Understanding Dog Humping Behaviors
The following cliche' is quite a popular one (but it's also one dog owners would like to forget)... You have some guests over for the very first time, your home smells great, you offered your guests a sumptuous meal, and now you are settling in on the coach, showing them pictures of your recent wedding. Then, seconds later, Rover goes on a humping frenzy in front of all the guests—grandma and children included. Embarrassed, you take Rover by the collar and off he goes to his crate for a timeout.
Later that day, you start wondering what is going on in Rover's mind and think that perhaps the time has come to neuter him once and for all. But wait, did you know that humping is not always sexual? Therefore, neutering may not solve the problem as expected—even though it may reduce it significantly (it's mostly the effect of hormones). So, what can you do next time? Well, first of all, a good step is to try to figure out exactly what may be going on in Rover's mind.
How to Curb the Behavior
Curbing this embarrassing behavior requires determining why the dog is humping in the first place. For instance, if a dog is humping out of raging hormones, according to Vetinfo, neutering may reduce humping behaviors in 60% of the cases. If the dog is humping you, you may want to determine under what circumstances the behavior happens. In case of humping pillows or other toys when left home alone, a dog may be helped by removing such items and offering more stimulating toys such as stuffed Kongs or other puzzles. Severe cases may need medical management with drugs.
Humping due to a bully atttiude is rude behavior at the dog park and may cause serious dog fights. This behavior should be discouraged,especially when the other dogs are not happy to be humped. And obviously, humping due to an irritation should be investigated by a veterinarian. But don't be too fast to label your dog as rude; humping can also be due to stress, arousal, anxiety and some dogs hump just for play.
Causes of Humping Behaviors in Dogs
Often dog owners assume that only intact males humps, but surprisingly females engage in this behavior as well, at times even the spayed ones! This explains that humping is not always sexual behavior, but rather stems from other canine motives. Unfortunately, for embarrassed dog owners, humping is quite a natural behavior in dogs, so if you love dogs, that is part of their canine behaviors you will have to deal with every now and then. Of course, if you know what may be causing the behavior, you may curb it as needed.
Potential Causes of Humping Behaviors in Dogs
- Sexual Behavior: Of course on top of the list is sexual behavior, but it's not as often as thought. Yes, your intact male be aroused and vent off its sexual frustrations using its favorite stuffed animal or other unfortunate animals that live with you. This can be further exacerbated if there is a female in heat nearby, since male dogs appear to sense a female in heat from up to 3-5 miles away, depending on the breed and the direction where the wind is blowing.
If you have recently neutered you male dog, do not get upset if he still humps for some time, since it takes some time for the testosterone levels to lower. Give it a bit of time, but if the humping behavior was mostly out of assertiveness, expect it to not subside as desired.
Curiously, females in heat may engage in humping behaviors as well, and it does not matter if the other dog is a female. This is quite normal behavior that is often seen in multi-dog households. This behavior may not only be sexual per se', but can also be a sign of a status-seeking attitude, towards another dog.
- Bully Behavior: And then we have dogs humping merely to make a point. This dog is humping simply to tell the other dogs he is a bully Humping however, may elicit fights if the other dog is not willing to be the humpee. If the dog is humping humans, you must evaluate in what context this happens. However, keep in mind that dog "dominance" is a often an overused default explanation for many behaviors in dogs that are simply caused by a dog that simply was not taught otherwise. For more on this please read: Dog dominance, myth or truth?
- Play Behavior: If you watch puppies play, you will notice that they will engage in humping behaviors at a young age. This is done just for play as they are practicing behaviors they will engage in when they grow up into adults. The principle is the same such as play fighting, and play hunting.
- Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors: At times, dogs engage in humping behaviors to vent off frustration. For instance, a dog that is left at home alone for large amounts of time, may engage in humping behaviors to get relief from their frustration. If this is done frequently enough, there are chances this behavior may become an obsessive compulsive behavior difficult to eradicate.
- Itchiness or Irritation: Dog humping is not always stemming from sexual behavior or assertive behaviors, at times, some local irritation may cause frustration in the dog and humping is a good way to get rid of it. Rule out something itchy going on down there by expecting for irritated skin or unusual bumps. Consider this especially if you own a dog that has never engaged in humping behaviors before.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.