Humping is Normal, Yet Rude and Lewd

Recently, I received a question from a dog owner who was concerned that her neutered male was a dog park predator — hooked on humping. She was worried whether there was any harm in letting him mount, or whether she should be discouraging the behavior.

 

Unlike most other mammals, neutered male and to a lesser extent, neutered female dogs will continue to mount other dogs. Quite common and quite normal. In fact, neutered male dogs tend to mount more than intact males, presumably due to a lack of discriminatory experience.

 

In terms of the potential humping-harm inflicted by a sexual predator: basically, humping other dogs is a normal and natural doggy behavior that is often considered by many other dogs and people to be unwanted, annoying and inappropriate. Perhaps a human analogy is helpful here. Equivalent human behavior is obviously as perfectly normal and natural, yet the behavior is utterly undesirable and unwanted without mutual consent and it is blatantly inappropriate in public. We manage to control our instincts and dogs can too.

 

If your puppydog gets all perky in the park, I would suggest that you first ask the owner of the other dog whether it is OK for the dogs to play and maybe mount. Many owners object very strongly when their dog is physically humped by another, especially when the humper has the ineffably rambunctious joie de hump of a Lab-cross.

 

Also, if your male dog is un-neutered and his prospective mountee is female, please do check that she is either neutered, or not in heat. (Humping is how unwanted puppies are made.)

 

To prevent or stop your dog mounting, simply instruct your dog to “Sit.” In fact, a simple sit will prevent most annoying or inappropriate behavior problems; a dog cannot sit and misbehave at the same time. If your dog sits promptly and reliably when requested, you may easily control his behavior. If your dog does not sit promptly and reliably when requested in the face of temptation or distraction, either teach him to sit, or keep him on leash. If the presence of a female dog causes you dog to disregard your instructions, most certainly the dog will likewise ignore you in other situations — when a toddler approaches, a jogger runs by, or when off-leash with squirrels in sight.

 

Sit as a solution is so beautifully simple, yet most people think it would be impossible and so they don’t even try… “How can you control a dog’s basic instinct with training?” Controlling your dog’s instincts desires is, of course, the whole point of training. Certainly, most people learn to control their no less powerful instincts and cravings by self-control and to teach a dog to do so is actually much easier, especially if training is integrated into the dog’s social encounters and play sessions. By frequently interrupting play by asking a dog to sit, “Rover, Sit. Good Dog. Go Play”, rather than remaining a distraction to training, interaction with other dogs now becomes an extremely effective reward that reinforces training. In our most recent DVD — SIRIUS® Adult Dog Training — there is a wonderful section on controlling dogs during off-leash play. A small Poodle named Dolce is in the sweet process of meditating mounting another dog, whereupon his owner requests him to “Sit” from several yards away. He sits immediately and then is rewarded by being told, “Go Play.” Of course, if the other dog and owner were both willing, a more effective reward would have been, “Go mount!” Basically, Dolce’s sweet life and basic rampaging instincts were easily and effectively controlled by his owner’s distant voice.

 

Even though you may be certain that you have good control over your dog when off-leash and the other owner is perfectly OK with your dog mounting their male, neutered female, or anoestrous female, please do be prepared for the other dog to object. Whereas it is normal and natural for male dogs to try to mount anything with a pulse and most things without, it is perfectly normal and natural for other male dogs and neutered, anestrous, or even unwilling estrous females to strongly object to unwanted and overly amorous advances.

 

So, it is probably best not to let your dog mount other park dogs at random. To avoid other dog owners from becoming upset, we don’t allow our three male dogs to mount other dogs in public places. However, what they decide to do in the privacy of their own home is up to them and us. When we are at home, mounting is OK so long as it is not disruptive. However, if mounting disturbs the peace, we simply tell them to knock it off. In fact, as I write this, Dune is humping little Hugo and Kelly just said, “Dune, leave him alone.” Dune dismounted!

Products from Dr. Ian Dunbar

Comments

Nice article explaining mounting behaviour.  I have a dog in one of my clubs who does it as a displacement / unsure-what-else-to-do behaviour (3yr neutered male lab!) but soon scarpers if told off by the other dog or their owner!

Mounting is such a normal part of their expressive repertoire.  I don't see it as a problem unless the 'humpee' sees it as a problem or it becomes obsessive.  This article will hopefully help me to get other people to see this too.

 

 

~Jaq~ www.dogpsyche.co.uk

My older rotty has always played rough with the younger anxiety ridden one. I am sure my anxious rotty does starts humping with his sibling to "slow" things down when he feels the play is getting too rough. I have not seen him do it to our neighbours dog, whose displacement behaviour is to suddenly start sniffing. In all honesty both my two neutered males will hump each other on occassions, usually after a intense play session.

A long time ago an elderly client of the vet clinic I work in said she allowed her un-neutured male dog to regularly hump her leg because she though it was important for him "to get the little spermies out". On a more serios note  and on the whole though, most of my clients when this "problem" starts happening immediatly leap to wanting to get their pooch neutered - although I don't want to discourage them from neutering their dog (with some people this is the only reason they will consider neutering) I do want them to know this may not be the answer to their prayers.

Does anyone have any suggestions on what would be an appropriate way to give the correct advice or should I just say nothing and allow them to go ahead with the neutering thinking it will solve "the problem"?

Interesting when it's females doing the humping it does not seem to be as much of a stigma.

This must be a great example of how we can reward and reinforce this unwanted behaviour by how we react to it. We might feel uncomfortable or embarrassed that our dog is humping, then immediately shout and chase after it! Just as we shout at and chase after dogs when they steal our socks, shoes or the remote control for the TV. We make it a rewarding game. It saddens me therefore that so many people, and so many vets just castrate male dogs without much thought just because the owners are embarrassed by this humping behaviour. Thank you Dr Dunbar for raising this subject and bringing it out in the open. As a trainee behaviourist myself, I am just learning and just seeing the problems caused by inappropriate neutering by vets. Of course, we don't want pregnancy but neutering shouldn't always be the first response. You get such a wonderful, confident rounded character in an entire male dog.

Mmmm, entire males are wonderful, confident rounded characters... Well, the vast majority of those left entire that I see around have learned some pretty dire behaviours through the 'teenage' months!  Bad owner management I know, but in the vast majority of cases, simple neutering at an appropriate moment, i.e. before the testosterone hike, would have greatly reduced the likelihood of adult problems with other dogs.

~Jaq~ www.dogpsyche.co.uk

My Ara Poochie is neutered and humps other dogs during play at the dog park. When that happens, I immediately ask the other dog's owner if they are okay with the humping. If they are, I let it be. They are not, I get Ara Poochie to do something else like play ball with me. 

However, at home, Ara Poochie (a wiener dog) humps my arms when I am relaxing. I let him be because at least it at home and in private. If a human masturbates or has sex with dolls, I don't object. Why should a wiener dog be deprived from sexual activity?

Rosina Kamis
www.arapoochiekamis.com

I'm sorry Matron I  find your view on desexing oversimplified, in need of a broader view and I have to disagree on at least two fronts.

for a start blaming a vet for "inappropriate neutering" ....there is no such thing as inappropriate neutering as it has many many health benefits other than just unwanted pregnancies (prevention of testicular cancer, prevent prostate problems, prevent other certain cancers and aid in the control of perianal hernias just to name a few).

There are some behavioural considerations but most vets do try to advise owners that neutering may not help any particular unwanted behaviour - owners will still take the option, finding in this case and usually by default only, the so called unwanted behavior does actually subside. The owner always puts this down to the surgery - vets do not, they know there are invarably other factors involved, which the owner either cannot see or is unaware of.

Saying "you get such a wonderful, confident rounded character in an entire male dog" is a generalisation; I would be more than happy to suggest there are just as many anxious, over wraught, insecure, unconfident, entire male dogs as there are wonderful confident rounded characters. It is universally recognised that countless unneutered males are incredibly stressed in todays overcrowded environment with the progessive urban sprawl, simply because they have the hormone factor involved,  becomimg much more balanced, happier and less stressed once neutered, no longer needing to worry about the homones and what they might do to them or get them into. Not am I only speaking from research and professional knowledge, I am also speaking from personal experience.

I would be very interested in hearing about the problems you are experienceing with regard to inappropriate neutering

Dog's hump for a variety of reasons, my dog Gretchen HATES to let another dog even get close to her, she goes automatically into "attack mode".

She's a mini-schnauzer, so a lot of damage she's going to do to my neighbors huge golden lab. While I do find doggy "humping" inappropriate, it is part of their nature to do so.

A few common reasons that dogs hump given by various veterinarians are:

1.Your dog might be showing you a great sign of affection
2.Your dog might be displaying his dominance
3.Your dog might be doing it just to do it even if they have been altered.

I am a firm believer that dog training can go a long way toward managing dog humping however I do not condone using punishment when training your dog. Training can be made easy when you simply ignore inadequate efforts and praise correct ones. We also have to come to the realization that some dogs, especially dominant dogs, may continue to hump indefinitely.

*Marsha Mack* www.ecodogboutique.com

I have a few observations to share regarding dogs that come into our rescue shelter home.

Sadie...a very sweet GWP only mounted the puppies when they would as she seemed to perceive it were out of control or overly excited.

I saw her as trying to control the situation, and did correct her with a look or snap of the finger. She was in my perception trying to be a good mother dog, maybe this behavior from the 4 month olds triggered an excited response in her thus the humping. As she was adopted actually with one of the four month old by an experienced trainer within our breed...her humping has stopped recently.

Our other boy came in intact, had a lovely personality and played very well with our male puppy of 10 months of age. He is 16 months, and not a dominant personality. He never tried to hump the puppy, but a week after he was neutered I did introduce him to one of our foster females...she did have a conversation with him asking him to give her space, which he did naturally. When I supervised playtime,,,and saw the gleam in his eye I snapped my fingers and told him to "leave it." As I knew Meg was fine with him playing, but absolutely not humping. I see it as rude also, and with the dogs we rescue, not a good idea.

Nancy M. Kelly Pasadena, Texas

I am in the midst of doing transition training of a service dog with his new partner.  After meeting at least 50 - 80 people over the last 3 days, and scores of others successfully, using his trained behavior of lying down to meet and get attention, he met a new human two different times today, flirting relentlessly with her while she petted him in a down position the first time and coming up suddenly from his down stay to hump her the second time.  The woman has her own service dog who is reported to eat a high-fish diet and to smell bad as a result of that - haven't met the dog up close myself.  The woman herself has fibromyalgia among other disabilities.  She reports her spayed female Golden "draws male dogs like flies," although they don't hump her because she rolls onto her back with her legs in the air.  The dog I'm working with has a tendency to hump other dogs in play.  Upon the woman coming down to his level while he was lying down, using what appeared to be appropriate dog interaction skills, he nibble her sleeve, rolled partially onto his side and pawed at her with his front paws, rolled his eyes around with a happy grin on his face, looking all the world like he was flirting sexually with her.  She flicked his nose for nibbling her sleeve - I objected, but doubt it's a real problem.  Upon seeing her for the second time later, he flew up from his down stay and clasped her leg to hump; we stopped it immediately, and seeing her once again half an hour later, he walked along next to his partner's wheelchair a foot from this woman and totally ignored her.  Does anyone have any input regarding the smell of this woman and the smell of her dog all over her, which must have been the trigger?  I intend to work with the woman again on Saturday and make sure that her presence becomes a cue to turn away from her or something else appropriate, because she's a friend my client sees regularly, assuming this is an odor thing.  I'm wondering if she or the dog may have a medical issue because this service dog meets people all the time without humping them, although he humped 3 people in the past, probably 6 months ago or so.  Obviously, this is a concern for this service dog who has to come in contact with this woman and we need to fix it quickly, so any advice an quick replies are welcome.

Logically there are a number of possibilities and possible experiments to test these.

To test if it's something about the odor of the humped woman's Golden, how about putting a tee shirt on the Golden for a day to absorb odor and then seeing how the humping dog reacts to that tee shirt by itself and to the tee shirt on another dog or a dog dummy or on another person.

To test if it's something about the odor of the humped woman herself, let her wear a tee shirt for a day or night, and again test the humping dog's reaction to that tee by itself and on another person or on another dog.

That the spayed Golden "draws male dogs like flies" suggests that maybe she has some hormonal abnormality, and to find out, a visit to a veterinary endocrinologist would be needed. or she could just have a urinary tract infection, which could be tested by culturing a urine sample, which any vet could do.
To test whether it's the spayed Golden's fishy diet, the diet would have to be changed for some period of time. The owner probably won't want to do that. Might ask at the pet store if there are other people whose dogs are on same diet and if they might be willing to meet with humping dog and his owner to see how humping dog reacts to their dog.

Finally, my biggest worry would be that maybe the woman herself has some undiscovered medical condition that is causing a scent that the humping dog is reacting to. Easy to test if it's the fibromyalgia by introducing the dog to other people with this condition. but my concern is maybe the dog is detecting a hormonal issue in the woman. maybe she has ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, an adrenal tumor or a pituitary tumor. or possibly breast cancer. it is known that some dogs react to the breath of women with some of these conditions, though the reaction isn't necessarily humping.
Of course the easiest and probably likeliest explanation is that the humping dog , who has a history of humping other dogs (and in past other humans), is simply humping this woman because he enjoys humping anyone who allows it and so far he hasn't seen any reason not to do it. If so, then the ordinary training solution of training the dog to do an incompatible and acceptable behavior , like Sit or Down, rewarding the dog for doing so, would be the answer. Plus perhaps a firm "No" when he does try to hump a person, then redirect him to do the incompatible and acceptable alternative. (I do think dogs need to be told when a particular behavior is really off limits.)
Probably the reason most dogs hump is just that it feels good to the same parts of the brain that enjoy ordinary sex. Dogs just want to have fun.

Nancy M. Kelly Pasadena, Texas

Well, I'm happy to report that the humping incident of which I wrote nearly a year ago was the last one ever.  The transition for this service dog was much more of a whirlwind experience than I intended or would have liked, and I think the humping incident was a stress-relief behavior and also due to the dog's conflict with the changing demands of his job.  It was a moment in time, never to occur again.  He is now a fantastic helper to his partner, with full public access and perfect manners every day.  So that was a one-time thing.  The object of the humping is a regular part of his life and he and her dog are the best of friends now, enjoying occasional playtime when the vests come off.  Both the service dog and I were a bit overwhelmed during that time, working long days getting the dog and partner ready for action.  Again, not the best setup, but he's a phenomenal dog who is able to work through some difficulties; he's continuing to prove himself almost daily.

Nancy M. Kelly Pasadena, Texas

Well, I'm happy to report that the humping incident of which I wrote nearly a year ago was the last one ever.  The transition for this service dog was much more of a whirlwind experience than I intended or would have liked, and I think the humping incident was a stress-relief behavior and also due to the dog's conflict with the changing demands of his job.  It was a moment in time, never to occur again.  He is now a fantastic helper to his partner, with full public access and perfect manners every day.  So that was a one-time thing.  The object of the humping is a regular part of his life and he and her dog are the best of friends now, enjoying occasional playtime when the vests come off.  Both the service dog and I were a bit overwhelmed during that time, working long days getting the dog and partner ready for action.  Again, not the best setup, but he's a phenomenal dog who is able to work through some difficulties; he's continuing to prove himself almost daily.