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Why Do Dogs Hump?

By Aviram K.
Published in Training & Behavior
Updated at April 4, 2021
6 min read
Why Do Dogs Hump?
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

Dogs can be super socially awkward (in a human sense). Just imagine yourself in a family gathering when all of a sudden, your dog starts humping your father-in-law out of nowhere—what a disaster.

Dogs won’t discriminate at all when humping—they’ll hump anything, whether it’s your leg, other dogs, sofas, or toys. You name it.

Surprisingly, both male and female dogs, as well as neutered dogs, hump. It is a natural behavior for them.

Humping is not always sexual, although it’s the first thing people think about when they see it. Often, dog humping can be a sign of excitement, overstimulation, dominance, and stress. Dogs can also hump due to behavioral flaws or underlying medical conditions.

Today, my job is to make sure you fully understand why your dog keeps on humping all the time.

Oh, and I bet you also want to know how you can stop this embarrassing behavior? Don’t worry, I got you covered.

Why Your Dogs Hump Everything

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Sexual Arousal

You’d think that your dog humping is purely sexual. That’s not always the case.

But, it is sometimes what’s actually going on. Especially when puppies are still in the process of sexually maturing (when they are 6-12 months old).

That’s because, as puppies grow, their hormones are going wild. If they are not neutered, they’ll hump in tune with their hormones and practice mating.

That being said, neutered male dogs also hump, so don’t think neutering will solve the problem entirely. The good news is that neutering was found to decrease mounting by 70% in male dogs.

Grown male dogs, neutered or unneutered, also hump as a form of masturbation. If you see any erections or sperm discharges, your dog may be humping because of sexual arousal.

When female dogs do it, though, it’s never sexual.

Stress Relief

A dog will sometimes hump when he is stressed, anxious, or nervous.

Stressful situations are in no shortage in this world today. Anything that stresses your dog out may also cause him to start humping furiously.

Those situations include veterinary visits, meeting new people, or a sudden thunderstorm outside.

If your dog is humping because he’s stressed out, you can distract him with treats during these times to calm him down a bit. The humping should decrease as a result.

Excitement and Over Stimulation

Have you noticed that your dog doesn’t usually hump when things are dull?

It’s perfectly normal for your dog to start humping when he’s overly excited.

You could see your dog mounting you when you come back from work, if a new face shows up, or if you’re just taking a stroll in the park together, and he gets to meet some familiar doggy friends.

Play

Imagine this:

You are chilling on the couch while your dog plays with his stuffed toy.

Then, all of a sudden, you spot him from the corner of your eye, furiously humping the poor toy.

Mounting is a normal part of dog play. Play humping can be between two dogs or involve a dog humping on objects, like toys and stuffed animals.

Canines can hump on other dogs during play to get their attention and establish new friendships.

That’s why you probably have seen your dog humping on several other dogs at the park.

That being said, under-socialized or poorly socialized dogs seem to overdo it. This can definitely annoy other dogs, as well as their owners.

Play humping should not involve a sperm discharge or erection. In that case, the dog may be taking it too seriously and crossing over to sexual arousal territory.

Medical Issues

Sometimes, though, your dog will hump if he has certain medical issues like urinary tract infections, priapism, skin allergies, and prostate issues.

For that reason, it is crucial to rule out underlying medical causes of humping before taking any precautions.

Please visit your vet to rule those out, and treat them if needed.

Dominance

Is dog humping a sign of dominance?

Well, sometimes your dog will indeed show his dominance over others by humping.

Dogs play different roles with different dogs and humans based on where he puts them in the dominance hierarchy.

Your dog will be more dominant around some individuals, more submissive or neutral towards others.

This dominance hierarchy helps to maintain order, encourage cooperation, and reduce conflict.

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Why Do Female Dogs Hump?

You may think that only male dogs hump, but that’s not true.

Female dogs hump just like intact male dogs, for the same reasons a male dog would. They may hump out of excitement, stress, social dominance, or if they seek attention or have health problems.

Your female dog probably won’t hump as often or as much as your male dog, but she may still do it. She may already start humping things, people, or other dogs from as young as six weeks into adulthood.

Spaying your female dog may reduce this behavior to some degree. But, only if the reason your dog is humping is that she’s in heat or around other female dogs that are in heat.

Why Dogs Only Hump Certain People but Not Others

So you’ve already accepted that your dog humps. But, why does your dog give that special attention to certain people (or dogs) only while ignoring others completely?

Dogs will only hump someone (or another dog) that is lower in their perceived dominance hierarchy. By the same token, dogs won’t hump individuals that assert dominance over them. They are also more likely to hump people who inspire the most emotional excitement in them or those they feel secure around.

That’s why you will more often find your dog humping on your five-year-old son and not you.

But, if that particular person getting humped is indeed you, ask yourself this: “Am I the one in charge of this household, or is it my dog?”

How to Stop Humping Behavior in Dogs

Dog humping is embarrassing, yes. But it’s not all when it comes to bad news.

It may also cause fights with other dogs and potentially even damage things around your home.

As I mentioned before, dog humping can be caused by many different reasons. So, it may take several trial and error attempts to reduce or eliminate.

Training

Training is a great way to curb humping in dogs as it addresses several causes.

Start training your dog early before it becomes a full-blown habit that is much harder to stop when your dog is older.

It starts with simple practices that discourage your dog from getting to it. For instance, you can distract your dog the first time you catch them instead of laughing or giving them your attention.

Even a simple but firm “no” may suffice.

This is also one of the ways you can elevate yourself in the eyes of your dog, establish some dominance and build trust between the two of you. All of these are great to stop dominance-related humping.

Redirecting

If your dog is already trained, then you have the upper hand at stopping the behavior.

This involves using learned behaviors, like leaving stuff, sitting, or adopting different positions to discourage them from mounting.

Always remember to reinforce and reward the behavior you like.

So, whenever your dog starts mounting, tell them to “leave” or “sit”, and if they comply, reward them with tasty treats, affection, or favorite toys.

If they don’t comply, don’t laugh it off and give them more attention. Instead, keep persisting with the commands and lightly push them off of the humping position.

In case your dog is not trained, you can start training them to pick up verbal cues (like “Leave It”) and offer him praises and rewards when he responds positively to them.

Before he becomes fluent at following the verbal cues, attempt luring him away from humping using valuable rewards - whether it’s treats, affection, or toys he likes.

Spaying or Neutering

If your dog is still young and hasn’t had the humping behavior ingrained in him yet, spaying or neutering may help somewhat.

The effectiveness of spaying or neutering to stop the humping behavior depends on how long your dog has been practicing it.

That’s because, although humping is natural, it is partly a learned behavior, and the longer a dog practices, the more ingrained it is in them.

Spaying or neutering an intact dog may not entirely stop the behavior, but it will reduce sexual intention.

Seek Help from a Professional

It is best to consult with a professional if the DIY methods do not work or you suspect that certain medical conditions are the cause of your dog’s humping.

A veterinarian or dog behaviorist can usually quickly determine the actual cause or motivation of your dog’s humping and spare you and your dog the tedious trial experiments.

A Final Note

Humping is embarrassing and somewhat hard to stop. But, if you analyze the situation correctly, you are well on your way to combating it.

When it comes to any dog behavior that you don’t like (and especially humping), remember to never reward the behavior in any way. Not with praise, not rewards, and not even attention.

Instead, when your dog does something you do like, even accidentally - shower him with praise and treats. Do that, and you’ll see how fast the behavior stops.

If it doesn’t, don’t despair.

I know it can be extremely frustrating to try many different ways to stop a behavior without any success. Just persist with the methods discussed in this article, or alternatively consult with a seasoned professional.

But, whatever you do, never punish your dog using direct forms of punishment such as physical violence as it could result in worse problems.


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Dog BehaviorsDog Training

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Dog Behaviorist & Trainer

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