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Humping – How to get your dog to stop doing that

Approx. 8 minutes read

Imagine: Your pawfect day with your dog happens when you arrive at the dog park in all its grassy glory and let your dog out of the car. He behaved himself all the way there and only got excited when you turned the corner into the parking lot. Upon arrival, he frolics among the other dogs, they are all happy to see each other and play together, and to simply be their canine selves.

Except…

Oh, no. Ohhhhh, no, no, nooooo. Not your boy.

To your dog, every day is hump day. He approaches… he sniffs… he mounts… and away he goes! Humping like his life depends on it, much to your mortal embarrassment. There are giggles and fingers pointing, but your pup is none the wiser – he’s just doing what dogs do. So, let’s unpack humping behaviour, why dogs do it (it’s not to mortify you, don’t worry), and how to redirect your dog’s behaviour to something a little more constructive.

Why do dogs hump?

Dogs – who aren’t subject to human social norms – hump because it’s part of their natural behaviour. The specific reasons why they hump and when it may be socially disruptive depend on factors like age, whether they are sterilised or intact, levels of socialisation, anxiety, or a medical condition.

Play and socialisation

Humping dogs express themselves like this as a form of play and socialisation. In a setting in which their humans are none the wiser or slow to react, you may even see one dog hump another, and then switch sides – the way they may also do when they play-bow or chase each other or play-wrestle. Some dogs hump as a way of figuring out the pecking order in a social situation. If the humping culprit mounts every dog at the park and they’re okay with it, perhaps he can rise up the ranks… although typically, many dogs are not okay with this surprise social contact and it can start serious fights.

Sexual expression

Puppies who are under the age of one year old and are unspayed or unneutered usually engage in humping behaviour as a response to sexual stimulus, because they aren’t properly socialised or trained yet, and have that extra spring in their step. This goes for both males and females. Puppies’ early behaviour – like biting – forms part of their way of testing boundaries and learning what is and isn’t okay with other furry family members, who will often tell them they’ve crossed a line by squealing or growling. Dogs who were removed from the litter too early or experienced a lack of early socialisation haven’t learnt those boundaries – so they hump because they don’t know that it’s not socially acceptable to other dogs.

Anxiety response

As with barking, chewing, digging and marking – which are also natural dog behaviours – humping may manifest as a response to anxiety. This may be one of the reasons why dogs hump pillows or soft toys or other objects near them. These ‘problem behaviours’ are your dog’s way of self-soothing, and with enough cycles of high anxiety and using humping as a way to reduce it, the humping could become chronic.

Excitement and joy

Plain old excitement could be the culprit that gets your dog going – humping legs, stuffed toys, other pets, and whatever else is lying near him. Whether it’s arousal or an emotional state of excitement, some dogs get the zoomies, some dogs bark uncontrollably, some dogs jump up and down… and some dogs just want to hump because they feel good.

Attention seeking

Why do dogs hump legs? Dogs who have been spoilt with your unlimited attention will naturally want more of it. One way of trying to get to this unending source of pleasure is to engage in undesirable behaviours that are guaranteed to get a response out of you – such as barking, digging and humping. Even negative attention is still attention, and your dog (who is bored and over-excited) will take what he can get. Humping a toy or a human leg to get attention? Works every time!

Medical issues

If your dog’s humping starts spontaneously and is paired with other problem behaviours like licking and scratching their genitals, don’t rule out a medical problem to be the cause of your dog’s humping. It could be a skin infection, allergy, urinary tract infection – a trip to the vet is warranted if there’s no other explanation for his sudden need to hump.

Can dogs be trained to stop humping?

A dog who’s in the process of humping or looks like he’s getting ready to mount (by whining, licking or pawing) can be redirected to another stress-relief behaviour such as chasing a toy or doing some reward-based training. The longer a dog’s humping behaviour is seen as cute or allowed to go on (this is especially prevalent in response to puppies humping), the more chronic it may become and the harder it may get to break a dog’s compulsion to hump. In short, dogs can definitely be trained to stop humping, but it will require a consistent effort depending on each individual dog’s behaviour.

How to stop my dog from humping

There are a variety of ways to reduce your dog’s humping, depending on the reasons for this behaviour. We’ll look at them one by one.

Spay or neuter your dog

The majority of dogs who try to mount other dogs are intact males – meaning male dogs who have not been neutered or castrated. Intact females on heat also do this as a demonstration that they are ready to mate. Therefore, spaying or neutering your dog may be a very good way to dramatically reduce their desire to hump (and to also decrease the likelihood of litters of unwanted puppies). If your dog’s sole purpose for humping is because of sexual arousal, then neutering or spaying will remove this stimulus altogether and the humping will stop.

Don’t let the humping behaviour go on

Humping is a natural behaviour, but as with digging, biting and uncontrolled barking, it’s not an acceptable behaviour. If your dog starts humping, stop the behaviour immediately by saying “No!” and then redirecting that aroused energy to something more constructive. Play a game of fetch, give your dog a puzzle toy, or go for a walk – any other stress-relief behaviour that can release your dog’s pent-up energy.

By laughing at or encouraging your dog’s humping, you’re giving him cues of approval, which can turn the humping into a compulsive behaviour. The longer it goes on for, the more difficult it will be to stop.

Limit your dog’s exposure to the trigger

If your dog only humps other dogs at the park (but doesn’t hump his furry friends at home), then don’t keep returning to the park until you’ve proactively resolved their humping issue – which may be related to socialisation. If your dog only humps his favourite bunny plush toy, then withhold the toy until you’ve helped him to resolve this stress and anxiety issues (see below). If your dog only humps the legs of human visitors (due to over-excitement about people coming to the front door), then rather isolate him in another room when you have friends over, until you’ve trained him to stay calm when people come to the door.

Schedule a vet visit for advice

If your dog’s humping is disruptive or spontaneous, make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out possible medical causes and to get advice about your dog’s condition.

Reduce stress and anxiety

Dogs experience stress and anxiety for a number of reasons – some are genetically predisposed to being more anxious, while others have not been adequately socialised, don’t have a proper routine in place, or suffer from separation anxiety. One of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety in your pup is to instil a proper routine – walk, feed, train and play with your dog at the same time every day. This is an incredible bond-building experience for both you and your dog, and it will also build his confidence; knowing that his day is not filled with the unknown. A routine that includes lots of activity and exercise will also help to burn up some of that pent-up energy that your dog may be channelling into humping.

Spend time on training

Dog training is as necessary for your furry friend as is feeding him. It’s an all-impawtant form of communication because he will learn to understand what you want, such as ‘sit’, ‘heel’, ‘stay’, and ‘place’. If all he hears from you is ‘no’ and ‘don’t’ and ‘stop’ without knowing what you do want from him, this can increase his anxiety and make him resort to more unwanted behaviours. Positive reinforcement training not only tells your dog what you want from him, but it rewards his compliance with a tasty treat, which encourages him to keep doing that behaviour to get more treats (and to do less of what doesn’t earn him treats).

Train your dog at more or less the same time every day – this consistency will gear him up for success and take his focus off of compulsive behaviours like humping.

Exercise your dog more

Your dog may be hump-positive simply because he has far too much extra energy that needs to be released in a more constructive way. The easiest way to get rid of that energy is to exercise him more – go for a nice brisk walk, throw a ball, frisbee or other toy in a game of fetch, or build your dog a lure course. With his focus on a new and exciting goal (catching a toy or chasing a lure), there will be no time or energy for humping behaviour.

Reward your dog’s good behaviour

It’s easy to say “No!” and scold your dog for ‘bad’ or compulsive behaviours like humping, but the effect of being scolded or punished simply creates more anxiety, which can lead to more compulsive behaviours. Instead, work on your dog’s behaviour in a positive manner. You can easily reduce his anxiety and build up his self-esteem by praising him for the behaviours you want to see more of – like being calm and patient when the doorbell rings, or bringing the toy back to you when you play games, or responding positively to commands during training.

In conclusion

When dogs are over-aroused, under-stimulated, bored, or simply being dogs without knowing any better, they may engage in behaviour that’s natural to them, but unwanted to you. It’s up to you to identify your dog’s triggers, to stop the behaviour and to decide which short-term and long-erm solutions to employ to gear your dog up for success.

Learn more about your dog’s idiosyncrasies and how you can transform his behaviour from problematic to positive. Pet Hero offers plenty of vet-approved content on our website – all you have to do is sign up to our newsletter and get the updates on content, promotions, sales and special deals, delivered straight to your inbox. Ensure your pets are living their best lives!

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