5 Reasons Why Dogs Hump

We’ve all been there. You’re in a public place with your dog, watching them run, chase and play with another dog. Then, when you least expect it, you see your dog mounting another. It is somewhat embarrassing or shocking, particularly as it is not something that you see a dog doing all the time in public.

Dogs mount or hump for a number of reasons and they may do this anytime and anywhere. Although it can be an embarrassing experience if you’re in public, it’s important to remember that this behaviour is normal. Dogs express themselves in a number of ways and it just so happens that humping is one of them.

I’m going to talk you through the different reasons why dogs hump, the situations when it is actually a problem, and what you can do about it if it is a major concern of yours. 

So, why do dogs hump?

1. They have a desire for sexual activities

It probably comes as no surprise that dogs can hump because they are in the mood for sexual activities with a mate. If both dogs still have the ability to create puppies (they have not been neutered or spayed), you’ll need to be very careful if you do not want them to have them.  

PetPlace suggests that puppies do not have the urge to procreate. They say that during puberty and into adulthood is when a dog will want to be most sexually active. Their urges weaken as they get older, however. 

When we looked after Oz the Cocker Spaniel, he humped my leg a few times. As he was quite young then, this was mainly down to excitement and exploring new things. He is an incredibly excited dog and never stops moving, so it’s no surprise that he wants to find lots of ways to express his energy. 

Oz rarely sits still but when he does, it’s for a treat or something else that intrigues him.

2. They’re excited

Some dogs like to express their excitement for something by mounting or humping. Just like us humans might jump around when we are excited by something, a dog’s natural reaction might be to find something they can mount. 

For example, you might find that your dog may become excited by you returning home after being out for a while, when they are introduced to something or someone new, or perhaps even when they need to burn off their excess energy. 

This is a normal reaction and does not necessarily mean that they want to be sexually active. It’s just how they express their excitement for something. 

3. To relieve stress 

When we looked after Charlie, the West Highland White Terrier, we noticed that after he had eaten his dinner, he would go and chew or hump his bed. For him, this was a way to relieve his stress. Charlie is a rescue dog, which for him means that certain things make him stressed or anxious. His way of dealing with that is to take it out on his bed.

Just as dogs who are excited need to relieve excess energy, dogs who are stressed often like to find ways to relieve that too. 

Positively suggests that you can help relieve stress in your dog by:

  • Making a list of everything that makes your dog stressed
  • Removing things that cause them stress, if possible
  • Provide them with a distraction such as a puzzle ball, which may replace negative behaviour
  • Exercise 

If you are worried that your dog is humping regularly due to stress, seek the help from a professional trainer who will be able to give you extra help towards relieving your dog’s anxiety or stress.

Charlie the Westie has many stress behaviours including humping his bed and licking his paws.

4. They’re playing

Dogs love to play together and one thing you might notice is that some dogs like to mount another as a form of playing. You must ensure that both dogs are happy with this type of exchange, as if one of them is not it can cause them to argue or fight. In these cases, one dog may bark at the other to let them know they do not like it. 

If you’re not sure whether or not a dog is unhappy with what your dog is doing, make sure you read about canine body language so that you can understand how a dog feels in certain situations. 

Just remember that one dog mounting another does not mean that they want to procreate. It can just mean that they’re having fun and want to express their excitement.  

5. There’s a medical reason

It isn’t uncommon for dogs to turn to certain behaviours when they have something wrong with them. For example, if they have skin problems or a urinary tract infection they may mount something, such as their bed or a toy, to relieve itching. 

So, make sure that there are not any other underlying issues for your dog’s behaviour before trying to make them stop. Make sure you visit the vet if you have medical concerns for your dog. 

When is it a problem?

Dog humping or mounting is a normal canine behaviour but sometimes it becomes something that causes issues between dogs, humans and potentially their lives. 

So, when is it actually a problem?

When it causes upset to other dogs

If your dog has a habit of mounting other dogs, whether that’s when they’re out and about or inside, it can cause problems. This is because many dogs may not like to be mounted and may respond negatively. 

Another dog who does not like to be humped might:

  • Try to run away
  • Bark at your dog
  • Act aggressively

The main problem is that when you do not know other dogs, you cannot tell how they are going to react. If your dog humps unknown dogs regularly due to being playful or excited, you will need to keep a close eye on them. If you notice that your dog is frequently upsetting other dogs, it might be time to get some professional advice to help your dog find other ways to express themselves. 

One of the best distractions for George the Cockapoo is his favourite burger toy.

When it’s a regular occurrence on a human

I’m sure we can all agree that it’s slightly embarrassing if you have someone over at your house and your dog’s reaction is to hump them. If you find that your dog is consistently humping humans, rather than objects or their bed, you might want to find ways to stop or reduce it. 

Dogs might hump humans because:

  • They want attention
  • They are excited
  • They want to test their dominance

What can you do about it?

Once you have established why your dog may be humping as well as whether it’s a problem, you’ll probably want to know how you can stop the behaviour.

Sometimes it is not necessary to stop the behaviour if it is not doing any harm. Afterall, it is a normal canine behaviour. However, sometimes it is necessary to redirect your dog’s energy to something else.

Find a way to redirect your dog’s energy

It’s worth you trying to train your dog to do something else in replacement for humping. For example, if your dog tends to hump something after eating, try giving them something that challenges them cognitively. This could be something like a puzzle toy which will get your dog thinking about something different. 

Alternatively, if you’re out and about with your dog, try ensuring that they have relieved a lot of their energy through running or playing fetch. 

If you can train your dog to do something else, it will mean that eventually they start expecting that replacement instead. Therefore, it replaces their humping habit. If you’re not sure where to start with this, make sure that you make a list of the most common times that your dog tends to hump. 

Use command words

From an early age, you’ll have taught your dog specific command words and hopefully they respond well to these. If you use command words such as no, stop or off, your dog will learn that what they are doing is wrong. 

If you find that your dog does not respond to this, try changing the tone or pitch of your voice to capture their attention. 

Oz the Cocker Spaniel sometimes finds it difficult to respond to command words as he is so excitable. He responds well with rewards.

Give your dog a reward for good behaviour

If you want to have an impact on your dog, you need to make sure that you act in the moment. Telling your dog off later on or rewarding them after they have stopped does not let them know why they are either being told off or being rewarded.

As soon as you notice your dog humping, for example his bed, ensure that you use your command word to make them stop. Once this has been successful, give your dog a tasty treat or his favourite toy. Doing this will reward them for their good behaviour.

One thing I found out with some dogs is that rewarding them every time means that sometimes they then do something wrong just to get the treat. So, it might be worth varying the reward you give. For example, you could try giving them attention instead. 

Seek the help of a professional 

If you are having no luck trying your own methods or do not feel confident trying certain methods, make sure you find a professional who can help. There are plenty of trainers who can help with humping behaviour. 

George the Cockapoo loves to burn off energy at the park chasing leaves.

Hopefully you’ve found some useful tips and tricks to help with dog humping! 

To summarise what I’ve spoken about:

  • Humping or mounting is a normal behaviour and sometimes it is not necessary to stop it
  • You can help your dog find ways to put their energy into something else
  • Puzzle balls are a good distraction and can keep them busy
  • Try to control your dog when their humping affects another dog in a negative way
  • Dogs sometimes hump you to get attention
  • Dogs can have sexual desires but this is not the reason for all humping behaviour

Let us know if you’ve found anything useful when it comes to humping behaviour!

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