Here are several different reasons why dogs and puppies mount and solutions to correct the problem in each case:
- They’re excited. Humping can be a sign of extreme excitement and is a common behavior seen in play, especially in places like dog parks. To correct: It is recommended intervening and temporarily removing the dog from the situation until he calms down. It’s important to do so while the dog is still mounting the other dog to ensure that he understands that the humping behavior is not acceptable. Never hit or physically punish your dog for this or any other unwanted behavior.
- They’re stressed. Dogs who are feeling nervous or anxious may also mount other dogs or even objects near them, like a throw pillow. To correct: As mentioned above, by intervening and removing your dog from the situation, you’ll teach him that this behavior is not wanted. Also, work to identify what might be causing your dog stress. You’ll likely also notice him panting, yawning, or showing other lesser-known signs of anxiety if that is the cause for the behavior. Some severe cases will need to be treated by a veterinary behaviorist, possibly with medication.
- They want attention. If a dog is humping a person’s leg, it’s likely the person will reach down to push him away or (for small dogs) pick him up. By doing so, that person is rewarding the dog for the behavior. Even by responding with what most owners would see as a clear refusal of attention (e.g., pushing away, scolding), the dog learns that humping will get a response from his owner. To correct: Instead, simply walk away from the dog and ignore him until he settles down and earns your attention. Then, feel free to approach him and offer him praise and/or a treat.
- They want to gain a social status. Mounting can also be a sign of dominance among dogs. Some dogs will even attempt to mount other dogs in a social setting to see which dogs will allow it and which won’t. Unfortunately, this behavior can sometimes lead to dog fights and should be discouraged. To correct: Teaching a dog to politely interact with other dogs can be useful in this situation. Consider taking a training class or training your dog for a Canine Good Citizen certificate, which touches on politely interacting with another dog. If your dog frequently mounts other dogs in a park or another setting with large groups of canines, it may be necessary to avoid those areas.
- They find it pleasurable. Mounting or humping can also be a sexual behavior, even in dogs who have been spayed or neutered. Puppies may hump as “practice” for future sexual activities and intact dogs may use it as a form of flirting to entice mating. To correct: Spaying or neutering a pet dog may decrease this behavior, especially in males, but it’s common for even sterilized dogs to mount for pleasure. If you’re able to catch him in the act, telling him to “leave it” or separating him from the other dog or toy can be effective. This behavior is difficult to correct if a dog is humping objects while alone (a toy in his crate, for example), in which case it may be necessary to consult with a veterinary behaviorist.
- They have a medical condition. Certain medical conditions, such as urinary tract infections or even allergies, can be causing your dog to hump more often than usual. To correct: If you’ve tried training without results or if your dog is humping incessantly, speak to a veterinarian, who may recommend testing or consulting with a behaviorist.
Three tips to help prevent your dog from humping or mounting:
- Socialize your puppy. By introducing your puppy to other dogs slowly and in a positive way, a process called socialization, you can oversee his interactions and help nurture his social development, including teaching him to limit or avoid excessive humping during play. If you notice your puppy starting to mount another puppy, distract them with toys or a game to give him an alternative activity.
- Teach “leave it.” By teaching your dog to leave it, you can redirect his attention from the other dog or object before he’s able to mount. This command is useful for your dog to be proficient at anyway as a way to keep him from harm.
- Work with an expert. Dogs who hump excessively or who have been performing this behavior regularly for a long time may need to work with a training expert or a veterinary behaviorist. If the behavior is caused by an underlying emotional issue, such as anxiety or a compulsive disorder, that may need to be addressed in order to prevent the unwanted behavior.