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What to Do About Your Humping Dog

Embarrassed or worried by your dogs’ mounting behavior? Usually, humping is normal.

By
Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA,
October 20, 2009
Episode #033

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What to Do About Your  Humping Dog

Last weekend my best friend came to visit--a rare treat, since we live on opposite coasts. My dog Juniper adores Patti and was thrilled when she appeared--so thrilled that he made a complete air-humping circuit of my admittedly tiny living room. Once I managed to stop laughing, it occurred to me that humping, that common, sometimes embarrassing, often misunderstood behavior, deserved an episode all its own.

Why Do Dogs Hump?

Mounting or humping, of course, is what male dogs do when they mate. But as I’m sure we’ve all seen, dogs don’t only mount when mating, and they don’t only mount other dogs; they may also mount furniture, other animals, stuffed toys, and people. Once a dog whose behavior I was evaluating got on the back of the sofa behind me and began to hump my head. Female dogs mount, though less frequently than males.

Dogs May Hump for Sexual Reasons

Apart from actual mating, dogs still find plenty of reasons to mount. Oddly enough, people often overlook the most obvious of these: sex. Even neutered and spayed dogs display sexual behavior, often accompanied with what looks to a human eye like flirtation--bouncy, playful, physically close. You may see a female dog lift her tail away from her genitals just as she would if in heat and preparing to mate. Male dogs may ejaculate after humping, though if they’re neutered, of course the fluid contains no sperm. Masturbation humping is common, if I can judge by the number of clients who’ve told me about their dog’s special relationship with a pillow or other soft object.

Dogs May Hump When They are Excited or Anxious

Physiological arousal isn’t only sexual. Juniper’s response to our houseguest reflected happy excitement; he had an erection, so maybe there was a sexual component too. Dogs may hump when anxious. I’m not aware of any studies of whether the behavior lowers heart rate and blood pressure or promotes muscle relaxation, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised. I also suspect that this anxious humping is the kind many popular training books explain as a status grab or an assertion of rank. For whatever reason, people tend to see high rank as the reason for showy, flamboyant dog behaviors such as humping and fighting. In fact, these often arise out of social anxiety. Something to bear in mind the next time a dog humps your leg--not an experience to look forward to, but usually not a portent of a palace coup.

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