My dog is a serial humper. When I take him to the dog park or to doggy daycare, the other owners complain about him mounting their dogs. They also seem frustrated with me because I’m not doing anything to stop him. But honestly, I don’t know what to do! Is humping a sign of dominance or is it something else? And is there any way I can make him stop?
There are plenty of misunderstood dog behaviors, and canines mounting or humping one another happens to be one of the most prevalent. The common assumption is that mounting is always either a sexually related behavior or an attempt to assert dominance. In reality, mounting stems from a variety of motivations — including your dog’s delight at getting to play with his canine buddies.
Why Dogs Hump
“Mounting is a normal behavior,” says Dr. Wailani Sung of All Creatures Behavior Counseling in Kirkland, Washington. And, she adds, not all humping is aggressive or sexual. “Dogs can mount each other during play or when they are excited and ‘happy’ to see the other dog.” In this type of situation, there’s no hidden agenda attached to the humping — it’s just the dog’s way of expressing his delight at getting to be with his friends.
A dog may also hump his playmates if he is overstimulated. “Mounting can occur when the dog’s arousal level is high from excitement,” says Dr. Sung. She adds, though, that this arousal is not necessarily sexual.
In some cases, though, mounting may be caused by reproductive urges. “If the mounter is an intact animal then it can be a sexually related type of behavior,” says Dr. Sung. And humping isn’t just limited to males. “Female dogs can also mount,” says Dr. Sung.
Humping and Aggression
To understand why your dog is mounting or humping other dogs and to determine if there is any reason for concern, start by assessing his body language and behavior in the context of the humping situation.
“Mounting does not necessarily mean that a particular dog is trying to be dominant, unless the mounting precedes aggressive behaviors,” says Dr. Sung. Mounting the neck and shoulder area or displaying stiff body language may be signs that the mounting may escalate to aggressive behavior.
If your dog’s humping is part of a pattern of aggressive behavior toward other dogs, the aggressive behavior — not just the humping — needs to be addressed. Avoid problematic situations like doggy daycare and the dog park and seek professional guidance from a veterinarian, a veterinary behaviorist, or a veterinarian working in combination with a reward-based trainer. Aggressive behavior will not go away on its own — you need to get help for your dog as soon as possible.