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Why does my dog hump?

Lots of you have been asking Google why your dogs hump, and there’s not a single straight forward answer. But asking ‘why’ is a great place to start when we notice a behaviour we don’t like, or would like to reduce.
Why does my dog hump?

Humping, or mounting, is often assumed to be sexual, as the dog appears to be performing the same behaviours as they would during intercourse. But then why would females who don’t mount during intercourse, neutered males, and prepubertal puppies do it too? In fact, humping is rarely sexually motivated. In cases where it is, there is usually no need to do anything, other than perhaps giving them some privacy!

So, if humping behaviours aren’t to do with sex, what are they?

The two main causes are frustration and overarousal. Examples of when this might occur would include humping someone’s leg when they try to stop a game of fetch, or when the dog’s favourite person comes to visit. In these situations, the humping is what is referred to as a ‘displacement behaviour’.

It’s a behaviour which is not directly related to the situation but helps the dog to have a physical outlet for their feelings. It’s a way for them to cope better, a bit like people twiddling their hair or biting their nails.

Humping as a learned behaviour

Humping can also develop as a learned behaviour, if the dog realises performing the behaviour causes an outcome they like. Two common examples of this are:

  • Dogs who learn that humping makes their owner’s jump up and interrupt them, meaning they get the attention they had been hoping for
  • Dogs who hump their dog friends to get them to get up and keeping playing.

What should I do about humping behaviour in my dog?

It should be considered if anything needs to be done about the behaviour at all. Humping is a normal part of play between dogs and is very common during adolescence. For most young dogs, not drawing attention to their behaviour, and looking at ways to help reduce frustration and limit over excitement will mean the behaviour runs its course and becomes less common as they move into adulthood.

However, there are times when this behaviour may be a sign of a bigger problem. Below are some examples of when intervention is required:

  • Prolonged periods of humping, where the dog cannot be easily distracted
  • Crying or panting whilst performing the behaviour
  • The behaviour being triggered by events associated with being left home alone
  • Problems with interacting with other dogs due to persistent humping.

Will neutering help my dog?

Knowing why your dog is humping is essential if you want to know how best to reduce the behaviour. The number one thing to remember is that neutering your dog will only help if the behaviour is sexually motivated. If you are concerned about your dog’s behaviour, please speak to your vet, and ask to be referred to a qualified behaviourist.

About the Author

Sophie White, BVetMed MSc MRCVS, is a veterinary surgeon with over a decade of experience. She is also a Dog Behaviourist, specialising in human directed aggression, handling issues & cases with complex medical histories.

More articles from Sophie White

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