Sparky likes to hump. It sounds funny and amusing and sometimes it is, but it can also be embarrassing. You don’t really mind when he goes in the back room and gets it on with HIS designated pillow, but you do mind if he humps your neighbor’s leg or mounts the chihuahua down the road. You aren’t quite sure how or if you can control this behavior. You feel that some of it is probably natural, but you do need to establish some boundaries somehow, but how? As you think these thoughts, Sparky seems to be getting bored and heads to the back room to his pillow.
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The Root of the Behavior
Dogs like humping for multiple reasons. One basic birds and the bees reason is that unneutered males want to mount females during season. It’s probably not necessary to go into detail about the circle of life, but reproduction allows a species to survive, and one reason dogs get it on is because it is part of their survival instinct. But there are other non-sexual reasons that dogs hump as well. One major reason is dominance. When Sparky humps another dog, it is most likely about power. He wants to show that other dog that he is the boss. On the other hand, Sparky might also hump to challenge authority and because he is aware that it is belittling and rude. Humping is a sign of social status, and some dogs will try to exert their authority by humping another dog that might even be bigger than themselves. Again, Sparky usually wants to show control and power. Sparky also might just be trying to eliminate some stress. Humping feels good, and it might be a behavior that relieves some of the troubles in a dog’s mind. Sparky needs an emotional outlet too, and humping seems to relieve some anxieties. Another reason Sparky might hump is because he is seeking attention. If you give him excess attention when he is humping the sofa, he will continue to make that couch a priority. Although a lot of times, when dogs hump inanimate objects, a somewhat common occurrence, it is related to stress. Even though the topic of humping is funny on many levels, you also need to be observant if it becomes excessive or deviates from Sparky’s typical behavioral pattern. Sparky might also hump because he is overly excited, or he might just be playing around. As you can see, Sparky’s humping is not always due to a sexual nature.
Encouraging the Behavior
If Sparky’s humping is not overly excessive, he is not terrorizing other dogs, and not harming himself or others, you may let him go at it for a while. You might also establish boundaries. For example, you may decide there are places that are okay for Sparky to hump, like in the back room, and there are other places that are off limits, like in the living room or on a public walk. You also want to nip it in the butt, pun intended if Sparky is humping a human. This behavior is more concerning than when a dog humps a dog because usually dogs view humans as the leader of the pack, and if they choose to hump you, they are saying, “I’m in charge here.” This is an authoritative behavior that Sparky just should not be able to have. To get Sparky to stop humping, you want to redirect his behavior as soon as it starts. One way to do this is by luring the dog away with meat or treats. You also could lure him away with play, such as busting out his favorite dog ball. The puns are just too easy. All jokes aside, there are solutions to decreasing this sometimes unwanted behavior.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Humping is hardwired into a dog’s brain. Even neutering a dog will not make this natural, instinctive brain pattern fully disappear, but it will help. Female dogs hump too, and if humping is an issue for your girl pooch, you might want to get her spayed. Keep an eye out for sudden changes. It sounds like Sparky has always been into his pillow and the dog down the street, but if all of a sudden he starts mounting all of his toys, your furniture, and your leg, look for triggers that might have caused more of this humping behavior. Try providing Sparky with more exercise and attention or diverting his attention with treats. If none of this helps, seek some professional help, beginning with your vet, and then possibly a behavioral trainer. Also, when Sparky humps in a place that you feel is inappropriate, you can stop and remove him from whatever is tempting him. You also can block him before the humping even begins.
Yes, it is true that Sparky sometimes humps because it feels good, but he also humps to challenge authority, and you may need to remind Sparky that you are the alpha dog in this relationship. Set some clear boundaries. Perhaps let him do his thing with his pillow in the backroom, but intervene if he is humping any human’s leg or an innocent dog while on her morning walk. Plus, sometimes mounting other dogs does lead to dog fights, and you don’t want that for Sparky either, so decide on the boundaries that work for you both and form a plan to enforce them.