Why is your dog humping? Many dogs have a habit of humping, also known as mounting. Some dogs hump other dogs. Some like to hump inanimate objects (like stuffed animals and furniture). Others hump people (especially their legs).
Many owners are embarrassed when their dog humps. It can be awkward in mixed company, especially if your dog likes to hump people. You might want to know why your dog exhibits this, ahem, salacious behavior. Next, you'll probably 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 excessively. 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 non-sexual.
Excitement: Non-sexual arousal can provoke a dog to hump. It's just a way for the dog to expel all that excited energy. Some dogs bark, some run or jump, others hump. This is normal for many dogs. If the behavior is frequent, training may be able to help reduce it by redirecting your dog to another outlet for expending excess energy.
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 enjoy humping. It's just fun for some dogs. And that's okay. . . until it's not. Make sure to break it up if the other dog seems annoyed by the humping. Training may be helpful to decrease the frequency and intensity of play humping.
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 actually 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). Fortunately, humping can usually be managed 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 your dog stops humping when you say "stop" or "off," reward him with a treat, a toy, or affection. Base the reward 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 a valuable reward. Find something very appealing, like a stinky treat or a favorite squeaky toy. Repeat the "off" or "stop" cue each time he humps, then and lure your dog away every time. Praise your dog when he moves his attention to the reward and away from the humping.
Eventually, you might be able to break your dog's humping habit. However, some dogs won't quit that easily. You may wish to seek the help of a professional trainer or behaviorist 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. If this is how things turn out, then you will need to know how to predict the humping behavior and prevent it whenever possible. This is especially the case when humping may cause a dog fight or an injury to someone.