Dog humping a dog

My dog is a serial humper. When I take him to the dog park or to doggy daycare, the other owners complain about him mounting their dogs. They also seem frustrated with me because I’m not doing anything to stop him. But honestly, I don’t know what to do! Is humping a sign of dominance or is it something else? And is there any way I can make him stop?

There are plenty of misunderstood dog behaviors, and canines mounting or humping one another happens to be one of the most prevalent. The common assumption is that mounting is always either a sexually related behavior or an attempt to assert dominance. In reality, mounting stems from a variety of motivations — including your dog’s delight at getting to play with his canine buddies.

Why Dogs Hump

“Mounting is a normal behavior,” says Dr. Wailani Sung of All Creatures Behavior Counseling in Kirkland, Washington. And, she adds, not all humping is aggressive or sexual. “Dogs can mount each other during play or when they are excited and ‘happy’ to see the other dog.” In this type of situation, there’s no hidden agenda attached to the humping — it’s just the dog’s way of expressing his delight at getting to be with his friends.

A dog may also hump his playmates if he is overstimulated. “Mounting can occur when the dog’s arousal level is high from excitement,” says Dr. Sung. She adds, though, that this arousal is not necessarily sexual.

In some cases, though, mounting may be caused by reproductive urges. “If the mounter is an intact animal then it can be a sexually related type of behavior,” says Dr. Sung. And humping isn’t just limited to males. “Female dogs can also mount,” says Dr. Sung.

Humping and Aggression

To understand why your dog is mounting or humping other dogs and to determine if there is any reason for concern, start by assessing his body language and behavior in the context of the humping situation.

“Mounting does not necessarily mean that a particular dog is trying to be dominant, unless the mounting precedes aggressive behaviors,” says Dr. Sung. Mounting the neck and shoulder area or displaying stiff body language may be signs that the mounting may escalate to aggressive behavior.

If your dog’s humping is part of a pattern of aggressive behavior toward other dogs, the aggressive behavior — not just the humping — needs to be addressed. Avoid problematic situations like doggy daycare and the dog park and seek professional guidance from a veterinarian, a veterinary behaviorist, or a veterinarian working in combination with a reward-based trainer. Aggressive behavior will not go away on its own — you need to get help for your dog as soon as possible.

Put a Stop to the Humping

If your dog seems to be mounting his playmates in a non-aggressive manner, there are strategies you can use to put a stop to the behavior. One way to fix his behavior may be to fix your pup — neutered dogs are often less likely to mount other canines than their intact peers.

If your dog’s mounting appears to be play-based, Dr. Sung says that careful management of his play, including redirecting him to more appropriate behaviors, can help resolve the problem. “In order to stop the dog from mounting, the owner needs to closely supervise the dog and stop him from mounting the other dog as soon as the owner sees it happening.”

What are the signs that your dog is getting ready to hump his friend? “Usually you will see the mounter place his or her head over the other dog’s body and then grasp with both forepaws,” says Dr. Sung. “As soon as the dog starts to place his head over the other dog’s body, the owner can distract him and redirect.”

It is also important to pay attention to the conditions surrounding your dog’s mounting behavior. “Sometimes owners will report the dog exhibits mounting behavior when play reaches a certain level of excitement or duration,” says Dr. Sung. She recommends that you identify the behavior that comes just before your dog starts humping and use that as a cue to give him a break from play and let him settle down for a few minutes.

In some cases, though, the mounting canine can be difficult to distract or to separate from his playmate. “If the dog cannot be distracted, then the owner may need to physically remove the dog [from the situation], making sure they do it calmly and safely,” says Dr. Sung. 

The key to stopping your dog’s humping, says Dr. Sung, is to be patient and persistent. “If the owner continues to disrupt the dog before he reaches the point where he is likely to mount, then the behavior slowly extinguishes.”

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