Why Dogs Hump
While most pet owners realize that their dog’s humping behavior stems from the urge to mate, many pet owners are still baffled by the extent of their dog’s behavior. This is especially true when the dog is humping cats, furniture, people’s legs, toys, and even apparently the air itself. However humping behavior can extend far beyond just an urge to mate, and there are actually many reasons why dogs engage in humping behavior.
Humping behavior generally begins around puberty time when a dog is becoming sexually mature. While the behavior itself stems from the natural mating instinct, it can quickly grow to represent many other feelings and actions. If a dog is not neutered in a timely manner, or the humping behavior is not curtailed, then the behavior can quickly extend to additional ways of expressing one’s self. In these cases, humping behavior can be a way of representing dominance, affection, and excitement.
It is believed that the majority of unusual humping behaviors in dogs are just another way of expressing dominance. When dogs are humping other pets in the household, guests in the home, and even the pet owner, this is unfortunately in many cases a dominant expression. However dogs may also be using humping behavior as a way to express affection, and sometimes it is not always easy to tell if their behavior is affectionate or dominant.
In other cases dogs may extend their humping behavior as a way of calming or soothing themselves if they become very excited. This is very similar to a person biting their nails, swinging their legs when they sit down, or even to a child sucking on its thumb. As with dominant and affectionate humping behavior, if this type of behavior is not curtailed it can quickly grow into a habit.
Preventing Your Dog from Humping
Most pet owners feel embarrassed, and a bit disturbed, when they witness their beloved dog engaging in humping behavior. This type of behavior originates from the urge to mate, but if it is not prevented or curtailed humping can develop into ways of expressing dominance, affection, and excitement. There are steps that pet owners can take to prevent humping behavior in their dog, and if the behavior has begun to develop there are steps that help to reduce a dog’s urge to hump. Pet owners need to keep in mind that this type of behavior stems from a natural instinct, and so it may take time and a little patience to change a dog’s behavior.
By far the best way to prevent humping behaviors from developing is to neuter your dog as early as possible. Humping behavior begins to develop during puberty, and if a dog is neutered before this time the behavior usually never appears. If a dog is past puberty and has already developed humping behavior, neutering will help this behavior calm down within a few months after the surgery.
Another way pet owners can prevent their dog from humping in the future if the behavior has already developed is to immediately redirect the dog’s attention from the behavior. Give the dog something to play with, take the dog for a walk, or give the dog a favorite chewy. If the behavior is still too much, simply tell the dog 'no' and gently place the dog back into a standing position.
In some cases humping behavior can be quite extreme, especially if this behavior is a way of showing dominance over other animals, guests in the home, or even the dog’s owner. If this is the case, the pet owner should place the dog in a ‘time out’ for a few minutes whenever the dog engages in humping behavior. It may take some time, but once the dog realizes that humping behavior is not rewarded the behavior will stop.