Why Do Dogs Hump When They Are Fixed?
At best, dog humping may entice a laugh from pet parents. At worst, the embarrassing behavior can strain the human-animal bond, indicate an underlying physical or mental health condition, or lead to a fight between dogs.
So, why do dogs hump? And what about neutered male dogs and spayed female dogs? Here are some important things to know about humping habits in dogs and how to encourage more socially acceptable behaviors.
My Neutered Dog Still Humps: Is That Normal?
Yes, your dog’s humping can be absolutely normal and natural, whether they’re a neutered male or spayed female. Dogs may hump people, other dogs, or even objects like furniture or toys.
Although humping is a normal behavior, issues can arise if it’s done too much or at inappropriate times. Also, humping can sometimes indicate anxiety or medical issues.
Why Do Dogs Hump When They Are Fixed?
Here are some of the most common reasons why a dog might hump, regardless of their gender and whether they are fixed or not
In intact dogs (dogs who have not been spayed or neutered), mounting and humping other dogs can happen due to sexual arousal or a sincere interest in mating. Even females may hump while in heat.
Some dogs masturbate by humping. This sexual behavior is more common in intact dogs, who have higher levels of hormones like testosterone in their body. However, even neutered dogs—female and male dogs alike—may display this behavior, especially if they learned when they were younger that humping feels good.
Humping can also display dominance. For dogs who are in new social situations (such as a new housemate or playmate) or unsure of their place in the pack, humping can be a way to feel out the new pecking order, too.
Many dogs, especially those who have an abundance of energy, can become overly excited at certain times. Common examples include when a dog owner arrives home after a day at work, when meeting new people or pets, or when arriving at the dog park.
Sometimes, dogs aren’t sure what to do with this sudden burst of excess energy. So, it comes out as humping.
Stress or Anxiety
Since humping can be a soothing behavior with pleasurable feelings, dogs may use humping as a way to ease their stress or anxiety. This can happen during stressful incidents, such as a new person coming to the home. Or, it can occur with chronic stress and anxiety.
Regardless of the original reason why a dog started humping, once they do it often, it may become a learned habit. In some cases of anxiety, humping may evolve into a compulsive habit, similar to nail-biting in humans.
Many dogs really want attention — regardless of whether that attention is positive or negative. So, even if you say “No” and scold your dog for humping, your pup may still be happy that you are interacting with them. So, they will continue to hump to receive the attention they want.
Humping can be accidentally reinforced by pet owners, too, especially during puppyhood. Understandably, pet parents might find it funny to see a small puppy humping a toy. They may laugh and even encourage them. But this sends the message that humping means positive attention—so, the puppy will continue the habit into adulthood.
Mounting or humping are play behaviors that are commonly observed in puppies. Some experts say this is practice to prepare for future mating experiences. But humping-as-play can continue into adulthood, especially in dogs who don’t socialize a lot or who haven’t learned more appropriate play etiquette.
A quick mounting is usually not a cause for concern if play continues normally. However, since some dogs don’t like to be humped, this may lead to fights.
Ruling Out Medical Conditions That Could Be Related to Humping in Neutered and Spayed Dogs
Sometimes humping can indicate an underlying physical health concern. Most commonly, health issues that lead to humping would involve the urinary or genital system, or the skin surrounding the genitals. Examples include urinary tract infections, allergies or skin problems, priapism (prolonged, painful erection), prostate issues, and urinary incontinence.
These conditions can make the area itchy, painful, or otherwise uncomfortable, which prompts a dog to rub the area against something for temporary relief.
To diagnose a medical condition and determine the best course of treatment, a veterinarian will perform a physical exam, ask questions about your dog’s behavior, and perform tests such as bloodwork, a urine analysis, or x-rays/ultrasound if indicated.
When to Be Concerned/Call the Vet
A veterinary visit or telemedicine consultation is warranted any time your dog shows a symptom that you are concerned about.
That includes humping, especially in dogs who usually don’t hump and suddenly begin the behavior, or if humping is getting worse.
Other concerning symptoms to look for include licking or chewing at the genital area, as well as redness, swelling, wounds, irritation, bleeding, discharge, or other abnormalities in the area. Also, look for changes in urination habits or any other signs that your canine companion may be unwell, such as vomiting, diarrhea, inappetance, or lethargy.
Any dogs who are obviously unwell or uncomfortable need an urgent or emergency vet visit.
How to Discourage Humping in Neutered Dogs
Neuter your dog
Spaying or neutering decreases the hormonal influences that drive humping. However, neutering won’t necessarily stop humping that is done for other reasons, such as stress or overexcitement. Also, neutering works best to curb humping in young dogs, before humping becomes a learned habit. Ask your vet whether neutering is likely to decrease humping in your individual dog.
Address any underlying medical problems
Medical problems or anxiety or stress should be ruled out prior to assuming humping is purely behavioral. A predictable daily schedule or extra playtime can help some pups. For very anxiety-prone dogs, medications prescribed by your vet may help. But don’t give medications or supplements without checking with your vet first, since many are harmful to dogs.
Train your dog
Teach your dog that humping is an undesirable behavior. Scolding your dog might inadvertently encourage humping, since negative attention is still attention. Instead, firmly say “No” and end playtime. Stop giving your dog attention. If needed, leave the room or take your dog to a quiet room for a “time out.” Over time, a pup will learn that humping does not get the response they would like.
This strategy is a little more difficult if your furkid is humping another dog rather than a person or an object. Only break the dogs up if you can safely do so, as some pups may become aggressive when mounting or being mounted.
Encourage good behavior
It’s unrealistic to expect a dog to sit and do nothing rather than humping when you say “No.” Instead, give your dog something better to do! Reward behaviors you’d like to see, such as friendly greetings and calm interactions, with a treat, toy, attention, or praise.
Try to interrupt or redirect your dog’s humping before offering any rewards, though. Otherwise, your pup might think they are being rewarded for humping.
Redirect their behavior
A distraction could mean giving them a fun toy. Or, it could mean you’ve been working on obedience training and can give your dog a command such as “Leave it” or “Sit,” so their mind is engaged on a task other than humping.
Work with a behaviorist
Work with a veterinary behaviorist or specialized dog trainer. An expert who is knowledgeable in dog behavior modification can make the process easier and faster by giving one-on-one advice.
With any undesirable behavior, the earlier the issue is addressed, the more likely it is that you will find success in eliminating or changing your furkid’s habit.
For assistance with your dog’s humping behavior, set up a consultation today or call our urgent pet care line.