Anyone familiar with dogs has asked this question at one time or another. Why do dogs, who are not mating (indeed, cannot mate if they are spayed and neutered or of the same gender), hump each other?
The most commonly given answer is that one dog is looking to dominate another, but the most current studies of dog behavior seem to conclude that mounting and humping have very little, if anything, to do with dominance at all.
The next most given reason is resource guarding. However, even to a casual dog watcher or owner, this doesn’t seem to make much sense. There aren’t usually any resources readily available that the dogs seem to be guarding. And there are much more effective ways to warn off a stranger dog from a bone or food.
So what causes this often embarrassing, certainly natural, behavior in arguably our closest companions? The answer may be surprisingly simple: anxiety. There are many instances in which a dog begins humping in the middle of play. This could be because play leads to higher arousal which can lead to humping. The anxiety of meeting new dogs or people, or even a highly exciting environment, can also lead to humping.
There are many reasons why a particular dog may display mounting behavior. It is important for an owner to really pay attention to when a dog humps and what seems to trigger it. There are, however, some ways an owner can discourage this type of behavior.
Redirection is always handy. This is when the owner notices when their dog getting over stimulated in any situation and redirects their attention to something else, like a toy or game of fetch. In order to stop the behavior before it occurs, however, the owner must become very keyed into their dog’s personal body language that will clearly broadcast whether or not the dog is getting overanxious. Never underestimate a quiet but firm “NO” coupled with the pet’s name. This can get their attention and let them know that the behavior they are displaying is unacceptable. An owner can also use a spray bottle filled with water to distract the problem dog and give a swift correction.
Sometimes a dog may hump out of boredom or an excess of energy. Allowing your dog enough time to run or walk off their extra energy, or put their minds to good use by playing games or using interactive toys, could solve the problem with minimal effort.
Obedience training is never a bad thing to get under a dog, and dog owner’s, belt, not matter what the age of the animal (or owner). Remember, this behavior is normal, even if embarrassing to the humans in the situation, but if it seems to become a compulsive habit for a particular dog, seeking vet or trainer advice is always the best bet.