Why do dogs hump?

Imagine the scenario. You are calmly chatting to your Grandma who is ensconced on your sofa with Beanie the Chihuahua sitting on her lap when he suddenly grabs hold of her arm and starts humping away like a piston. How embarrassing is that! Shaking him off does no good and it might even make him growl which would upset your relative even more, so you just….what?  Wait and pretend it’s not happening? It doesn’t bear thinking about! Why do dogs do it and why do they do it to people as well as other dogs, toys, mats and heaven knows what else?

The first thing to realise is that humping is natural for dogs. Both males and females do it, and it can persist even if they are neutered. Some dogs are more sexual than others, start this sort of habit younger and more frequently than others and continue as they get older. It’s not always about sex though and dogs use this kind of activity to communicate as well. When dogs play, one may hump the other, not necessarily from behind even, just to show his or her superior position or to elicit play. Play can get very exciting for dogs and this can set them off too.  Humping is even seen in submissive dogs which are demonstrating their allegiance to more superior members of their pack.

All these facts are all very well but what can we do about Grandma?

If your dog is a really persistent humper, do consider first taking him to the vet for a check. There are some underlying medical problems that can make this behaviour more frequent, such as urinary tract infections or hormone dysfunction.

After that, you can try just ignoring him. If it’s an attention seeking behaviour he will eventually give up and find something else to do. Grandma may not like this option much though!

Once Beanie is in the act, he’s unlikely to stop easily on command. Keep an eye out for the signs that your dog is about to start and try to divert him, perhaps with a command to do a trick, sit down, or fetch a toy. Make this a fun activity and you will teach him that humping is boring in comparison. If he’s really persistent give him ‘time out’ by putting him in a crate or even a separate room where there are a few tasty things to chew on, until he settles down. If he starts again on his return, repeat the time out until he settles down. If he’s doing it because he’s over excited this should calm him down. It is possible that the behaviour has been brought on due to him feeling stressed or bored. After all, it’s a great way to get attention! If this is the case, give him plenty of quality exercise in the form of walks, ball chasing, hide and seek or other games. He should be given at least 30 minutes of active exercise daily plus good things to chew at home, especially when he is left alone.

Neutering your dog may make a difference but there is no guarantee of this. The older the dog is when neutered, the less likely it is to affect his behaviour as habits will have formed. Male dogs can still get erections when neutered and are even capable of ejaculating. Neutering a female dog will increase the proportion of testosterone in her system and may make her feel more and not less inclined to hump.

A tired, well exercised, fulfilled dog which knows it’s place in your home is much less likely to feel the need to hump Grandma or anyone else, so keep Beanie on the floor with his chew toy and make sure he’s happy and familiar with your house rules, and Grandma will be able to relax.