Most of us have seen dogs inappropriately mounting something, but why do dogs hump a certain person in particular? This behavior is often embarrassing and maddening for everyone concerned and can be problematic during social gatherings.
Usually, it’s pretty distressing to watch our canine companions hump an unsuspecting dog in the park or a guest at a house. You might want to grab a powerful odor remover around well-known offenders to eliminate any associated smells.
Even though humping is the canine sexual position, experts agree that other factors, like excitement and anxiety, contribute to the behavior. In fact, there are many myths about mounting behavior in dogs, such as that it’s a sign of dominance (this is rarely the case). We will explain below why dominance is not the issue. So let’s look at why dogs hump people and how to curb this annoying canine practice.
So, Why Do Dogs Hump A Certain Person?
Dogs mounting or “humping” a person’s arms or legs typically happens because a dog is stressed, anxious, playful, or seeking attention. It also occurs because a dog is so excited (usually by a visitor) that it becomes a displacement behavior to deal with their strong feelings about this person in their space.
Displacement behaviors are when dogs do things that don’t seem to fit the context of the situation, and they’re almost always misunderstood or ignored. In general, displacement behavior is a sign of inner conflict, such as when a dog is excited to do something but also nervous or uncertain.
One way to explain displacement behaviors is that they happen when a dog is feeling a strong emotion, like uncertainty, stress, excitement, anxiety, or fear. The dog is unsure about what action to take, so they expel energy in a random, almost unrelated behavior. It’s a way to cope with stress, avoid conflict, or cope with big feelings.
Think of it like biting your nails before you go in for a big job interview. You may be excited about the new job but also anxious that something may go wrong. So nail biting is an unconscious way to diffuse that mixed energy building up inside you.
While humping is often taken to be sexually motivated, you’ll see the behavior in even spayed and neutered dogs. It happens for many reasons, including a natural part of play, especially in puppies. But when dogs hump humans, the reasons are more concerning.
But let’s look at the many reasons for inappropriate mounting in dogs.
7 reasons dogs may hump a certain person
Nothing is out-of-bounds for a hump-happy pup. They’ll mount your pillows, leg, random strangers, other dogs, and the list continues. These nine reasons your dog humps particular people explain this canine phenomenon, placing you in a position to better control it.
It’s hard for a dog to hide excitement, especially when their favorite human comes home, or there is a visitor they’ve never met before. Excitement is the most common non-sexual reason dogs hump objects and people. For the most part, this excitement is also related to stress. So if you’ve been gone, your dog’s relief that you’re back, mixed with the residual distress that you’ve been gone, can create that inner tension that leads to humping.
Similarly, if a new person comes to your home and is friendly with your dog, then your dog’s excitement over the attention, mixed with the anxiety over a stranger in the home may cause them to hump.
2. Attention seeking
Attention-seeking goes hand in hand with excitement. Sometimes, dogs want attention from someone who excites them, but they don’t have the skill set to know how to get it. Not knowing how to win the attention of someone can lead to them trying a variety of behaviors. And if humping a leg elicits a response, they’ll keep doing it.
3. Sexually charged
Many dog-humping cases are sexual, especially in dogs attaining sexual maturity at about 6 to 7 months. Humping from arousal can come out of the blue and occurs mainly in males due to testosterone. It also sometimes happens to female dogs in heat.
Intact males engage in this self-rewarding behavior the most, and it is challenging to stop once they start. And yes, humping, for this reason, is the dog version of masturbating. Improper mounting in dogs due to sexual urges reduces by more than half after spaying and neutering. But not all humping in dogs stops after they are neutered since this is not the only reason dogs hump.
4. Initiating play
Puppies and juvenile dogs may hump a person if they are playing, especially wrestling. This is because mounting is a very common play behavior, even if we don’t like seeing it.
Younger dogs are most likely to engage in playful humping and most outgrow it. These pups, nearly bursting with energy, goof around and do anything to get you to play with them. Dogs will also mount other dogs to initiate playtime, but you should monitor the behavior to avoid fights.
5. Stress or anxiety
Unfortunately, dogs’ stress and anxiety are more prevalent than most of us think. Stress can result from things like moving, car rides, and new people or pets. A stressed pup may constantly hump a person to self-soothe and engage in other behaviors like paw licking, lip smacking, and humping objects or other dogs.
Improper socialization is a major cause of anxiety, causing dogs to feel like they won’t be okay around people and animals. Looming over a scared, submissive dog can cause them to act out fearfully in ways other than humping, including peeing on you!
6. Compulsive Behavior
Behavioral problems in dogs are strikingly similar to those that afflict humans. One of these issues is Canine Compulsive Disorder, which is like OCD but in dogs. These dogs engage in repetitive behaviors like spinning, chasing shadows, and humping, affecting their normal functioning.
7. Health issues
A dog will occasionally hump on you to relieve an itch or discomfort due to a medical condition. These issues include:
- Skin problems
- Urinary Tract Infections
- Frequent urination
- Bloody urine
- Pain while urinating
- Little urine comes out
- Genital injuries
- Prostrate issues and paraphimosis in male dogs.
How Do Dogs Pick Who to Mount?
Dogs tend to either hump their favorite person to get attention, initiate play, or relieve feelings of stress. However, they may also hump strangers. Typically, this is when they are highly excited, such as at a dog park. Or if they feel both excited and anxious about a stranger in their home, sparking displacement behavior.
Is Humping In Dogs A Sign Of Dominance?
Some people believe that mounting is a dominant gesture in the canine world, with dogs humping to assert themselves. The truth is, even if dogs hump to assert dominance, it is very rare that they do so.
Humping is not a behavior somebody sees in a truly dominant dog. When dogs are displaying dominance, you see:
- Raised stiff tails
- Raised hackles
- Head held high, often pushing their head or body over the other dog
- Closed mouth
- Stiff body
You can see a show of dominance in these two dogs, and you can see that neither tries to mount or hump the other:
Compare that to these two female dogs, where one is humping the other. Neither dog shows signs of being submissive or dominant. Instead, it is part of their playful interaction where one dog is inviting the other to play:
Watching dogs hump people is highly uncomfortable, so we won’t add a video to compare the above interactions with dogs humping a person. But if you do search videos, you may pick up that dogs mounting people don’t show signs of trying to be dominant. Instead, you see wagging tails, relaxed bodies, and overexcited dogs. You will also see plenty of young dogs doing it as part of their play.
Should I allow My Dog to Hump me, and when is humping a Problem?
Don’t allow your dog to hump you (or other people), as this behavior is inappropriate between dogs and humans. Just because a behavior is natural does not mean we want it in our dogs. This does not mean we should punish our dogs for humping, nor should we reward it.
Instead, we need to invest time in teaching our dogs how to interact with people appropriately.
How to Stop Your Dog from Humping You
To minimize your dog’s humping, you’ll need to implement a few of the solutions below:
- Distract them by redirecting their focus to a command, then reward them for following the said cue.
- Keep your dog exercised both mentally and physically through walks and food puzzles.
- Get your dog checked out by the vet if you notice other signs like itchiness and excessive licking.
- Teach your dog proper social skills to get your attention by rewarding them for sitting or bringing you a toy instead of humping.
- Invest in obedience training, including teaching your dog to settle and investing in place training.
- Shift your gaze from your humping dog to avoid giving them attention for the behavior.
- Minimize anxiety triggers like constantly changing environments.
- Give your dog anti-anxiety supplements like CBD oil but only under your vet’s instruction.
- Establish that you’re the alpha in your dog’s pack by giving firm instructions and boundaries.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is My Female Humping My Male Dog?
A female dog humping a male is likely in heat and wants to initiate sexual relations. Other times, female dogs hump males to initiate play and show excitement. Your female dog may also see herself as the boss and dominant over the male.
My Neutered/Spayed Dog is Humping, Why?
Neutered and spayed dogs mostly hump for non-sexual reasons like excitement, playtime, and dominance. A humping but “fixed” dog can also do that due to medical problems causing itchiness and pain.
Why is my Dog Humping the Air?
Sometimes a dog humping air is a simple response sign of excitement and nothing to worry about. Other times air humping implies a genital injury or medical problem. A dog humping the air looks like they’re doing some ridiculous but hilarious dog twerk. But if it becomes excessive, it’s time to see a vet.
Humping is normal canine behavior that starts as early as six weeks and can continue into adulthood. Dogs hump a particular person typically because they are overstimulated, excited, anxious, or looking for attention. In these cases, mounting is a displacement behavior. Occasionally, humping is also a sign of sexual arousal or medical issues.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.
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