One of the most awkward aspects of owning a dog is the leg humping issue. You’ve probably laughed at the scene before in movies or with your friends, however, it’s not so funny when it happens to you in public. The best words to describe the situation would be annoying and embarrassing. The first thing that comes to mind when you see dog a humping someone’s leg is sexual gratification. But it isn’t always about that. Let’s find out more about the reasons dogs want to ride your leg and what you can do to prevent them from humiliating you any further.
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The Root of the Behavior
As embarrassing as it is to the owner, riding one’s leg or mounting (as it's also known), is just another way your dog uses to communicate. Dogs do not have any emotional feelings about the gesture nor do they feel awkwardness about it. It is merely a movement, just like any other. Primarily, it is sexual driven, however, it’s often done for other reasons as well. Some of these reasons refer to signs of dominance, a reaction to something that excites them, or a sign that a dog hasn’t been socialized correctly and doesn’t know appropriate canine behavior. When it is driven by hormones, mounting is a display of your dog’s sexuality and nothing more than that. Don’t get the wrong idea though, your dog isn’t “attracted” to your leg or whatever object he usually humps, it’s more of an “easy to grab and hold” type of situation.
The behavior is mostly associated with unneutered and unsprayed dogs, although neutered males and females can engage in this conduct as well and almost all puppies do. As it is fairly rare for a male dog to ever meet females in heat, dogs will grab the closest thing next to them, which in this case is… your leg. In some situations, a dog may hump a leg much like an invitation to a “play” party. Think of it as a simple display of playfulness and attention-seeking. At times, dogs will attempt to ride their owner’s leg due to anxiety issues, as a means of easing their stress. An excess of energy and excitement could also lead to such “unfortunate” situations, so it’s best to make sure he gets all the physical exercise he needs throughout the day. In rare cases, humping could be due to a medical problem such as a urinary tract infection or a skin allergy.
Encouraging the Behavior
Although it's considered normal behavior, excessive leg humping may also be a sign of compulsion in dogs. If you don’t want the situation getting out of control, you need to stop the behavior when it first starts. This is especially true when it comes to puppies. Some owners find the behavior to be funny and cute, so they don’t attempt to stop the activity, but rather encourage it by laughing or giving the dog attention. The reality is that you need to stop it when you first see it.
What you can do is distract them when they do it and then give them something else to do instead. Providing them with an alternative is the best way to divert them from the issue. Neutering will normally decrease sexual motivations and mounting behavior, but it may not cause the situation to disappear completely. If your neutered dog still humps, it could simply be that his hormone levels haven’t dropped enough. The best way to stop your dog from riding your leg, even after getting neutered, is to teach him obedience training. This way he will also learn to sit or stay whenever you have visitors over or remain calm when going to the dog park.
Other Solutions and Considerations
One of the easiest ways to avoid getting your leg humped is to calmly extract yourself and withdraw attention from your dog. The worst thing you can do is yell or punish him since this could actually reinforce the behavior. The thing with most dogs is that they prefer negative attention to no attention at all. So, don’t bother getting all angry at them because if the mounting is related to stress, punishment will only increase it. Instead, simply get up and walk away. This way you will teach your dog that this is an unacceptable behavior and you don’t approve of it.
Sooner or later, it will happen to you as well. Mounting or humping is a normal dog behavior, but you need to be careful about not letting it become compulsive. Get proper help if you need professional training and above all… keep a sense of humor and don’t worry, he is not “falling for” your leg.