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Humping: Why Do Dogs Do It?

Dog experts weigh in on why dogs hump and how to get them to stop.

Can Dogs Be Trained to Stop Humping?

Veterinarians say it’s easiest to stop the behavior when it first starts. Spiegel says people often think humping is cute in puppies, so they don’t stop it, or even encourage it by laughing or giving the dog attention.

“If you see a behavior you don’t want to see all the dog’s life, then you need to stop it when you first see it,” Spiegel says. “So if the puppy is humping, distract them when they do it and then give them something else to do. That’s very important. You have to give them an alternative behavior. Give them a different toy. Play with them in an appropriate way.”

Neutering a male dog usually will decrease mounting problems, the veterinarians say. But in older dogs, where it has become an ingrained habit, other measures will probably be needed. Spiegel recommends obedience training, which can make dogs calmer in situations like when visitors are at the door, or a trip to the dog park.

“Humping can be related to heightened excitement levels, so training can take the excitement level down,” Spiegel says.

Landsberg says mounting also is a common dominance gesture with dogs, although it doesn’t mean the dog that is doing the humping is dominant. In fact, dogs that are unsure of their place in the pack are more likely to hump to see how many dogs will accept the behavior, a move that can lead to fights with other dogs.

When trying to figure out how to stop the behavior, Landsberg says owners must first figure out what is causing the behavior by watching to see when it usually happens. Then give the dog an acceptable alternative behavior in those situations.

When Your Dog Just Won’t Stop Humping

There are some cases where dogs just don’t want to stop. Deva Joy Gouss of Atlanta saved a group of dogs from a shelter more than a decade ago, including Samme, a terrier mix. Samme has always humped, Gouss says, a behavior that prevented her from being adopted.

“I had a lady come to see about adopting her and Samme climbed up in the chair and started humping her head,” Gouss said.

Gouss, a social worker who often holds therapy sessions at her house, says Samme has interrupted sessions with her behavior, including climbing into the lap of one patient and humping. “I tell her to stop and she will, but just for a few minutes,” Gouss says.

Concerned at first, Gouss took Samme to several veterinarians to find out if she had an infection or irritation that was causing her to hump so much. But the vets found nothing wrong.

So over the years Gouss has just learned to live with the behavior. And Samme has calmed down some as she’s aged, although Gouss attributes some of that to the arthritis Samme has in her lower back.

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