Humping: Why Dogs Do It (cont.)

The Embarrassment of Humping

Debbie Sampson of Canton, Ga., says her Rottweiler, Moose, has a tendency to hump dogs at the dog park, although he doesn't do it at home with her other two dogs. Most dogs, she says, will get away from him, but when a dog submits to the behavior, it can get pretty embarrassing. "He can really get a little out of hand," Sampson says. "Sometimes we just want to yell at him 'Get a room.'"

Then there's little Lulu, 5, a spayed Chihuahua mix that Sampson adopted. Lulu came into the house addicted to humping. "I work at home and she humps my leg all day while I sit at my desk," Sampson says. "That's bad enough, but she'll do it when people are over, too. I try to pick her up and distract her, but that only works for a few minutes. The problem is you just don't know when she's going to do it."

Can Dogs Be Trained to Stop Humping?

Veterinarians say it's easiest to stop the behavior when it first starts. Spiegel says people often think humping is cute in puppies, so they don't stop it, or even encourage it by laughing or giving the dog attention.

"If you see a behavior you don't want to see all the dog's life, then you need to stop it when you first see it," Spiegel says. "So if the puppy is humping, distract them when they do it and then give them something else to do. That's very important. You have to give them an alternative behavior. Give them a different toy. Play with them in an appropriate way."

Neutering a male dog usually will decrease mounting problems, the veterinarians say. But in older dogs, where it has become an ingrained habit, other measures will probably be needed. Spiegel recommends obedience training, which can make dogs calmer in situations like when visitors are at the door, or a trip to the dog park.

"Humping can be related to heightened excitement levels, so training can take the excitement level down," Spiegel says.

Landsberg says mounting also is a common dominance gesture with dogs, although it doesn't mean the dog that is doing the humping is dominant. In fact, dogs that are unsure of their place in the pack are more likely to hump to see how many dogs will accept the behavior, a move that can lead to fights with other dogs.

When trying to figure out how to stop the behavior, Landsberg says owners must first figure out what is causing the behavior by watching to see when it usually happens. Then give the dog an acceptable alternative behavior in those situations.