Understanding Dog Humping Behaviors

Humping can cause dog fights

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The following cliche' is quite a popular one, perhaps one dog owners would probably want to forget all about and cancel it from other people's mind once and for all. You have some guests over for the very first time, your home smells great, you offered a sumptuous meal, and now you are settling on the coach showing them pictures of your recent wedding. Then seconds later comes Rover which as if it was the most natural behavior in the world, 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 time-out.

Later that day, you start wondering what is going on Rover's mind and think that perhaps time has come to neuter him once and for all. But wait, did you know that humping in dogs is not always sexual? Neutering therefore may not solve the problem as expected (even though it may reduce it significantly if is 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.

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.


  • Sexual Behavior

Of course on top of the list is sexual behavior. 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.

  • Assertiveness

And then we have dogs humping merely to make a point. This dog is humping simply to tell the other dogs he is up in rank. Only leader males and females get to mate in a canine pack, and therefore these dogs feel the need to show they are up the pecking order. Humping however, may elicit fights if the other dog is not willing to take the submissive role. 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.


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.

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Comments 4 comments

mrpudgy profile image

mrpudgy 5 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba

Nice. Very informative. I always wondered why my dogs in the past would do this quite often. Even to dogs of the same gender.


Sinea Pies profile image

Sinea Pies 5 years ago from Northeastern United States

We have two Yellow Labs. One male (neutered) and one female (spayed). I can attest that the male does do this on occasion.


Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 3 years ago from Northern California

Wow, I didn't know that this canine behavior was so complex!

Now here's my stooopid question of the day: Are humping behaviors more common in domestic dogs than in wolves? If so, there may be an element of boredom involved.

Voted up and interesting.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 3 years ago from USA Author

Nothing stooopid about your questions. I'm sure they cause some head scratching in those who study wolf behavior. My take is that yes, boredom may play a role but also the fact that dogs seem to be perpetually stuck in juvenile behaviors. I'm sure wolves in the wild have much more serious issues and play also less. If you read my article on play you'll see that play is a sign of well-being, animals that are well-fed, healthy and not stressed will play.

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