Every dog owner will be familiar with the humour and embarrassment of dog mounting behaviour. Also referred to as “humping”, most dogs will exhibit this behaviour at some time (or all of the time!) with human arms and legs, inanimate objects like cushions and plush toys, and other dogs. Why do dogs do it? And why do even neutered dogs do it?
Most of us think of mounting as a sexually-based behaviour. While in some cases it certainly is, there are other reasons a dog will hump everything in sight. For example, a dog mounting another dog may have little to do with sexual drive and more to do with anxiety or simply play. A dog humping a human is likely driven by anxiety, stress, or attention-seeking.
A canine that is not desexed will mount another dog when in heat or in the presence of a female dog that is in heat. This is natural and instinctual. This behaviour may continue for several months after desexing has been carried out. Puppies hump as a natural part of their play and learning.
What are the causes of inappropriate mounting behaviour?
• Behavioural Issues: instinctual masturbation; play; stress, anxiety, or excitement; rarely dominance issues or obsessive issues.
• Hormonal Issues: intact (not desexed); retained ovaries or cryptorchid testicle (undescended and in the abdomen) after desexing; some tumours.
• Medical Issues: urinary incontinence or urinary tract infection; itching due to flea infestation or allergies; rarely, paraphimosis, whereby the dog’s penis fails to retract.
Humping in dogs is annoying, embarrassing, and inconvenient for humans, yet it is perfectly natural to dogs. Occasional, brief mounting of other dogs during play or social interaction is not something to worry about too much, unless of course fighting or injury occurs, or the mounted dog becomes oppressed. Humping humans, however, is not so acceptable, and steps should be taken to discourage it.
How Do I stop my dog from Humping?
Like with all behaviours we don’t like, it’s best to nip mounting in the bud as early as possible. The first step is to have your dog desexed. Castration eliminates up to eighty percent of unwanted mounting behaviour.
• Ask your vet for advice – and have your dog checked for undiagnosed medical issues.
• Identify what the motivation for mounting is – is it stress or overexcitement, anxiety, boredom, etc? Sometimes just going for a daily walk will be enough to relax your dog.
• Never encourage or praise humping. Try not to laugh in the presence of the dog as if the motivation is attention seeking, this will be perceived by the dog as reward.
• Never reward a dog when it is humping.
• Never punish a dog physically.
• Use commands to distract the dog. Reward the dog for stopping the unwanted behaviour.
• Sometimes, medications can address anxiety and stress.
Identify the cause of your dog’s unwanted behaviour and you are halfway to a solution. If all else fails, seek help from a professional trainer.