The dog owner who called to ask about her large mixed breed dog was so embarrassed and hesitant she could hardly tell me her question. Finally she said it.
“My 2-year old dog is a large sheepdog mix. He has started humping people that come to my house. He tries to jump on their leg. It is so embarrassing. Sometimes he will hump a pillow from the couch. He doesn’t do this to me or my husband. What should I do? I have stopped inviting people over.”
If there is one canine behavioral issue that is guaranteed to result in an embarrassed owner, it is when a dog attempts to hump other dogs, people, or objects. While some humping behavior can be sexual in nature, much of the time, humping has nothing to do with sex. When an attempt to breed is involved, male dogs can tell the different between a couch pillow and a female dog in season.
Humping can be related to establishing dominance and letting another dog or person know who’s in charge. When a pillow is the object of your dog’s affections, there’s a good chance the dog has simply gotten excited and over-stimulated. Rowdy play can cause some dogs to get out of control.
There are some ways to manage humping.
1. Neutering. Neutering can reduce or prevent humping, and we advocate spaying/neutering pet dogs. However, whenever if a dog has learned a habit, neutering can have a limited effect.
2. Redirect your dog. The behavioral “treatment” for humping is breaking up the chain of behavior (e.g, redirecting the dog to another activity). To redirect your dog, you can provide some chew toys, throw a ball, or do some training.
3. Exercise. Humping is incompatible with running and doing exercise and exercise is a good outlet for a dog who needs to be redirected.
4. Control the environment. If there is a particular stuffed toy or pillow that the dog plays with inappropriately, remove the toy from the environment until your dog’s behavior is under control.
5. Teaching your dog basic obedience commands such as sit, down, and stay will provide you with very valuable management tools.
If your dog is determined to hump visitors, don’t yell and scream or allow the visitors to make a big fuss over this. Simply walk over to the dog and take him to his crate or a quiet area. If you’re trying to impress your visitor, you may want to simply keep your dog out of the picture if humping is likely to happen.
Finally, for male dogs, humping can sometimes be a sign of a physical problem such as prostate trouble and in both males and females, humping can occur as the result of an irritation or infection. Your veterinarian should check a dog who begins humping to rule out any medical problems.