Why does my dog hump everything!
There are many reasons why your dog may feel the need to hump objects or even you. It rarely has any sexual meaning to your dog.
Puppies that are doing this should not be encouraged or it can become an activity they will do regularly when they are older. Generally, it is not something that will be simply stop once they are desexed. If left to continue to hump, the behaviour of humping may become a habit and also can become an obsessive compulsive activity.
Some reasons for mounting or humping;
Sexual - uncommon
Dominance - uncommon
The most common reason causing dogs to hump objects, people or other animals is anxiety or arousal.
Dogs with anxiety often need to find an outlet for their anxious energy. Humping in some dogs can be compared to a child sucking their thumb. It is a behaviour that ‘grounds’ them, relieves tension and helps ‘reset’ their minds.
Arousal loosely means that the dog was overwhelmed with emotions and didn’t know how to respond and used humping as an outlet.
Here is an example;
You have a BBQ at your house and this is the first time your dog has seen so many guests in your yard. Your dog does not know how to respond to this and starts to hump the leg of the closest person who is sitting down. This could be due to over-excitement or anxiety. The response the dogs gets is usually getting pushed down and pat (good attention in the dog's mind) or they get a laugh (even better attention!).
As mentioned above attention seeking is also a very common cause behind humping. It often starts when the pup is young, they are playing and tackling either toys, another puppy or a child. They then start humping and get a great laugh out of everybody. They then put 2 and 2 together and work out that humping things gets attention and the pup sees this as a bit of a game.
Play in young growing animals including people is how they actually learn how to do things in the future and to develop muscles needed in later life as well. For example; a small child is likely to play ‘shop’ and is mimicking adult behaviours. A puppy in the same context with stalk, pounce and chase in preparation to activities needed as an adult. Humping for puppies falls into this category - they are practising for the future and building muscles needed for certain movements required if they do mate in later life.
Some mounting/humping behaviors can be sexual in nature, these dogs will often be at a mating age (over 9 months). A desexed male will still try and mount an entire female on heat.
Dominance has become a bit of a dirty word in the animal behaviour world. Many behaviours in the past have been put down to the dog trying to be dominant, but studies have shown this is often not the case.
If a dog mounts other animals, people and objects it is NOT dominance related. If a dog only humps 1 particular dog, this may be a way the humper is reminding the other dog that they are in charge. If the dog being humped allows this to happen (“knows their place”) nothing needs to be done about this behaviour (ignoring is the best thing to do).
What can you do to try and stop mounting?
Ignore, ignore, ignore.
If your puppy is humping you, turn away so that they stop humping and walk off rather than pushing them down. Pushing a puppy away is encouraging them further as you gave them the attention they were striving for.
If humping is a new behaviour your dog starts - you should get them checked out by a vet. Many conditions can cause irritation to the skin around the bottom and genital areas of dog that will cause them to rub that area.
If your dog is one to hump visitors it is best to redirect the attention elsewhere. E.g. Make them sit and have a treat before interacting with new people - this resets their mind from extreme excitement of having visitors to oh ok, Hi people..
Watch for signs of anxiety - if your dog starts humping when voices are raised for example, anxiety is likely underlying.
Hyper-vigilance, constantly scanning the environment.
Will jump or startle easily.
Avoiding direct eye contact.
Ears pinned back to head, tail tucked under, lip licking, exaggerated yawning.
Excessive panting, drooling, crying or whining.
Hiding or trying to retreat from a situation.
If you are having issues stopping your dog from humping please contact Dr Terri and find out if a consult is needed. Also please let me know if your dog is showing any of the signs of anxiety and they are a sign of underlying issues that may be causing stress in your dogs day to day life.