Why Do Dogs Hump And How To Stop Dog Humping

It’s normal for dogs to hump, but with some observation you can find ways to minimize it.

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When a dog wants to do something but doesn't know what, he sometimes chooses to hump; this is a displacement behavior. Via James Cohen/Flickr
When a dog wants to do something but doesn't know what, he sometimes chooses to hump; this is a displacement behavior. Via James Cohen/Flickr

If you have spent a fair amount of time around dogs, chances are that you, too, have an embarrassing hump story. I can think of a few whoppers. There was the time when my middle daughter was 4 years old. We had just moved, and our new neighbors stopped by to pick up Hannah for a birthday party. When they arrived at our house, they witnessed my female dog humping the head of a Golden Retriever who I was boarding. The two dogs were at the top of the split entryway, like they were on stage.

As we all looked up with gaping mouths, my sweet child said a quick “hello” and then turned to the dogs and told them “no humping.” Our dog Charlee jumped off. When the neighbors brought Hannah home they were all talking and laughing at once. The mom told me that if she hadn’t seen the dogs “doing it,” she might have called social services. This is because they were reading a circus book at the party and my darling daughter stood on a chair, opened the page of the elephants standing in line with the feet on each other’s backs and exclaimed for all to hear, “The elephants are humping!”

Reasons Behind Why Dogs Hump
Below are four examples of dogs humping, and my analysis of why the dogs humped.

1. Learn To Recognize Dog Displacement Behavior: The interactions between my dog and our boarder dog were perfectly normal. The two dogs grew up together and the Golden was a much mellower dog than my herding dog rescue. Charlee got into the habit of hopping on Brewster’s head when he stopped playing. She was still in “go” mode and for her it was a displacement behavior. Displacement is frequently at the root of humping. A dog who offers a displacement behavior is looking to self-soothe conflicting emotions. Other displacement behaviors include scratching, licking and drinking.

2. What’s A Dog To Do When Needs Aren’t Met?: That same year, I took my kids to visit my parents in Florida and one of my mom’s friends brought over her little dog and his stuffed yellow duck toy to show me that whenever the duck came out the small dog would go to town on it. My parents and their friends were laughing so hard they had tears rolling down their faces. I didn’t think it was so funny. I thought it was kind of sad. The humping that little dog was doing was way over the top and frantic — it was borderline crazy-town. Be careful what you laugh at, people. The laughter surely egged on that dog.

“Why does he do that?” they asked.

“He is fixed,” they informed me.

“How the heck do we get him to stop?” was the final question.

In that dog’s case it was as simple as not giving him access to the duck toy, and doing a better job of meeting his exercise needs. That dog needed time away from the condo and more time to be a dog.

3. Dogs With Out-Of-Control Hormones: In college I knew a mixed breed dog named Murphy, a dog so horny he would “hump the crack of dawn” the housemates told me. I don’t know about that, but I did see him hump the crack in the couch, and he nearly bit me when I tried to pull him off by the collar. That dog was in need of neutering. He stopped once he was neutered and his hormones leveled out. It is not unusual for very young puppies to display humping behaviors. They are practicing for the real thing.

4. Stressed Dogs Need A Safe Retreat: Friends of mine have a lovely, older female dog and a 3-year-old daughter. They told me the dog had been naughty by humping the little girl frequently. They were convinced that their dog was being dominant, and looking for higher status in the house. I disagree. This is a fairly common situation.

I think it can be confusing for dogs when kids act like kids; this is a clear case of stress and displacement behavior. Like the story of my dog Charlee above, the dogs become somewhat at a loss about what to do. The solution for times like this is to monitor closer and be sure your dog has someone safe to go to and get away from it all. Your dog may need to lose access to the kids sometimes when play is getting too exciting. Remain calm.

How To Stop Dog Humping
Once you understand why a dog is humping, finding ways to prevent it is easier. If a dog is neutered and health issues are ruled out, proper training is the answer.

Be sure your dog has a solid “off” cue. We teach this the same way we teach “off” for jumping up, by rewarding an alternate behavior.

The well-known behaviorist Dr. Ian Dunbar is known for saying, “Most behavior issues can be solved with a rock-solid sit.”

In the case of dogs humping kids, you have a few choices. My favorite solution is to teach a rock-solid sit. When you see the dogs start to get overstimulated (not that kind of stimulated!) ask your dog to sit. Be sure to reward the behavior. Ask the kids to chill, and regroup everyone.

Obedience training helps. If you can call off a dog, call a dog to you, ask for a sit or teach a solid off, then you can redirect before things get out of hand. If your dog if not quite that advanced yet, keep working on it. You might need to have your dog drag a leash so you can easily separate him from something he chooses to hump.

If you can’t redirect, you will need to remove the dog or leash him.

Why Do Dogs Hump Other Dogs?
Does your dog go to doggy daycare? A lot of humping often occurs at daycare. Remember that whatever dogs practice they get really good at. It is not the worst thing in the world for one dog to hump another. However, if a dog humps the wrong dog, a fight can ensue. Neither of my dogs would take kindly to a dog jumping on them. One has pain issues, and both dogs would find it rude.

Consider talking to your daycare providers. Maybe your dog could play with a different group for a while. As a general rule, adolescent dogs do most of the humping. This is not the place to “let dogs be dogs” and “let them work it out.” The solution for dogs humping each other is the same as I outlined above.

Really, the best course of action it to redirect humping before it gets out of hand.

Happy Training, and try not to freak out. This is normal — they are dogs.

 

Article Categories:
Behavior and Training · Dogs

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