Most dog parents don’t bat an eye when their male dog humps another dog, a pillow, a stranger’s leg, or even the air. But when female dogs display this behavior, some pet parents are perplexed by the expression. The good news is that this behavior is expected in both male and female dogs, even ones fixed at a young age. Here’s why they do it!
Humping is a social dominance action amongst dogs. When dogs mount or hump another animal or perhaps a person’s leg, this is their way of trying to assert their dominance. They’re trying to tell that creature that they’re the top dog in the house.
There is a theory that this behavior shows up in female dogs who undergo pre-natal masculinization. This occurs in mammals that bear multiple offspring at once. When the number of males in a litter outnumbers the number of females, they undergo hormone shifts in the womb. Unfortunately, without having the breeding history of your dog, it’s impossible
While it may not translate well to human behavior, this is standard social behavior for dogs. If it’s not excessive or causing harm, it probably isn’t anything to worry about.
Stress or Excitement
For some dogs, mounting something is the go-to outlet for getting out their stress or excitement. When they meet a new person or a new dog, or any other stressful or exciting situation, they’ve just learned that the best way for them to get that energy out is to mount something.
If your dog is suddenly mounting things when they didn’t previously have a problem with the behavior, consider if anything has changed recently that might have your dog stressed out. Have you recently gotten a new dog? Had a baby? Changed your schedule drastically?
A disruption to their norm could have your dog humping a pillow to relieve their stress until they’ve adjusted better. If it’s becoming problematic, try reducing stress for your dog in other areas and giving them some extra TLC to help them adjust to their new normal.
Humping, particularly as a stress response, can become a compulsive behavior for dogs. If your dog’s humping is becoming a problem for them and you, consult a veterinarian about the possibility that your dog has developed an anxiety disorder.
Especially if your dog has experienced a significant amount of stress recently, your dog may not be handling the changes in their life as well as you first thought. A veterinarian can help determine the best course of treatment to help your puppy cope with stress better.
Mounting can also become attention-seeking behavior in dogs who don’t get enough exercise or playtime. Even negative attention, like being told “no,” is better than being ignored for some dogs.
If it seems like your dog is humping to get your attention, consider incorporating more playtime and training into their daily schedule. It’s easier to get most dogs to do what you want by rewarding them for what you want them to do. If your dog can anticipate getting some quality time with you, they may stop humping things to get your attention.
Of course, there’s always the chance that the behavior is sexual. If the behavior is sexually motivated, it will be accompanied by other “flirtatious” dog behaviors such as a raised tail, play bowing, and pawing.
Humping is also a play behavior for dogs. However, some poorly or under-socialized dogs will mount excessively in response to other dogs trying to play with them. They never learned to play correctly and become overly sexually aroused by the attention from another dog.
There are also a few health issues that can masquerade as excessive humping. Urinary tract infections, skin allergies, priapism (a prolonged erection), or incontinence can present as excessive humping.
The rubbing of the genitals on furniture or pillows can alleviate the discomfort from these illnesses. So, especially if the humping behavior is new for your dog, a trip to the veterinarian to rule out any medical issues might be warranted.
When Does Humping Become Excessive?
As we mentioned, mounting is normal behavior for dogs. It’s not excessive for your dog to cozy up to the throw pillows once or even twice a day. It’s also not abnormal to see your dog hump another animal socially.
It becomes a problem when your dog is humping objects over twice a day or humping other animals so frequently and for such a long period that it extends past a comfortable amount of play for both animals.
Humping can be dangerous if your dog tries to hump a strange dog or if a large dog starts humping a small animal. So, it’s essential to stop the humping on command for the safety of all the creatures involved.
What Do I Do If My Dog Is Humping Excessively?
The first step is identifying why your dog is humping. A trip to the vet to rule out any health issues is an excellent place to start, then start looking at your dog’s situation. Is there anything that has changed recently that might be causing them stress? If so, start working on destressing your dog and helping them get comfortable with the changes in their life.
If your dog is humping to get attention, then it’s time to start modifying behavior. First, you’ll want to know the warning signs. If your dog moves in close to someone or something and starts panting or pawing at them, these are the signs that they might be getting ready to mount them. When you see those signs, distract the dog away from their urge. Give them a toy or have them do a simple obedience command like sitting or shaking hands.
When you don’t catch them beforehand, and they start to hump something, ignore the behavior. It can be challenging because it will draw attention to it, but “correcting” them only reinforces that they can get attention by doing it. You and your guests will need to ignore it if it starts happening.
Lastly, teach your dog a command to leave things alone. When your dog goes to hump something, command them to “leave it” or something similar and if they stop the behavior, give them a treat. Give positive reinforcement to the behavior you want rather than negative correction to the behavior you don’t want, as your dog may view any attention as reinforcing the behavior.
Though annoying or embarrassing for their human companions, mounting, and humping is regular dog socialization and behavior. Luckily, if the behavior is becoming problematic for you or your dog, there are many resources out there that can help you nip that behavior in the bud. Remember, as with any dog training, focus on positive reinforcement more than correction, as dogs are reward and praise-motivated. With enough training, you and your dog can live a happy, humping-free life!
Featured Image Credit: Spik and I, Shutterstock