Many dogs have a habit of humping (also known as mounting). Some hump other dogs. Some like to hump inanimate objects (like stuffed animals and furniture). Others hump people (especially their legs).
Are you embarrassed when your dog humps? It can be awkward in mixed company, especially if your dog likes humping people. You might want to know why you dog exhibits this, ahem, salacious behavior. Then, you might want to learn how to stop it.
Why Dogs Hump
Humping, or mounting, is an action that seems inherently sexual in nature. However, this is not always the case. Humping is part instinct, part learned behavior. However, it's important to understand that humping is a completely normal dog behavior, even when females do it. Humping only becomes a behavior problem when your dog humps people or upsets other dogs by humping relentlessly. There are a few different reasons dogs hump:
Sex Drive: An intact dog (not spayed or neutered) may hump dogs due to hormones and sexual attraction. When both dogs are intact, they usually end up mating, so you need to separate intact dogs of the opposite sex if you don't want that to happen! Sometimes it's one intact dog humping a spayed or neutered dog. Females hump too, and it may or may not be sexual in nature. When a dog humps objects or people, it might be a form of masturbation. Having your dog neutered or spayed can help decrease the problem.
However, be aware that dogs may develop the habit of humping before spay/neuter and continue it after. Usually, the reasons for humping are as follows:
Excitement: Non-sexual arousal can provoke a dog to hump. It's just a way to expel all that excited energy. Some dogs bark, some run or jump, others hump.
This is normal for many dogs.
Play: Like play bows and play-fighting, play humping can be a completely normal and acceptable behavior as long as it does not upset the other dog. Some dogs will play hump each other back and forth and everyone is fine with it. Some dogs simply like humping. It's just fun for some dogs. And that's okay.
NOTE: Many people used to think that humping was a dominant behavior. This is rarely the case. Through much research, dog behavior experts have determined that dominance is not a personality trait. Rather, it occurs in situations where dogs need to establish a ranking order for access to resources. This rank is typically established through body language, not direct physical contact.
Stopping Unwanted Humping
Obviously, you don't want your dog humping your guests. You also don't want humping to lead to a fight with another dog. Even humping an object can potentially cause damage (depending on the object). Humping can be curbed through training.
First of all, if you want to stop your dog's humping, you need to catch him in the act and redirect him. Call his name and say a word like "off" or "stop." The word "no" is not ideal since we use it so much in conversation.
The word "down" is confusing if your dog knows how to lie down (or if you ever want to teach him. If he stops humping, reward him with a treat, toy or affection (depending on what your dog likes most). Remove the humping target (if possible). If it's a person, you might just need to remove your dog from the room. If you can't get your dog's attention with a verbal cue, you might need to lure your dog away with the reward.
Keep luring your dog away every time the unwanted humping begins. Eventually, you might be able to break his habit. Some dogs won't quit that easily. You can seek the help of a professional trainer to work on the issue. Otherwise, you might need to accept that your dog is going to hump and avoid situations where humping will be a problem.