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Why do dogs hump everything? You might be surprised

Here's what's behind this shocking canine behavior

Dog with a red collar
Kira Yakovleva / Getty Images

Every dog owner will be embarrassed by their pup at least once or twice, but nothing compares to the shame of catching your dog in the act of humping. Whether they’re going to town on another dog, another person, or even nothing at all, it’s easy to understand why you’d want to learn more about this behavior. The sooner you know how to respond to this lewd act, the sooner it can stop.

Questions like, “Why do dogs hump?’ and “How can I stop my dog from humping?” will one day be nothing more than a memory. This impolite habit can be unlearned — though often not as quickly as it’s learned — with some time, redirection, and a few well-timed distractions. Keep on reading to learn more about the humping habit and what you can do to prevent it.

Why do dogs hump other dogs?

Two dogs look at each other and play bark
Caleb Woods / Unsplash

As many dog owners know, dogs can hump almost anything, from other dogs to inanimate objects. No matter what they’re mounting, though, you should know that this behavior means something different for dogs than what it signifies for humans. Most of the time, there’s nothing sexual about it.

When it comes to humping other dogs, explains Dr. Mary Burch, director of the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen program, dominance is often the motivator. This can be a one-sided display of dominance from one dog to another, or it can be a back-and-forth part of regular play. Even though it’s a normal canine behavior, not all dogs like to be humped, so this is a behavior best discouraged for dog owners who prefer to stay on the safe side.

Stopping your dog from mounting begins with your everyday obedience training. If your dog learns to respond to you immediately in virtually all other situations, odds are they will listen when you interrupt their impolite behavior. The more you redirect this behavior, the more your dog will learn that it’s not an acceptable thing to do.

Some dogs will take behavior corrections into their own paws, too. This is normal and nothing to worry about, so long as the corrections are not aggressive and the other party takes the hint.

Why do dogs hump legs?

a dog humping a person's leg at a park
RealPeopleStudio / Shutterstock

Oftentimes, a dog won’t even mount another dog from behind. They may wrap around a pal’s leg while they go to town, or they may even find the leg of a person they’re fond of. What’s up with that?

As Dr. Burch explains, mounting can also be a sign of stress or overexcitement. It’s a physical manifestation of overstimulation at its finest, which is why it can happen suddenly as part of either play or anger. Just think about it this way: A dog has feelings so large that they don’t know what to do with it all. Odds are, they aren’t even thinking of who they’re mounting or how.

Why do dogs hump people?

A brown Vizsla dog's portrait in front of a black background
Péter Göblyös / Pixabay

As Dr. Burch said, dogs mount both people and dogs out of pure overstimulation, not desire. Although this behavior would mean something very different between people, it doesn’t mean much when a dog humps a person. They’re just worked up and excited.

Occasionally, a dog may hump in an attempt to get their owner’s attention. Because it works! Just about everyone gets distracted by a dog mounting their leg, even if only to shoo them away. For an attention-loving dog, that’s considered a win. If this is the case, the best thing you can do to discourage mounting is to ignore it. Reward your dog with attention after they’ve stopped humping to reinforce the correct behavior.

Why do dogs hump the air?

A shepherd dog lies on the bed and puts a paw over their face
SeventyFour / Shutterstock

Sometimes, a dog may not even hump anything at all. They may grab onto a leg, another dog, or even a pillow without actually mounting it, which is most often seen when a dog has previously been punished for mounting but hasn’t completely stopped the behavior. This could be a sign that your corrections are working — so keep it up!

When humping could indicate a problem

A black and tan Cavalier King Charles Spaniel sits by his owner and follows obedience commands
Page Light Studios / Shutterstock

If your dog begins mounting when they aren’t known for over-excitable reactions, you might want to keep an eye on the behavior. There are a few cases when humping could be a sign of a medical problem, including a prostate problem in males. Some kinds of skin irritation, urinary tract infections, or other discomfort can also cause a dog to mount in seek of symptom relief. In this case, humping may be less of a social behavior and something that happens much more suddenly.

If something about your dog’s behavior seems odd or changes suddenly, you may want to make an appointment with your dog’s veterinarian. Better safe than sorry, after all!

No matter how long you’ve been dealing with mounting, know that you can help your dog get rid of this shocking behavior for good. This change won’t happen overnight, but your days of dog park embarrassment will be behind you soon enough.

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Gabrielle LaFrank
Gabrielle LaFrank has written for sites such as Psych2Go, Elite Daily, and, currently, PawTracks. When she's not writing, you…
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