What’s Love Got To Do With It? The Truth About Humping

camp loveThere’s nothing quite as awkward as watching dogs mount one another. Particularly in a play-group setting when the owners are all sitting there, with their jaws dropped, unsure of what to do. Welcome to puppy class! This is how at least half of my Saturday morning puppy socials end up, particularly toward the end of the class when the puppies are getting older.

While I usually say something like, “You haven’t even asked her to dinner yet!” and redirect the offending puppy…it’s abundantly clear to me that I could never be a sexual education teacher.

The truth is, humping happens. We can call it something more socially acceptable like, “mounting” but we all know what it is and we think we know what it means, which is why it’s embarrassing.

Here’s a few things you should know about humping:

  • It’s not always sexual: Particularly in a Camp setting, all dogs over 6 months of age are required to be spayed or neutered. So why are these dogs still exhibiting these “urges”? The most common cause is actually stress and excitement. Although a human wouldn’t walk around air-humping to show their enthusiasm, for a dog it’s perfectly normal behavior.
  • It could be medical: some dogs with allergies scratch their “itchy parts” to get relief and sometimes those itchy parts are the private parts. It could also be a sign of a urinary tract infection or urinary incontinence. If you notice your dog is exhibiting excessive humping, and it’s not ordinary behavior for them, consult with your veterinarian.
  • Even negative attention is attention: Just like kids…to a dog, even negative attention is attention. So the more we overreact with the horror and shame of their humping behavior, the more they are getting what they want, your attention.

So now that you know your little Casanova’s behavior might not be a side effect of loose morals but rather a habit or reaction to stress, how do you stop it?

  • Don’t allow your dog to mount other dogs: while your little Casanova’s “moves” may not hold any real threat (unwanted pregnancy) it can still be frustrating for other dogs. No one likes to be rode around like Sea-biscuit while they’re trying to play and socialize. Redirecting your dog to go to something else is usually enough. Sometimes a brief time out from play to allow your dog to relax and compose himself is necessary. You may have to do this repeatedly for your dog to get the point but it’s important to interrupt him while the behavior is happening so he associates the behavior with being removed from play.
  • Teach an alternate behavior: While it’s not reasonable to expect to sit your dog down and have a heart-to-heart about the birds and the bees, you can teach them an alternate behavior. There likely is a trigger to their Casanova behavior, whether it’s an excitement issue or an anxiety issue…teach your dog to do something else when those emotions are triggered. They can do find a treat, lay on their bed, go to their crate, etc. They won’t figure out something else more productive to do on their own, so make sure you help them succeed by teaching them an alternate behavior that’s appropriate and more socially acceptable.
  • Set your dog up to succeed: If there’s a particular dog at the dog park that really gets your dogs mojo going, schedule your trips to the dog park at an alternate time. Some dogs are drawn to one another, just like humans, and you’ll spend your whole time redirecting your dog. Your dog will have a more beneficial exercise/social time if they aren’t obsessed with “the one” dog that really gets them going. Mix up your pack with older dogs who have more experience in group play and also different sized dogs. Camp is great for mixing it up and no humping is allowed.
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