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Unwanted Mounting: Why Dogs Hump And How To Stop It

Unwanted Mounting: Why Dogs Hump And How To Stop It

Why Do Dogs Hump?

You’re sitting at the dog park, minding your own business, when suddenly your dog starts humping another dog. Or maybe it’s your leg, or even worse, a guest’s leg. “Eww, stop!” you think, as you rush over to pull your dog away, feeling utterly embarrassed. But before you go into full-on panic mode, let me reassure you – humping in dogs is a completely normal behavior, and it’s not always related to what you might be thinking.

As a certified dog trainer, I’ve seen my fair share of humping episodes, both with my own pets and in my client sessions. It’s a behavior that can have a variety of causes, from stress and overstimulation to hormones and even social status. The good news is, there are ways to effectively manage and stop this behavior. But first, let’s dive into why dogs hump in the first place.

Stress and Overstimulation

One of the most common reasons dogs hump is as a way to self-soothe when they’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. This could be from “good” stress, like the excitement of having guests over or going to the dog park, or “bad” stress, like feeling anxious in certain situations.

For example, my senior Corgi female will sometimes start humping my younger male dog after a particularly rambunctious play session – it’s her way of calming down from all that stimulation. And I’ve seen dogs at the dog park hump other pups when there’s just too much going on around them.

Hormones and Maturity

As dogs reach sexual maturity, around 5-8 months old, those hormones can start raging, and humping becomes a natural, instinctual response. Even neutered or spayed dogs can still exhibit this behavior, as the ingrained habit can stick around even after the hormones are gone.

I once had a client whose 5-month-old puppy was regularly humping the other dogs at daycare. The staff understood it was likely due to his developing hormones, so they worked closely with the owners to manage the behavior before it became an entrenched habit.

Social Status and Dominance

While the whole “alpha dog” dominance theory has largely been debunked, humping can sometimes be related to a dog’s social status or confidence level. A less secure dog may hump a more confident one as a way to assert themselves, even though they’re not truly trying to “dominate.”

Conversely, a dog with a strong sense of self may simply let the humping slide, as long as it’s not ongoing or causing issues. But if you see other body language cues like posturing, submissive rollovers, or face-licking, that could be a sign that social dynamics are at play.

Pleasure and Learned Behavior

Let’s not forget that for some dogs, humping just plain feels good. They may discover that the sensations are pleasurable and then repeat the behavior, whether on another dog, a person, or even an inanimate object like a pillow. It becomes a self-reinforcing cycle that can be hard to break.

And in some cases, humping can start as a normal play behavior, but then get carried away and become obsessive. I’ve seen this happen at dog daycares, where the staff has to step in to interrupt the mounting before it becomes a problem.

Underlying Medical Issues

While medical causes for humping are relatively rare, it’s still important to rule them out. Conditions like urinary tract infections, skin irritations, or even neurological issues could potentially contribute to the behavior. If the humping seems excessive or out of character for your dog, it’s always a good idea to have your vet take a look.

Stopping the Hump

Now that we’ve covered the various reasons why dogs hump, let’s talk about how to actually put a stop to it. The key is to be proactive and address the underlying cause, whether that’s stress, hormones, or something else.

Manage the Environment

If your dog tends to hump when they’re overstimulated, like at the dog park or during playdates, try limiting those situations or setting them up for success. Maybe you take more frequent breaks, or you only allow playtime with dogs your pup is already comfortable with.

Redirect and Interrupt

When you see the humping starting, use your dog’s name or a cue like “Knock it off” to interrupt the behavior. Then redirect their attention to a different activity, like a toy or a training exercise. Consistency is key here – the more you can interrupt the humping cycle, the better.

Provide Outlets

For dogs who seem to hump out of stress or boredom, make sure they’re getting enough physical and mental stimulation throughout the day. A tired dog is less likely to engage in unwanted behaviors. You can also give them a designated “humping pillow” or stuffed animal as a more appropriate outlet.

Consider Neutering

If hormones are the culprit, getting your dog spayed or neutered can certainly help reduce those hormone-driven behaviors. But remember, it’s not a magic fix – you’ll still need to address any existing humping habits.

Work with a Trainer

For persistent or problematic humping, it’s always a good idea to enlist the help of a certified positive reinforcement trainer or animal behaviorist. They can help you get to the root of the issue and develop a customized plan to stop the unwanted behavior.

At the end of the day, remember that humping is a natural dog behavior, and with the right approach, you can absolutely curb it. So, the next time your pup starts to hump, stay calm, interrupt the behavior, and then work on addressing the underlying cause. You and your dog will be humping-free in no time!

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