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Does Size Matter? Humping a Much Smaller Dog

Dogs often hump each other. But what if a 25-pound dog is humping a 6-pound dog? Learn when it’s okay to let dogs hump, and when you should step in.

By
Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #193

Another fact telling me that Lee and her fiancé need to intervene is that Fred can’t get Ralph to stop. Now hear this, Jim and Anonymous Trainer Consulted by Jim: On no planet is it socially appropriate for Dog A to persist in trying to engage Dog B, in any way, when Dog B has signaled Dog A to stop. Fred couldn’t possibly send a clearer signal than he already sends by trying to leave the scene. If that doesn’t work for him, what has he got left? Biting?

Which leads us to the third factor telling me that the humans need to step in: the size disparity between the dogs. Ralph weighs 25 pounds – he’s not a big dog. But Fred weighs a quarter of that. As a comparison, picture a 130-pound adolescent stuck in a cage fight with a sumo wrestler, and think about who’s likelier to get hurt by whom, even if the sumo guy’s not really trying.

4 Steps to Deal with Persistent Humping

Step #1: Ralph and Fred should be physically separated whenever Jim and Lee can’t supervise them. It’s important to keep Ralph from continuing to practice his inappropriate behavior. Also, as I’ve already pointed out, there’s big potential for Fred to get hurt if the conflict escalates.

Step #2: Both dogs should get plenty of physical and mental exercise, including play with their human guardians. Ralph and Fred are young and presumably healthy; if they have a lot of pent-up energy, then instead of lounging and napping much of the day, they’ll be looking around for things to do, such as pester each other. Part of the reason Ralph humps Fred so much might be that he just plain has a lot of steam in need of burning off.

Physical exercise should be supplemented with (you guessed it!) food-dispensing puzzle toys and as much fun, reward-based training as Lee and Jim can provide. It would be good to teach Ralph a “Leave that alone” cue, to preempt his humping whenever he approaches Fred with intent.

Step #3: Consult a qualified behavior specialist to help figure out what’s up with Ralph (emphasis on qualified). He wouldn’t be pestering Fred like this if everything in his world were copacetic. Is he generally comfortable with other dogs? Does he get along well with most new dogs he meets, or are greetings tense? If Ralph isn’t a social butterfly to begin with, we shouldn’t expect him to be Mr. Smooth with Fred either.

Step #4: Neuter the dogs if they aren’t neutered already. Intact male dogs often seem to draw out competitive or otherwise problematic behavior in other dogs. (As far as I know, there’s plenty of speculation about the reasons, and not much science behind the speculation.) And of course, neutered dogs can’t make accidental future homeless puppies.

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About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).