Why Does My Dog Hump Other Dogs?

Humping can be funny at first…and then it becomes embarrassing. It can even become dangerous to the “humper”, as some less tolerant dogs can respond very intensely to this behaviour not considered 100% socially acceptable in the dog world.

Why do dogs hump other dogs?

–       Hormones – A non-neutered dog is more likely to show humping behaviours. So are young dogs that are “all hormones”: their body is full of testosterone and they are not yet mature enough to control their emotions.

–       A “play hump” – A dog humps another dog, and this other dog starts running away or immediately turns to face the other dog. What has the humping dog learned? That a play hump is a very effective way to get a fun and immediate response when interacting with another dog. It is very likely that it will do it again, and again.

–       A “ play-fight hump” – Some dogs just like to get into little fights. They seek other dog’s reactions by pushing their buttons. Humping is an easy way to get on another dog’s nerves. These little bullies are usually thrilled when the other dog immediately responds with a play-fight. These fights can however turn into real fights if the intensity of the provocation techniques escalates. Some dogs also have immediate clear aggressive replies that can surprise even the toughest bully.

–       A sign of stress – A dog can be intimidated by another dog, and humping can be perceived as an effective soothing activity. Plus, because an intimidated dog is often an insecure dog, such a dog will hump to relieve stress and to feel better about itself by acting as though it is “more dominant”.

–       A sign of overstimulation – Sometimes the intensity of a play session gets a little bit too much, and a dog gets overstimulated. Humping is a common behaviour that arises when a dog gets too excited about a situation, as it is an effective way to ventilate excess energy.

What should I do when my dog humps another dog?

Regardless of the reasons that push your dog to hump another dog, the solution is to show it a more appropriate way to interact with other dogs. When our dog humps another dog, we should immediately stop that behaviour by removing it from the interaction and by “punishing” it with a 30 seconds time out (or more, if our dog cannot calm down quickly). If our dog humps other dogs because it is stressed or overstimulated, it will get a chance to relax so that its next social interactions are more appropriate. If our dog humps other dogs to play or initiate a little fight, it will learn that this behaviour actually stops anything fun from happening and will learn other ways to interact. The dog gets rewarded whenever it interacts adequately by having the chance to keep playing and interacting.

Shouldn’t I let other dogs teach my dog a more appropriate social behavior?

We rarely know very well the dogs that our dog interacts with. While a well-adjusted dog could teach the same thing than our  “time out” technique by a simple growl, other passive dogs could let him believe that it is a fine behaviour by not doing anything while less patient dogs could seriously traumatize or hurt our dog by overreacting. Plus, dogs that hump because they are little bullies will one day or another get into real and potentially dangerous fights if owners let them behave this way. It is therefore important to have our dog’s education in our own hands instead of relying on unfamiliar dogs.

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