Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Dog Humping

Mini Schnauzer holding sign that reads: but were afraid to askNothing spells “lowbrow comedy gold” like a dog humping someone’s leg. But despite its suitability for funny YouTube videos and dog shaming pics, this behavior is no laughing matter for any of the parties involved. The person being mounted certainly doesn’t find it funny. The dog’s owner is typically mortified (at least, that’s the appropriate reaction). And the dog…? Well, the dog is thinking of anything but humor.

Which raises the question: what the hell is going on in the dog’s mind when it humps a person, or another dog of the same sex, or a cat, or an inanimate object? On the surface, it might seem like a case of sexual urges gone awry. But when you probe deeper (ugh, sorry), there’s actually a lot more to it than that.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the easiest subject for people to talk about. So, whether you’re the owner of a hump happy hound, or just have an interest in the subject (we don’t judge), here are some of the most frequently asked questions about this bizarre and all-too-common canine behavior.

Why do dogs hump?

There are many reasons why dogs hump, and not all of them are mutually exclusive. A dog can hump for one or more of the following reasons:

Sexual Gratification. Let’s start with the obvious. Humping is how dogs masturbate. Dogs with strong sex drives – particularly those who have not been fixed – have a strong tendency to hump.

Social Ordering. Humping is part of establishing a pecking order in a particular group. A dog may hump other dogs to establish dominance, or just test them out to see if they submit.

Play. From an early age, dogs hump each other as a part of normal play – oftentimes with dogs trading positions. Why they do this is unclear, but some experts say it could be a way to practice for actual sexual encounters.

Habit. Some dogs develop a compulsion to hump. They may do it when they’re anxious, bored, or – in the worst cases – whenever they’re not doing something else.

Itchy Genitals. In rare cases, humping could be the dog’s way of scratching its genitals due to a medical problem such as a urinary tract infection or skin allergy.

Again, there’s a lot of crossover here. The fact that humping is pleasurable is probably why it becomes a compulsion for many dogs. Also, play and social ordering are closely connected. For problem humpers, pinpointing the exact reason for the behavior is less important than identifying the triggers.

Why do female dogs hump?

Girls dogs generally don’t hump as much as male dogs, but when they do, it’s for all the same reasons. It might seem odd to humans, but humping in female dogs is normal sexual behavior. They do it to male mating partners as part of foreplay, they do it to male and female dogs when in heat, and they do it (more rarely) even when not in heat.

If the female dog is humping for sexual reasons, getting her spayed could reduce or eliminate the behavior. But, as with male dogs, girls can hump for a host of non-sexual reasons as well. Nervousness is one of the most common triggers.

Do neutered dogs hump?

Yes. Neutered dogs can still get erections and ejaculate, so it’s not like their sex drive is completely wiped out. Besides, there are many non-sexual reasons for humping, such as establishing dominance. In short, getting your dog fixed does not necessarily mean the end of humping.

That said, neutering or spaying your dog does generally have an effect. Just be aware that the full impact may not be apparent right away. If your neutered dog still humps, it could simply be that his hormone levels haven’t dropped enough. Give it a few months.

Why does my dog hump my leg / other dogs / toys / the cat / everything?

Dogs hump the darnedest things sometimes. A lot depends on what the purpose of the humping is. If it’s for sexual gratification, the dog might go after anything and everything that seems like the right height and shape. If it’s for dominance, the target will be another dog (or possibly a person). If the dog is nervous or compulsive, he might hump a favorite toy, blanket, or other object that brings comfort.

How can I stop my dog from humping?

The first step is to get your dog spayed or neutered. This isn’t a sure-fire solution, but it should at least help. Besides, getting your dog fixed offers other benefits, so there’s little downside.

If your dog still humps excessively after getting fixed, then the best thing you can do is figure out what is triggering the behavior. That way you can avoid these triggers or be ready to correct the dog immediately. For example, if the dog is regularly humping the legs of visitors, you could train him to sit or stay whenever someone comes in the house.

When the dog does hump, you should calmly extract yourself and withdraw attention from the dog. This is the best punishment you can give a dog, because they crave attention more than anything. Getting angry could actually reinforce the behavior, because many dogs prefer negative attention to no attention at all.

One last caveat: In some cases, the dog may actually become aggressive when you deny him humping rights. In extreme cases like this, you’re probably going to need the help of a professional dog behaviorist. It might not be safe to deal with the problem yourself.

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