‘One Hump or Two?’ Canine ‘Humping’ Discussed….

Humping is almost always considered antisocial. It is almost always considered to be the sign of an overly sexed dog OR possibly a ‘dominant’ one. This is way too generalized because actually humping is a very misunderstood behaviour. ‘Misunderstood’ really because there are SO many reasons behind a dog that humps another.

Of course the ONLY time humping is, in all reality, welcome is when you are a poor frazzled bitch owner, just having driven 200 miles, and are holding out £500 to a stud dog owner, and hoping for puppies! This often immediately seems to turn the humpiest humper into a Monk preferring his paper and a pipe

‘Mr. Hump-A-Lot’ is not a nice dog to be around generally speaking, but you may be surprised to know there are a lot of ‘MRS Hump-A-Lots’ too. The reason for that is basically because of the large range of reasons why dogs hump.

-Sexual
-Dominance/Confusion about their place in the ‘pack’ of canines either in the home or out and about
- Excitement and an involuntary reaction to adrenaline
-Pure unbridled enjoyment because he did it *once* and it was *great* so he will, understandably, do it again!
-Learned behaviour from other dogs he regularly meets or lives with

1) Sexual. Obviously first and foremost. However only a TINY amount of dogs that hump others are humping for sexual reasons. Obviously meet a bitch in season out walking and the behaviour is sexual. Also if you have MET one or more bitches in season and your dog is the sort to be ‘turned’ by this (and most are) then unfortunately many or most subsequent bitches met out and about are ‘fair game’ to the lad until a great deal of reschooling is performed. Sexual desire is a primary urge and even if a bitch sharply tells a dog off for humping her this sometimes does not have enough effect to stop the dog repeating the behaviour next time. Generally speaking only a combination of VERY firm owner handling, a bitch or two giving him a SERIOUS telling off and the good luck of NOT meeting another in season bitch for a goodly while can improve this. This is the ONLY humping castration will help improve. Castration removes some of the hormones that drive the dog sexually, therefore reducing sexual behaviours when he is placed IN ‘sexual’ situations. Castration will not help any of the other reasons for humping.

2) Dominance/Pack place Confusion – Goodness me this is a very variable reason. Truly dominant dogs do not hump other dogs. The reason being they do not have to, they KNOW where they are in the scheme of things, top of the tree. I stress this is amongst CANINES. Their place in the human pack is another topic completely. Dogs are sensitive creatures, they *sense* a lot from an approaching dog even when a rumbustous *teenager*. A truly dominant dog will either be ignored or submitted to by a little token sniffing, usually with ears and tail down as soon as they realize they are in the ‘presence of greatness’. For a truly dominant dog to hump another or BE humped is generally a very bad sign indeed as this is a dog challenging him which could well result in a fight. However the truly dominant dog never wishes to fight because anything that might show weakness is a very bad thing and any fight is there to be lost. SO what we have in ‘Mr-Hump-A-Lot’ for THIS reason is a confused soul who really does have a touch of the village idiot about him. By walking up to a strange dog and leaping on, male or female, he risks being attacked immediately. This is an immediate admittance that he doesn’t have much of a clue about dog behaviour. It also shows he IS trying to be ‘dominant’ as such but is failing miserably and therefore is only a ‘wannabe’. He is WAY too ‘open’ in his actions and desire to dominate the situation to ever remotely try and be a pack leader. This behaviour just wouldn’t happen in the wild because he would be shot down in very serious flames hard enough by any dog he tried this on higher in the rankings than him to be memorable. Any dog LOWER, which is WAY more likely from ‘Mr Wannabe’ because when all is said and done its ‘easy’ to pick on the ‘little guy’, would just submit to the humping, but he would only be DOING it to selectively challenge, NOT pointlessly to a dog randomly met of any old ‘ranking’ as occurs in the park in domestic dogs. ‘Mr Wannabe’ on paper, needs to try and hump ‘Mr Truly Dominant’ to give him the clearest of clear ideas this is a B-A-D I-D-E-A, but firstly they rarely DO go for MrTD, and secondly ‘Mr (domestic dog) Wannabe’ doesn’t really understand about ranking or he wouldn’t be humping. Something you often tend to find is the ‘Mr Wannabe’ is either a single dog or the only entire male in a household. Multiple dog homes tend to expose pack and natural behaviour enough to have all dogs very quickly understand it. The second sort of household that ‘Mr Wannabe’ lives in is one with poor human leadership and/or a dog within it that is a real lightweight pushover who literally BEGS to be regularly humped by his fellow dog-mates by way of his very submissive nature. Mr TD is a dog to respect and generally a joy to live with, Mr ‘Wannabe’ is a bit of a pratt that often you can’t help but love because he tends to not mean any harm by it, but can create a LOT of bad feeling on his humping great journeys outside the home

3 & 4) These two reasons are very similar and fairly self explanatory. Often you hear alarm expressed because a new owners puppy is *already* humping its teddy, or within a litter a puppy is branded ‘dominant’ because it occasionally humps at its siblings in a ‘bundle’. Infact actually these are just expressions of adrenaline, or in the case of the humping puppy in the litter, make believe ‘practice’ for any behaviours that might need to be displayed *later on*. Humping in young dogs is a channel for excitement – A behaviour displayed when the puppy ‘boils over’. This is not sexual linked at all, just adrenaline linked. Because sexual behaviour is so closely linked to adrenaline (hence blood pumping to certain regions) excitement for SEXUAL reasons is often incorrectly cited. HOWEVER, what *can* occur with this reason for humping, is that it then creates a ‘nice feeling’ for the dog and the dog can start to repeat and repeat the behaviour. To be very crude a similarity would be human masturbation. In a small boy this is nothing about sexual reproduction and all about ‘Wow! That felt nice! I think I’ll do it again!’.

5) Learned Behaviour. This is a far more common reason than is given credit for. A dog not mentally given to humping, one happy to sit where he sits in the scheme of things and not push and prod his place up or down the ladder, can very easily learn to hump by watching this behaviour by others. Not generally as a one off occurrence ‘down the park’ but certainly if there is a dog within the home that humps, OR, often in the case of bitches, just before and during a season they tend to repeatedly hump one another, a young dog at an easily influenced time, can follow suit for no real or particular reason. What tends to then occur is that suddenly reasons 3 and 4 kick in, he finds he LIKES it, and it becomes a repeated behaviour. The only GOOD thing about this dog is that a serious telling off or two by other dogs can often be enough to bring it to a halt fairly quickly because nothing else is driving him to do it.

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In domestic pet dogs, I would say categorically that reason 2 is the most common reason for dogs humping other dogs. Also something important to add is that there is a very common perception that some dogs AND bitches are ‘humping magnets’. This tends to be put down to them giving off a smell, having a hormone imbalance, being spayed/castrated/having irregular seasons and so on, but in my experience this is far more likely to be their demeanor. Their outlook on life. Their body language. They are the resigned, bullied, bottom of the tree sort…. This may not clearly show to humans, but it shouts to every ‘Mr Wannabe’ in a ten mile radius. It BEGS Mr W to come steal their lunch money and knock their glasses off. Add to this that some dogs definitely DO exude the smell of a bitch in season, or at least smell ‘different’ and therefore give not only Mr W but every other dog in walking distance their own, personal reason for humping, you can see why humping is so very common, and not as straightforward as meaning the dog wants a firmer hand or a kick in the nether regions to ‘sort it out’.

Reschooling, curing, helping with humping can only occur if you can serious assess WHY your own dog does it. Everyone else will tell you why YOUR dog does it because it’s the same behaviour *their* old dog from 1972 displayed so therefore it *must* have the same reasons. But one size does not fit all.

NONE of points 1,2,3,4 OR 5 help the poor sagging creature underneath Mr Hump-A-Lot collecting his saliva on their neck and having their human jump from foot to foot in rage begging them to ‘come on Flossy…bite him! Tell him! Be a man! Give him what FOR!!!’. The dog being humped generally won’t. Its just not his nature. If it WERE chances are he wouldn’t be standing there being humped in the first place.

I am always happy to help anyone who wishes to present individual cases for their dog either as a ‘humper’ or a ‘humpee’. The problem is too general to give ‘magic answers’ across the board. But of course regardless of the reason, dissatisfaction should be strongly expressed to all but the sexually driven dog. The only exception being the young puppy mindlessly humping his toy from pure excitement. Remove the toy. The humping stops. Distract him with something positive and productive and chances are it won’t start again!

Many dogs blur the boundaries. They hump for a bit of reason 1, a touch of reason 2, and a lot of ‘finding it fun’, for example. The rules of the ‘park’ will dictate that of course a humping dog is a pain regardless of reason. But the nature of raising domestic dogs in an age that leaves very little natural instinct in them within a domestic environment will create a huge amount of confusion for dogs. And humping is a very obvious result of this when you conside, in the wild, it is purely a sexual means to an end OR a very occasional last resort for a real purpose when challenging a higher ranking member, often preluding a fight.

There are many schools of thought on humping, this is not a definitive guide but I hope it offers up some pointers to think about and maybe to see if they relate to your own dog if this is a problem which haunts YOUR walks.

Di Stevens
2009

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