When it comes to dogs humping, I think there are two kinds of people: the gigglers and the mortified. I’ll leave why that is up to others to ponder but I would like to shed some light on what it means in terms of canine behavior.
Some dogs will mount other dogs or humans while others prefer to cozy up to inanimate objects such as a favourite toy (theirs) or sofa cushion (yours). Then there are those who seem perfectly content to hump the air around them. Males are more likely perpetrators but females do it too. So why do they do it and what should we do about it?
Aside from the clearly sexual motivation of a male mounting a female in heat, the chitchat in the dog park would have us believe that humping is the definitive mark of a dominant dog. Dominance-based mounting does exist and can often escalate into fights with other dogs or re-directed aggression towards whoever tries to remove the offender. This type of behaviour calls for professional intervention from a qualified and experienced behavior expert but thankfully these instances make up a relatively small percentage of mounting.
Think back to our throw-pillow-Romeos – are they really trying to show the pillow who’s boss? Doubtful. More likely reasons for humping and what to do about them are:
Medical issues: If Rover’s humping is chronic and possibly accompanied by licking or scratching in the general area you should first rule out any medical cause such as a urinary tract infection or skin inflammation.
Normal play: Just like biting, stalking and chasing, mounting can be a fairly benign part of play, especially in young puppies. As long as both dogs aren’t taking it to the next level and getting rougher, this is perfectly normal and there is no cause for alarm. Early timeouts for any repeat offenders is generally sufficient.
Anxiety: I think everyone knows or has met someone who is a little nervous in social situations and may have one cocktail too many to combat their nerves resulting in some awkward or possibly even offensive behaviour. The canine version of this type of individual is often a humper. These are dogs who may want to engage with a new person or dog but aren’t quite sure how best to go about it. A little humping is a good outlet for all that inner conflict (for the dogs, not your friend). If you have a dog who mounts your dinner guests or only mounts dogs at a crowded dog park, this is a likely explanation. Redirecting Rover’s nervous energy or removing him from a stressful situation entirely are good solutions.
Over stimulation:Very common. Humping can provide an over-excited dog with the perfect outlet for all that pent up energy. Again redirection to a walk or something to chew or even just quiet time is in order. If this sounds like your dog, teaching them to settle on their bed can be a very valuable tool.
Attention Seeking: Initially humping may be for any one of the above reasons but a young dog realizes quickly the rise it gets out of it’s targets and it then becomes a go-to strategy for getting their attention in the future. This is the doggy equivalent of dipping a girls ponytail in the inkwell. If the target is human (and you can swear on a stack of bibles that Rover gets enough physical and mental exercise on a daily basis) the best bet is to quietly walk away. If the target is another dog who clearly does not welcome the attention, just remove Rover and find a more suitable playmate or get him involved in a good game of fetch with you.
Self-pleasuring: I can hear the gasps of horror but for some dogs humping is an activity that just feels good. It shouldn’t be cause for concern unless he’s obsessive, rubbing himself raw or the object of his affection is your designer upholstery.
Regardless of the underlying reason, to deal effectively with Rover’s humping it’s best to intervene early. Neutering for males was found to significantly decrease humping activity but the longer the habit is allowed to continue, the less effective surgical intervention or behavioural modification techniques tend to be.
If you need help addressing your dog’s mounting behaviour, don’t hesitate to contact me…I promise to try not to giggle 🙂