Monday , 11 December 2017

Humping! Why Do They Do It

Humping. I’m sure we all have funny stories about dogs humping. I know I do! But it’s actually a behavior I get asked about quite a bit, and most people are concerned about it, and believe it to be a problem behavior, and just wish it would stop.

The thing is that humping, or mounting is a very normal canine behavior. Most of us don’t like it though, and a good many of us are downright embarrassed by it. This kind of makes sense, as most of us think about it in relation to some type of sexual activity, and as we all know, this can be a taboo topic in our culture.

Most people who ask me about it are quite baffled that female dogs engage in humping behavior as well as the males. While humping and mounting can be sexual in nature, that’s not always the reason in our dogs. Other than when they are actually mating, or are adolescents who are practicing, it is often something else that drives the behavior.

Mounting is a normal canine behavior and often starts early in puppyhood, especially in play. Puppies may mount each other, without a care if the humpee is male or female. They may also hump inanimate objects as well, such as toys, cushions, blankets or even seemingly nothing at all (air humping). And when they get to their new homes, they may even mount or hump their human family members as well.

Again, this is very normal behavior for a puppy or a full grown dog. In pups, it is often a form of play practice, as is all forms of play…practicing to make perfect.

Dogs may mount for other reasons as well, the most common being when they are over stimulated (not speaking sexually), over aroused, conflicted, stressed, anxious or frustrated. Some dogs mount to break the ice with other dogs. It can sometimes be a displacement behavior as well, which occurs when a dog is emotionally conflicted.

You have a bunch of guests over one evening, and while your dog loves people, he might find the amount of visitors to be a tad overwhelming so he bounces off to hump his favorite stuffed toy, or even a visitor’s leg. He also may be overly excited by all the people, and feels the need to release tension by humping as well. Some dogs have learned that humping can also be an attention seeking behavior as well.

Where we’ll often see more dog humping behavior is at the dog park. Even among dogs who don’t normally engage in mounting behaviors at home. Many dogs find meeting new dogs, especially a number of new dogs at once to be a stressful. And this mounting behavior can help to alleviate some of this stress.

I don’t consider humping to be a problem behavior unless the humping dog gets himself into trouble with his over exuberant behavior. Many dogs don’t appreciate being humped for too long, and some dogs just go at it for too long, which can result in a scuffle. This is where a solid recall cue can be very helpful. Just call the humping dog off of the other dog. I would then also consider working on some confidence building skills, and I’d probably cut down on the dog park visits.

When it comes to alleviating stress, or anxiousness then I’d look into how to lower my dog’s stress levels by working on a lot of mental enrichment. I’d also try to determine what situations predict the behavior as well, as I may have to take time to help the dog deal with certain situations with habituation and desensitization. Taking context into consideration, I’d try to determine the reason for the humping in the first place. If it’s a learned attention seeking behavior, then I’ll teach another behavior to take its place.

I rarely find it a real problem behavior though, and am ok with the dog self soothing or self calming while humping his favorite toutou. So long as the behavior isn’t obsessive or compulsive that is.

When it comes to dogs who hump people, I like to redirect the behavior and teach another cue not because I think it’s a behavior problem, but rather because most people find it rude.

Happy Hump Day!

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