Why Does My Dog Hump Literally Everything?
Seeing your dog mounting and humping something will make most pet parents blush out of embarrassment.
But whether he’s doing it to a pillow, your leg, another dog or even a houseguest, it’s not always for the reason you assume.
Sure, it’s a little uncomfortable, but not really all that inappropriate (at least when you look at it from a dog’s POV).
The Dodo spoke with Dr. Andrea Y. Tu, medical director at Behavior Vets in New York City, who explained why your dog humps everything, and why you don’t always need to stop him.
Why do dogs hump?
It might feel awkward to you if your dog starts randomly humping, well, anything.
But it’s a perfectly natural behavior (and not just for that reason).
“Humping is actually just a demonstration that the dog is in ... a behaviorally aroused state,” Dr. Tu told The Dodo. “It doesn’t have to be sexual.”
Your dog could be in completely nonsexual situations, like playing with a toy or a game of chase, and suddenly start humping.
Plus, this doesn’t only happen in male dogs who are not neutered. This can happen in both male and female dogs, whether they’re intact or not.
“Yes, it can be associated with sexual behaviors, but if you’re seeing this in a nonsexual situation, it’s more just a sign of energy arousal,” Dr. Tu explained.
Since the act of humping is about releasing extra energy, you might find it happening when your pup is bored or frustrated.
It could even start happening if you decide playtime is over before your BFF has gotten all of his energy out.
When should I be concerned about humping?
“It’s not something that I would be terribly concerned about,” Dr. Tu said.
But if your dog’s humping is annoying other dogs, or if he’s irritating his skin from doing it so much, that’s when it could get a little problematic.
In those cases, Dr. Tu recommends working with a trainer to find different ways to get that energy out of your dog’s system.
“You may be able to teach them a ‘leave it’ cue and then redirect that energy to, say, chasing a ball,” she explained.
“Otherwise, it’s part of a natural dog behavior,” Dr. Tu said. “And if all dogs involved are happy with it and are OK with it, and you are not seeing any skin lesions as a result of the rubbing, I wouldn’t be too concerned about it.”
Should I stop my dog from humping?
For the most part, no, you shouldn’t stop your dog from humping, even though it can feel a bit uncomfortable to witness.
“We, as adults, can learn to ignore it,” Dr. Tu said. “We only think of it as uncomfortable because of our own human lens, if you will, because we’re looking at this in a way where it is not acceptable for polite human society.”
So if you find your dog going at it with his favorite stuffed animal, just let him do his thing since no harm, no foul (even if it is a strange sight to see).
But — similar to irritating other animals or giving himself skin lesions — there will be some times where you’ll have to step in and shut it down.
For example, if your pup is humping solely to get your attention, that’s probably not the best habit for him to have.
“If your dog is doing this just to get your attention … then you can train an alternate behavior,” Dr. Tu explained. “Perhaps one that is more socially acceptable [and] is one that your dog can’t do at the same time as humping.”
She suggests either a “sit” or a “lie down” command for this.
“[He] can’t sit at the same time as [he’s] humping something,” Dr. Tu explained.
You’re also going to want to intervene if you have a friend over who unexpectedly (and unwillingly) finds their leg the focus of your dog’s energy release.
“[It’s] certainly a different issue if your dog is actively humping your friend’s leg,” Dr. Tu said.
In this case, try to redirect your dog to something else that will occupy his energy, like putting a nice treat in a puzzle toy.
But if your dog is just humping away on his own while you have company over, try to have a talk with your friend instead of your dog.
“Explain to your guest that this is part of normal dog behavior, and while we tend to associate it with sexual behavior, it’s just a heightened emotional state,” Dr. Tu said.
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