Question of the week: Why does my dog hump?

A lot of dog owners are left red-faced when they have a pooch that shows enthusiasm for “humping.” It be can be quite frustrating when your dog mounts everything in sight whether it be other dogs, people or even stationary objects such as pillows and toys. This behavior is often attributed to sexual instinct. This may be the case in some situations but you may be surprised to learn there are several other reasons this may be happening.

Dog owners often hope these behaviors stop once their dog is neutered. While testosterone levels do drop, the ability or motivation to continue to hump can remain. There is never a guarantee that getting “fixed” will fix your problem.

So what else can cause your dog to mount? A commonly cited reason is to display dominance. This is often seen in dog groups and is in fact a normal behavior. Just as the dog may be seen pouncing, barking or stalking other dogs humping is a “social” activity. It is a dynamic set between two individuals (versus inanimate objects) and this dominance behavior is always between animals.

Something else that can provide the impetus for humping is high levels of anxiety. In the dog behavior world this is termed “displacement behavior.” Often when dogs experience internal emotional conflict they express this through “out of context” behavior. This will be observed in relation to inanimate objects or people.  A number of things can trigger this such as a new toy, person or some kind of abrupt change in the environment.

So what can be done about changing this behavior? The first step is to determine why it’s happening. Here are some points to be aware of:

  • Rule out possible physical causes (call the clinic to make an appointment)
  • Is it an occasional behavior? If so it may be something you can get used to as a part of normal dog behavior
  • Avoid placing the dog in situations that trigger the activity
  • If your dog isn’t neutered talk to your vet about whether it may be a good option for your pet. According to Clinician’s Brief, neutering  may reduce mounting by 50% in almost 70% of dogs regardless of age.

This week’s question provided a long answer to an often asked question. We may not have covered everything, but as always our doctors and staff are happy to talk with you further about this issue. Call us at 510-549-1252.