Picture taken in January
She never did this before, but we had only adopted her for a short period of time when this picture was taken… it sure looks funny. She looks like a pole dancer…
So I sent the picture over and was informed that we’ve got to stop it because humping is a sign of dominance. Ooops… ok, best stop encouraging the dog just because I want to take a funny video :P
But really?? Dominance? Our dog?
…it could … be problematic to ascribe the label of “dominance” to a dog who is a mounter. “If you perceive a dog as dominant because he mounts, you might think you have to take steps so that the dog isn’t dominant to you — maybe always make the dog heel, which could cut back on sniffing, exercise and dog-dog interactions, or use intimidation to make the dog follow explicit rules. This could have negative consequences for the relationship.” – H*mping, Julie Hecht
Then in September, Scarlett wrote about Rossie, a dog in a rescue that only has one minor issue. And that is “when he is being walked on the lead, if he gets very excited, he will hump the walkers’ legs.” Scarlet added that this was not a dominance issue with Rossie. And when I asked, Scarlet explained that, “It’s usually to do with a dog being overexcited or anxious in neutered dogs.”
I left it at that then, since the only legs Donna ever humped was my brother’s and she stopped doing that once we started to stop her from it early on.
But recently, I got more interested in the topic because Donna started humping other dogs in the dog run.
On an outing to meet some small dogs, Donna was friendly with another rescue Woobie, only she tried to hump him and Woobie didn’t like that at all. I stopped Donna because it’s just not smart to hump a dog that is growling at you and warning you to stop. Apparently, Donna has not got more sense beyond the basic instinct to hump other dogs. She went after a shiba inu nearby. They played, and then Donna started to hump the slightly smaller shiba inu every chance she got. And on another occasion, I brought her to meet another mongrel puppy Kaizen, who was bigger than her and she tried to hump him too! Whoopie time~
Donna with puppy Kaizen
So what is with the sudden interest in humping other dogs, and before that humping my brother? Is it really a dominance issue?
Feelings that are so intense they overwhelm the dog
While mounting is best known for its role in reproduction, it also occurs in many other contexts and emotional states. Dogs mount when they’re excited and arousal and even when they’re stressed and anxious… Mounting could also be what ethologists call a displacement behavior, meaning that it’s a byproduct of conflicted emotions. For some dogs a new visitor to the house could elicit a mixture of excitement and stress that could make for a humping dog. – psychologytoday.com, why dogs hump, Marc Bekoff, Ph.D. in Animal Emotions
That at least explains why Donna started humping my brother’s leg on his first visit to see her at the flat. So now my brother can stop feeling upset that the dog thinks he is submissive which is why she is trying to assert her dominance over her, because she is not. She is just over-excited to have a stranger in the house. :P
The thing about Donna and the dog run is, we actually have not visited it very often. Very early on in her budding career as a companion dog for two dog idiots, she had two bad scares at the dog run from dogs having the zoomies and rushing directly at her. Our dog never had the courage of a lion in the first place and it was all she could do to scramble onto a bench and tremble there for the longest time before we could coax her down from it again.
It was only recently that she became amenable to set foot inside the dog run and on weekends, the dog run gets overcrowded. I imagine that can cause a sensory overload of sorts.
In many cases, mounting is related to a surge of emotion, such as feeling anxious or being aroused (in this context, “arousal” means general stimulation). In a recent investigation of dog park behavior, (Carolyn) Walsh (PhD, associate professor of psychology at Memorial University of Newfoundland, ) and her student, Lydia Ottenheimer Carrier, found that the dogs doing the most mounting were also doing the most playing. Walsh explains, “Dog parks can be quite stimulating, and for those who are highly aroused physiologically, mounting behavior could easily come out. There can be such a buildup of social motivation and the desire to affiliate that some of that energy spills over into the sexual motivation system. You see sexual behavior coming out, but it’s mostly out of context.” – H*mping, Julie Hecht
And yes, Donna was very active in the dog run those times playing with the other dogs before she attempted to hump them. She didn’t just seek out random strange dogs to do the deed.
Sniffing a random dog
So is humping or mounting an issue or not?
Among dogs who are good friends, it seems humping wouldn’t be an issue.
Gary Landsberg, DVM, a veterinary behaviorist in Ontario, Canada, says mounting is common play behavior in puppies, and is even normal in the play of older dogs if it’s not taken to extremes. “You’ll often see one dog mount another, then a few minutes later they’ll switch off and the other dog will mount the first dog,” Landsberg says. “It’s a common play gesture.”
It’s done by males and females, even by dogs that have been neutered or spayed, he says. “It’s a play behavior that dogs do because no one has told them it’s not acceptable,” Landsberg said. “It can become enjoyable or a normal part of the dog’s day, so it keeps doing it. It’s the same as jumping up or barking at the door.” – pets.webmd.com
But it would be an issue as in the case of Donna where she tries to hump new friends that she had just met and played with for a while on the same day. Then it becomes a matter of when and how should the human intervene and that is what I am still trying to figure out.
Should Donna be discouraged from trying to hump any dog totally? Nipping it in the bud effectively will make humping a non-issue. But I also see no harm in the humping if that is something that dogs will do naturally, as long as they are both happy about it.
In the case of Woobie, of course I needed to stop Donna from humping him when he is not OK with it. In the case of the shiba inu, which didn’t resist, I did stop Donna simply because I didn’t know the shiba’s owner so it was just impolite to let my dog hump his. In the case of Kaizen, Kaizen’s human advised me to just leave them to it because Kaizen will just keep shaking Donna off until she learns.
And since mounting is associated with over-arousal, it would make sense to institute breaks for Donna at the dog run so that she doesn’t get so over-stimulated from playing too much. Exiting from the dog run for a walk will probably be the most effective after Donna had some playtime in a dog run that is over-run by dogs on weekends. But mostly what I think may help will be slowly expose her to increasing number of dogs. This means I may only bring her to the dog run when the crowd is moderate, perhaps about 10 dogs. And get her slowly used to being in a space with some dogs before exposing her to more crowded situations where there may be 20 and then 30 more dogs, for example pet carnivals and events, etc. I’m thinking this will probably also help us to train what are appropriate behaviours for her in such cases, while slowly increasing the level of distraction at our own pace. Think I’m on the right track?
At a quieter dog run with only two dogs, Donna did not attempt to hump the husky at all.
Did you have the same humping issue with your dog before? How did you manage it? We would love to hear any tips that you found effective… or any other thoughts that you may have on the topic ^ ^