To Hump Or Not To Hump?
I regularly have these two little cuties as guests at my home. They are extremely fond of one another, very playful together, and they always participate in adventures as a bonded team.
Part of their play behavior includes humping. Girl on boy, boy on girl, literally taking turns, with no tension or unpleasantness between them. Clearly, this is a comfortable part of their play repertoire, and thus no cause for concern. But this may not always be the case with all dogs.
There are numerous reasons a dog may hump another dog. Sure, it can be sexual in nature, but plenty of spayed and neutered dogs do it. It can be a sign of dominance, or a reaction to something occurring in the environment that's a little too exciting or stressful for the dog, or even a medical issue. But frequently, it's just part of play, and if the humper doesn't get too carried away, and the humpee is accepting of this behavior, it doesn't necessarily present any issues at all.
If your dog, however, tends to get overly enthusiastic about humping, and doesn't pay attention to the other dogs' signals that indicate they don't appreciate this, it's important to intervene. While many dogs will simply endure the humping, or try to passively avoid the dog, the humper shouldn't be the only one who's having fun during the interaction. That's not fair to the other dog! In addition, a humping dog is likely going to meet a dog one day who does not take kindly to this behavior at all. As a result, he may receive a scary or painful correction from that dog.
So how might you handle this issue when it happens? If two dogs are generally well-matched playmates who enjoy each other's company, but one occasionally gets carried away with humping, you can intersperse short play sessions with mini bouts of calm training. In other words, you call your dog out of play (yes, this requires training) or help move him out of play. Once you've got some distance away from the other dog, engage your dog in a few calm obedience skills and reward with yummy treats. When he's calmer, you can give him permission to rejoin play. Repeat regularly to keep arousal levels from spiking.
If the humper is interacting with a dog who is unhappy with this behavior and not interested in playing in general, you'll need to manage your dog to prevent continued humping. If your dog is able to reliably come to you and then stay near you, great! If not, you'll need to manage him on leash, keeping some distance between the dogs. Then, you can engage your dog in another activity, like asking for and rewarding simple obedience skills, or engaging him in toy play with you, or maybe giving him a chewie or food puzzle to keep him contentedly occupied. (Just be mindful of competitiveness that could develop if the other dog comes close to see what kind of goodie your dog is enjoying.)
If you have a dog who normally doesn't hump when playing one-on-one with another dog, but humps in a more exciting environment like a dog park, then you may need to evaluate whether this environment is causing your dog some anxiety or if it's simply too stimulating. Not all dogs enjoy this bustling environment, or may only appreciate it in small doses.
Bottom line -- don't be embarrassed by this behavior. Just be sure to assess in the moment to be sure tensions aren't developing between the dogs. When needed, give your dog a break so he can calm back down. And please speak with your vet if the humping behavior is excessive or your dog seems uncomfortable. Humping can sometimes be the result of allergies (i.e. sensitive parts of the body that are itchy), urinary tract infections, or prostate issues.
Virginia Dare is a certified dog trainer & behavior counselor with decades of experience. Her business offers live video consultations anywhere in the US for training and behavior help, along with pre- and post-arrival counseling for new puppies.
She also provides in-home, private lessons and behavior consultations in the northern areas of Fairfield and Westchester counties, western New Haven county, Putnam and southern Dutchess counties.
Please visit www.NorthStarCanines.com/services to learn more, or contact me at 804.784.0120