Humping is a completely normal behavior in dogs, and despite the way it looks, it doesn’t always express sexual arousal and is mostly harmless. However, there will be times when owners are embarrassed by the awkward scenario of their dog or times when it might be problematic. As such, you might find yourself wondering why exactly do dogs hump each other, people, and other objects?
Read on below to find out the answers and more about this very common behavior in dogs.
What is Humping?
Experienced dog owners will likely be familiar with the scene of a humping dog whether it’s them or something else. Also known as dog mounting, the act of humping occurs when a dog places its front legs around a second dog from behind it while thrusting its pelvis repeatedly. Most assume that humping is based on sexual contexts which is why we think that only intact males will engage in mounting behavior.
However, a neutered male, as well as intact dogs and female dogs, hump and show humping behavior. But this leads us to the main question; “Why do dogs hump?”
Why Do Dogs Hump?
Humping is a natural behavior in many animals and is also normal canine behavior. There are a variety of reasons why it happens, including the following.
Sexual or Hormonal
Among the most common reasons a dog’s humping can start is due to sexual attraction or hormones but the reason for humping of a sexual nature will be higher in younger dogs that have yet to be neutered or spayed. This would be the time when a variety of behaviors start to emerge as a result of sexual maturity, which is when puppies reach 5 to 8 months old. Dogs are also able to smell when female puppies go into heat, resulting in the instinct to mount, even with neutered males.
If both dogs are still intact, humping can become a sexual behavior and may end in mating, so be sure to keep dogs of the opposite sex away from each other if you want to avoid pregnancy. While having your pooch spayed or neutered can help with your dog’s behavior, keep in mind that it may continue to hump as a compulsive behavior.
According to animal behavior experts, your canine friend may develop humping habits as a sign of dominance or to establish social status. This can apply to both dogs and humans, but the dog on top isn’t always the one that’s dominating. Sometimes, insecure dogs hump a dog that’s more confident just because they don’t know how to show submission or how to deal with another dog.
There are times when hump-happy dogs will display this normal behavior as part of their playtime. For example, some dogs may take turns mounting to express their excitement in a harmless way. This is similar to wrestling or play fighting and can be a way to initiate a play session — as long as it won’t upset them, humping is an acceptable behavior for dogs.
Unfortunately, dogs that have been poorly socialized will excessively mount others as a way to ask for playtime. These dogs won’t know how to ask for play properly and may become over-aroused while playing. Humping can be a way of social communication during playtime but only if it is accepted by all dogs involved.
When dogs receive too much stimulation, humping may be a sign that they are uncomfortable or stressed. If your dog has a favorite toy or an inanimate object that it mounts, it might be because your dog is overstimulated or very excited about something, which leads to displacement behavior. Dogs that start humping due to exciting situations will have a root cause, such as seeing you back home after a long day of work, or when you have guests coming over for a visit.
Furthermore, animal behaviorists also believe that humping can be a self-soothing behavior for stressed dogs. There are different reasons for this, such as when your dog is at doggy daycare or a dog park where it will meet other dogs and new people.
On occasion, humping can be the result of health problems; female dog humping can be a sign of urinary incontinence, and male dogs may use humping to indicate prostate problems. While they’re uncommon, a few possible medical problems that may lead to mounting include the following.
- Urinary tract infections: This is a painful and uncomfortable swelling of the genital area, which humping may help to relieve.
- Skin infections: Itchy skin, along with skin allergies will often cause irritation — mounting can be an alternative to licking or chewing to relieve pain and discomfort.
- Priapism: This refers to a persistent erection that lasts for a longer period of time which can become painful. Instead of licking their genitals, dogs may resort to humping for pain relief.
When adult dogs start humping as a result of a medical condition, the best way to help them is to get medical attention instead of speaking to a dog behaviorist. Before you try to get your dog to stop humping, be sure to rule out medical issues first. If you notice that your canine companion is mounting, licking, and chewing itself, or rubbing its body against objects around your home, be sure to speak to your vet to clear medical causes.
When Does Humping Become a Problem?
Generally, humping is harmless but there are a few reasons why dog parents discourage their pets from doing this normal dog behavior. The most obvious reason is that the embarrassing behavior could make other pet owners and others around uncomfortable. Moreover, if your dog is intact and mounts another intact dog, you wouldn’t want to deal with the consequences of getting puppies every time your pooch wants to release excess energy.
If the dog or person that your pup chooses to hump doesn’t appreciate this gesture, it could get into trouble and not all dog owners will be happy to have your pup mount theirs. Some dogs will take this body language the wrong way and could become aggressive because of it, so if you want to avoid conflict whenever your dog mounts another, be sure to limit this behavior. Furthermore, large dogs may unintentionally hurt smaller dogs just by mounting them; the same thing could happen if you have children or seniors in your home.
Should your dog exhibit humping as a result of stress, make sure to address the issue right away since this can worsen as time passes and may result in more reactive behavior. Long-term stress may negatively impact a dog’s mental and physical health, which is why this should be addressed quickly. Finally, dogs that mount excessively have a chance of hurting themselves, especially if they have long backs, such as Corgis and Dachshunds. These kinds of dogs can suffer from ruptured spinal discs.
How to Stop Your Dog from Humping
When your dog randomly humps a dog at the park or a guest in your home, there’s a good chance of getting into a conflict. Even if it only humps dog beds or other items in your home, it can still cause potential damage. Whenever your dog humps as a form of masturbation, it’s best to redirect its energy and attention to doing something more productive.
You can try a wide range of tools to help your dog overcome its urges to hump, such as toys and puzzles for mental stimulation, and you can also give it yummy treats as a form of positive reinforcement during training. When your dog starts humping, be sure to stay, lie down, or sit; other times, you can engage it in a game of fetch or some other form of exercise. Be sure to reward your pooch each time it listens to your commands — if your dog is unable to stop unwanted behaviors, consider speaking to a certified applied animal behaviorist.
If your male or female dog humps people or objects, the good news is that there are ways to figure out the underlying cause. If connected to health issues or you have an older dog, be sure to give it medical help, but if this is their first time and are only nervous because of a new person they don’t know, know that there are different ways to help them combat the urge. There are many potential causes behind why your dog might mount but training it from a young age and trying to understand anxious dogs will go a long way.