredom or Attention-Seeking Behaviours

Dogs love being rewarded with our attention and they’re very clever at working out how they can get it. With many inappropriate behaviours, there is always the chance that the dog is doing it to get attention. This happens most often when the dog is not exercised enough, bored and mentally unstimulated and often young and lonely. Such dogs quickly learn that they can get your undivided attention every time they hump something or even your legs! In this situation, the best way is to not reward the dog with any attention – if he is clutching your legs, simply get up and walk off. If he is attacking an object, remove the temptation. At the same time, give him an alternative thing to occupy his time and energy, whether this is a short training session or a chew. Make sure his physical and mental stimulation needs are met as well otherwise you will never solve the source of the problem.

Medical Problems and Compulsive Disorders

As with any behavioural problem, always take your dog to the vet first to rule out any medical reasons for the behaviour. In some cases, dogs with itchy allergies may actually be rubbing themselves in search of comfort. In some cases, dogs can develop a compulsive disorder just like humans – these are the dogs who hump constantly to the exclusion all else and maybe also constantly lick their genitals. In this case, you will need to seek the help of a qualified canine behaviourist.

Is it Really a Problem?

You have to accept that humping is a normal canine behaviour and a occasional display is not necessarily a sign of a deeper behavioural problem. If it only occurs once in a while, it is best to simply laugh it off. However, if your dog is displaying obsessive humping behaviour, then it is best to seek the help of a canine behaviourist.

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