You invite guests over for dinner, the table is set, the food is served, everything is going fine until your dog starts humping your leg. You swear to your guests that he never does this.
Very few things are as embarrassing as 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.
What is going on in the dog’s mind when it humps a person, or another dog of the same sex, or a cat, or your pillow or...? 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.
This isn’t the easiest subject for people to talk about. So, whether your pet is the humpee or the humper or you just have an interest in the subject (we don’t judge), here are some of the most frequently asked questions about this confusing and common canine behavior.
Why do dogs hump?
Over Arousal In Play
Humping is most often related to too much stimulation and heightened excitement levels - not necessarily sexual. Dogs at play can easily become overstimulated. Since dogs do not know how to cope with their excess energy and frustration level when overly aroused by play, it can lead to mounting behavior. Often times, training can help take the excitement level down a notch and lessen the undesirable behavior.
Nervousness or Boredom
Sometimes dogs might be anxious or bored and simply not know what to do with themselves. Redirection with a toy or treat can help distract a nervous dog.
Humping is part of testing out and establishing a pecking order in a particular group. A dog may hump other dogs to try to figure out their social role.
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.
Dogs with stronger sex drives – particularly intact males – have more of a tendency to hump.
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 excessive humpers, pinpointing the exact reason for the behavior is less important than identifying the triggers.
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 the motivation was dominance, the target will be another dog (or possibly a person). Nervousness or compulsive behavior might have him humping a favorite toy, blanket, or other object that brings comfort.
Why do female dogs hump?
Female 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 can be just as common.
If the female dog is humping for sexual reasons, getting her spayed could reduce or eliminate the behavior. But, as with male dogs, female dogs can hump for a host of non-sexual reasons as well. Nervousness is one of the most common triggers.
Do neutered dogs hump?
Yes. A neutered dog 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 this behavior.
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.
How can I stop my dog from humping?
The first step is to spay or neuter your dog. This isn’t a sure-fire solution, but it should at least help. Getting your dog fixed may be a legal requirement in your area if you don't have a breeder's permit. We won't get into the pros and cons of dog spay & neutering in this article but it does offer a host of other benefits and we highly recommend it.
If your dog still humps excessively after getting fixed, 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 redirect the behavior by training him to sit or stay whenever someone comes in the house.
Humping is sometimes caused by anxiety in social settings with dogs and other humans. Calming CBD treats and oils are inexpensive, easily available and can be very helpful when dealing with anxious behaviors of all kinds.
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 reactive 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.