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Help! My Dog Keeps Humping: Reasons & Solutions

Although humping in dogs can sometimes be sexual in nature, that isn’t always the reason. Luckily, there are several ways to discourage your dog from doing "the deed". Here’s why your dog might be inclined to hump, and tips to stop the embarrassing habit.

Dalmatian jumping up on owner

If you’re a dog owner, you’ve likely felt some embarrassment when your pooch publicly attempts to hump a dog, leg, or other objects. Although humping in dogs is commonly considered a sexual act, there are numerous reasons this could be happening. Luckily, there are several ways to discourage your dog from doing "the deed". Here’s why your dog might be inclined to hump, and tips to stop this awkward habit.

Why does my dog hump things?

Although humping in dogs can sometimes be sexual in nature, that isn’t always the reason. The act comes partially from instinct and partially from learned behavior. It’s important to note that humping is a natural part of dog behavior, but it can become an issue if your dog is excessively humping people or other dogs. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why dogs hump.

Play

For dogs, humping can be akin to play-fighting. For most dogs, humping just feels good and is a way to initiate a chase or wrestle. This is completely normal in dogs but can provoke conflict if the recipient dog becomes annoyed or upset.

Hormonal

It’s common for unneutered dogs to hump other dogs due to hormones. Sometimes nature takes over and has Fido feeling a little frisky! If your dog is not spayed or neutered, it’s important to keep them away from those of the opposite sex when you go out, as this may lead to unwanted puppies in the future.

Female dogs may hump things too, but it may not necessarily be sexual. Females may occasionally hump their owners for attention, or out of excitement.

Excitement

Contrary to popular belief, dogs aren’t only driven sexually when they exhibit this behavior. Particularly if you have an energetic dog, they may just be burning off excess energy. It’s a common way for pups to relieve stress. Redirecting this habit to another outlet can alleviate the issue, alongside plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.

Medical issues

Skin allergies, urinary tract infections, and priapism (prolonged erection) can all be culprits when it comes to excessive humping. It’s important to rule these out before you begin training your dog not to hump. Be sure to take your pooch to the vet first to rule out any medical issues and look out for other signs such as excessive itching or biting of the skin or genital area.

How can I stop my dog from humping?

To find the most effective method, you’ll first want to find the root cause. The best way to do this is to schedule a vet appointment to check for physical and emotional issues that could be causing the issue. Once any conditions are ruled out, if you want to discourage your dog from inappropriate humping, there are several changes you can make.

Redirect behavior

The effectiveness of this method depends on how long your dog has been exhibiting this behavior. This step is best started during your pup’s development stage. Every time you see them humping, simply redirect them to another activity, such as a game of fetch. This tells your dog the humping is unwanted and distracts them with something they enjoy.

Alternatively, you can ask your dog to perform a command. Rewarding your dog after they successfully perform a command such as sit or stay allows for positive reinforcement of the desired behavior you DO want.

Dalmatian playing in yard

Photo by Bethany Ferr

Give room to decompress

If your dog insists on humping their favorite pillow, you may need to remove the temptation. If your pup still won't stop the behavior, take them to a room to decompress where there are no objects they can hump. This technique works particularly well if your dog is feeling overstimulated in a situation - for example, if they hump when you have company over.

It’s important to note that "time-outs" should never be used as punishment. To make this decompression more pleasant, give them a kong or bone to work on and release excess energy. Once you feel they've adequately relaxed, let them out without scolding. If they begin to exhibit the behavior again, repeat a few times or try taking them for a stroll.

Get your dog spayed/neutered

Research has shown that getting your dog spayed or neutered can reduce sexual behavior by up to 70%. Neutering and spaying also have a plethora of health benefits, including reduced risk of cancer, infections, and of course, pregnancy. Unless you plan on using your dog for breeding purposes (not recommended due to the homeless pet epidemic in the USA), there’s no reason not to. Neutered and spayed dogs typically live longer healthier lives.

Avoid triggers

If the above steps haven’t helped and you are able to anticipate when your dog will start humping, it’s best to avoid these scenarios. Although this isn’t always possible, make sure to keep them away from as many triggers as possible. For example, if there are certain dogs or toys in the park they're particularly ‘keen’ on, maybe they could do with a change of scenery this time.

We get it - young love is hard to stop! But in the long run, avoiding triggers may be the best scenario to prevent this embarrassing behavior.

Get help from a professional

For some dogs, the habit is simply too ingrained in them to easily change. If this is the case for your dog, it might be time to seek the help of a professional dog trainer. Find one that has experience in humping behavior and be sure to research thoroughly to ensure you’re making the best decision for both your pooch and your finances.


Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.

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