Why Do Dogs Hump?

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
It starts as a cute or embarrassing moment, but can it turn into a mounting behavior? Before jumping to conclusions, learn the reasons why dogs hump.

We have all experienced that embarrassing moment where, in the middle of a friendly gathering, the family dog starts to hump someone’s leg. Though this behavior can be shocking or embarrassing for the owner, it is a completely natural behavior for dogs. Before you yell at your dog or punish him, take a moment to learn why he does it and what you can do about it.

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Mounting Behaviors in Dogs

Some dogs will mount absolutely anything – it doesn’t matter whether it is another dog, an old stuffed animal, or even your leg. Most dogs exhibit masturbatory behaviors in one way or another, even puppies will do it. But why do dogs exhibit this kind of behavior and what makes some dogs do it more often than others? Below you will find an overview of the common reasons behind dog mounting and masturbatory behavior:

  • Sexual Behavior: In many cases, mounting behavior does have a sexual or courtship component to it but it can be seen in females as well as male dogs, both intact and altered. Mounting behavior may be accompanied by other kinds of courtship body language like pawing, bowing, or licking.
  • Social Behavior: In social situations, mounting behavior can also be a means of displaying social status or dominance over other animals or people. For many dogs, mounting behavior is also a part of normal play behavior, especially in under-socialized dogs that do not now know to play. In cases like these, mounting behavior is typically not accompanied by an erection or by ejaculation.
  • Response to Stress: Sometimes mounting behavior is a response to overt stress or excitement in dogs. Some dogs become overexcited or overly aroused when meeting a new person or dog and they could express that excitement in the form of mounting behavior.

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In addition to these causes for mounting and masturbation in dogs, it is also possible that your dog’s behavior is the result of a medical problem. For example, urinary tract infections, skin allergies, and other conditions can cause your dog to lick or chew the genital area in an effort to provide relief from pain or irritation. Your dog may also rub his body on things or mount them as a symptom of an underlying medical condition. It is always a good idea to address any behavioral changes with your vet to rule out medical causes.

What Can You Do About It?

Before you try to do anything to reduce your dog’s mounting behavior, take a moment to think about whether it is really a problem. Does the behavior put your dog in danger or do you feel like he might become aggressive if you try to stop him? If the answer to either of these questions is “Yes” you may need to consult an animal behavior expert for help with the problem. If the behavior only occurs occasionally and it is harmless, however, it may not be necessary to do anything at all about it. If you want to try to curb your dog’s mounting behavior, watch him closely when it happens so you can learn to recognize the signs the precede the behavior. That way, when your dog starts to display those signs, you can distract him before he starts mounting. If you have a dog that is still intact and you do not plan to breed him or her, having the dog altered may help to reduce mounting behavior as well.

Being around a dog that exhibits uncontrollable mounting behavior can be uncomfortable for everyone involved but you should think carefully before you do anything to change it. Take a moment to consider whether your dog’s behavior truly is a problem and, if it is, whether there might be an underlying cause for it that you need to address with your veterinarian.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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