You’re taking your dog for a walk, and you decide to stop at the dog park and let your Golden Retriever play with other dogs. Then you see her humping another dog. You might have thought that only male dogs do this and that it had to do with hormones. So why do female dogs hump, too?
Is It Normal for Female Dogs to Hump?
All dogs can and do hump on occasion, whether they are male or female. This is considered a very normal behavior, although it can be embarrassing or annoying, or it could cause injury if your dog mounts a smaller dog or a child. It is important to recognize, however, that humping behavior is not just sexual and is considered a normal play behavior in dogs. Female dogs may hump just as commonly as male dogs.
Why Female Dogs Hump
There are several reasons why male or female dogs will hump, including:
Developmental stage (puppies)
Engaging in play
Looking for attention
Perhaps the most common reason dogs hump is to demonstrate social dominance. Humping another dog or a person is an effective way of declaring that they are in charge.
Puppies that are just learning to explore the world and discovering appropriate behavior may hump quite frequently. Humping is a natural form of play—another reason it is commonly shown by puppies.
When dogs hump as part of a sexual behavior, you may also notice “flirtatious” behavior such as play bows and pawing.
For some dogs, humping is a natural response to stress or excitement. Dogs that have other mechanisms to deal with stress and social dominance may not hump as often as dogs that don’t.
Many dogs will respond to meeting a new dog or person by humping them or a nearby piece of furniture or toy. Under-socialized dogs may mount other dogs excessively, since they have not learned how to play well with others and can become over-aroused. Unfortunately, in some animals, this can lead to a compulsive behavior that can interfere with other normal routines.
Many dogs will hump as an attention-seeking behavior, especially if they don’t get enough exercise or affection. Negative attention is better than no attention at all and generally, most people are not able to ignore being humped by a dog. Therefore, humping is a guaranteed form of attention, from a dog’s perspective.
Humping can also indicate potential medical issues, particularly if the humping started up suddenly. Urinary tract infections, allergies, and incontinence can cause humping—anything that causes discomfort or licking in the genital area. If a dog starts humping suddenly, a trip to the vet is probably warranted.
Why Do Female Dogs Hump After Being Spayed?
Dogs that hump after being spayed are probably showing one of the other forms of humping behavior, such as attention seeking or social dominance. A little detective work with the help of your vet will help to determine the root of the issue.
Why Do Female Dogs Hump Specific Things or People?
Dogs will often pick specific things that they enjoy humping. These items can include toys, the arm of a sofa, or the leg of a person. Sometimes the choice is targeted for attention, like in humping a person. Other times, dogs just choose something nearby that is favored, or something soft. Usually, humping is just a release of pent-up energy.
Why Do Female Dogs Hump Another Female Dog?
A female dog humping another female dog is likely doing it out of excitement, stress, or social dominance. These tend to settle with time.
Why Does My Female Dog Hump Male Dogs?
Again, they may be showing signs of social dominance, or they are demonstrating some excitement or stress at meeting a new dog.
Why Does My Female Dog Hump Me?
Female dogs will often hump their pet parents to seek attention. After all, they are very likely to get attention every time they do it. They may also hump you out of excitement, particularly when you first come home and greet them. Some dogs may also be trying to establish their social rank in the household, and choose to hump someone to show dominance.
Why Do Female Dogs Hump Certain People?
Often, dogs will hump the people that give them the biggest reaction. Some dogs that hump for attention will pick the person(s) that responds the most, effectively rewarding the behavior. Other dogs will hump due to social dominance, choosing to show a person that they are “lower” on the social totem pole than the dog.
When Should You Worry About Female Dogs Humping?
In most cases, humping in female dogs is a normal behavior. However, if it starts suddenly in an adult dog, it may be an indication of a health problem that should be checked out by a veterinarian, particularly if the dog is also licking excessively in their private areas.
If the behavior is extremely frequent, it may have become compulsive. However, some dogs will appear to hump out of boredom, and this indicates that perhaps more playtime is needed. Other dogs will hump more if they are stressed. Looking closely at your dog’s lifestyle for indications of stress may help identify the problem.
Should You Try to Stop Your Female Dog From Humping?
Therefore, even though humping is a normal behavior in female dogs, it is something that most people wish to stop. There are multiple ways to discourage your dog from humping.
First, have your female dog spayed. Not only does this have several health benefits, but it may also have the behavioral benefit of discouraging humping.
Next, watch your dog closely when they are getting ready to mount someone/something. They generally will show signals such as panting, whining, or pawing. As soon as you see these warning signs, distract your dog with a toy or a training cue (such as sit, shake, lie down, etc.).
Teaching a cue to “leave it” is very helpful in these types of circumstances. When your dog tries to mount something, giving the cue “leave it” can break the cycle.
If your dog is mounting to get attention, do not reward them with any attention—ignore them entirely in that moment. For dogs that are very persistent, working with an animal behaviorist may help.
Featured image: iStock.com/RobertPetrovic