We live in a flat

The Singapore Dog Lifestyle Blog

Why does my dog hump other people/dogs?

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 ^ ^ 

References

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14 Comments

  1. When I take the dogs to a friends nearby, one of her dogs humps Torrey. They are all 3 aussies and about the same size, but the neutered male is the offender. Torrey hates it, and it disturbs the play time she wants to have with the other female dog. I don’t have any clue how to stop it, I keep hoping Torrey will just bite him good.

    • I guess Torrey is just too nice to bite the other dog. But that is exactly why I am so keen to stop/prevent Donna from doing it to other dogs that we don’t know. I wouldn’t want Donna bitten!!

      The last time an unknown husky kept chasing Donna, who had a tail tucked under and running away, I had to physically restrain her and kept the husky away from her since he would have just kept chasing her if she did not stop. The owner was a stranger and did nothing to stop the husky and only commented that the husky will stop chasing Donna is she stops running away. *slaps head* why would Donna stop running away if she wants to avoid the husky? Seriously…

      If Donna was in Torrey’s shoes, I guess I would probably do the same thing and rescue Donna from the clutches of the humping Aussie, with the hope that if I do it enough times the Aussie will stop it. Of course, it would be better if the Aussie’s owner does something to distract the dog or to give him a downtime every time he starts to try to mount Torrey. But being the awkward person that I am, I would probably have trouble bringing it up to a friend, LOL *rueful*

      Guess Roxy has a better time than Torrey when they visit the Aussies, huh? :P

  2. Sometimes whee piggies hump each other and Mummy gets cross because whee squeak a lot but for us it’s just a question of reinforcing dominance and making sure efurryone knows the humper is in charge!

    Nacho, Noah, Buddy & Basil
    xxxx

    • OH! I didn’t know piggies get dominant!! Now who is usually in charge? Or do you guys take turns depending on mood? Poor Amy needs to put up with you guys when you are noisy huh? Is it better or worse than when everyone suddenly gets up to mischief and suddenly goes quiet?? When Donna is not sleeping in sight and I can’t hear her about… it usually means she is up to something!!! D:

      • Well it’s Buddy who is the boss in one cage and Nacho in the other, probably because they are both the older piggies of the pairings. Usually if it’s quiet whee are asleep or eating but sometimes if it’s quiet and you can’t see us then Mummy thinks whee are up to mischief. But whee are innocent, I swear!

        xxxx

  3. I’ve never humped and won’t tolerate others doing it to me. That’s that!

    • I see you are one of those – do not do unto other what you don’t want to receive yourself huh? ;) That’s a good policy. Although… there’s another saying that says… never say never… :P… might change your mind one day ;P Heehee

  4. Donna and Maya hump for the same reason – over-excitement. I completely agree that it is not always a dominance issue. Although Pierson does hump to express his dominance. He occasionally will try to do it to Maya when he is outside and I am not looking.

  5. In my experience, mounting is usually an attempt to show of dominance. Dogs operate out of instinct rather than emotion. Some people say that you need to let the dogs sort it out themselves. I see that point of view. But if you encounter one who really doesn’t appreciate it, it could easily end up with a bite or worse. A long time Chessie breeder told me the worst dogs fights he has ever seen started with two dogs playing.

    I have seen the dominate behavior in all of my dogs. And yes it can lead to conflict if one dog should try to mount another who doesn’t appreciate it so we discourage it. When Storm was intact, males would try to mount her all of the time. In those cases that was just instinct of a male trying to reproduce. Storm would get very snarky with the offender and we never corrected her because that is instinct. It is also a good lesson for the male.

    We keep Freighter and Thunder apart because they try it on one another and it is pure and simple one trying to dominate the other. Storm tries it with Freighter as an older dog trying to dominate a younger dog.

    I would say with Donna at the dog park and other places that she gets excited and simply forgets her training and gives into her instinct. To correct it I would reinforce recall and recall to me if I see inappropriate play. Or work on heeling and other training at the park. (You can use that environment to proof her training.) That may help with her over excitement in that environment. What I am suggesting is similar to how we try to work on the dog’s over excitement in a hunt test environment by training in that environment.

    • Very good advice and exactly what I would like to do with Donna, except that in a dog run full of distraction… it will probably take me some time to work up to getting her recall to work, especially when she is already over aroused and likely to be selective about hearing things.

      We’ve only ever had Donna so it is interesting to hear about the dynamics between Thunder, Freighter and Storm. Except in the case of Kaizen, where both his human and I are supervising, I don’t really think I would risk letting the dogs sort it out themselves since I don’t think I have the skills to manage if it escalates into a fight and at the same time I can’t read other dogs very well to tell when they are unhappy, etc.

      Typing this out, it would seem that I should just try to consistently prevent/stop her from doing it so that she at least will eventually learn that the behaviour as a rule is unacceptable.

  6. Great advice from 2 browndawgs. I see a lot of with my youngest, Sasha and our adopted back 9 yr old Nevada. Fortunately they have never fought.

    • It seems that when you have multiple dogs, you have more opportunity to observe and the experience will help you to manage the dog’s interactions, not just within the family but with other dogs as well. That’s really cool ^ ^

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