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A Mounting Problem

Ok, so this is not one of those topics that you might freely chat about with your friends over coffee but, if you have a dog that consistently humps your guests when they visit your home, you won’t be getting that many opportunities to invite your friends over for a coffee.  Let’s tackle this sensitive subject and see if we can help throw some light on it.

It’s embarrassing for visitors to the home to be ‘humped’ by the family dog. They might accept your many apologies and may even say, ‘Don’t worry. It’s fine,’ but the chances are that when you invite them back they will happen to be busy on that day.  And, who can blame them?

Dogs hump other dogs, humans, toys, cushions, other pets and even poles and although it is mostly males that undertake this embarrassing behaviour, some females may start humping when in season.

The reasons for humping vary.  Many experts believe that it is either the wish to be dominant or for sexual satisfaction but more recently, there are some that think that it’s just because it feels good.  It is possible to stop a dog from humping but it is helpful to know why he’s doing it.

Humping can be performed by males and females, entire and desexed and at any age. Other domestic animals such as cows, sheep, pigs and cats can also demonstrate this behaviour.

Dominance has always been one of the major reasons that experts give for dogs humping. Scientists believe that the act of humping causes a rush of the chemical serotonin which gives the dog a feeling of well-being and satisfaction.  They believe that in the canine world a dog’s sex drive and his social acceptance in the pack are interrelated.

However, there is also a more recent thought by pet experts that the dominance theory is just a myth and that an excited dog is more likely to hump as part of the expression of enthusiasm and so it is frequently a behaviour seen during games or times of great excitement such as visitors to the home.

Humping in dogs under six months old is not sexual since they don’t have the hormones and in dogs of all ages, it may be due to anxiety where the environment or the conditions have changed such as a new home or a new baby in the household.

Some medical problems can also result in humping.  For example, if a dog has a urinary tract infection another dog may misinterpret the scent that is being given off and mount it.

In some cases humping can be harmful if a condition called paraphimosis occurs which is where the penis is permanently stuck outside the sheath.  This causes it to become exposed to potential injury.

Fights can also occur when a dog chooses to hump another dog that is not similarly inclined.

It is easier to work out how to stop the behaviour if the reason can be diagnosed.  If it’s a sexual behaviour, desexing the dog is the easiest solution and should result in success in most cases though it may take a few months for them to stop totally.

Punishment such as hitting, pulling them away or yelling will do almost nothing and may actually make the problem worse, especially if it makes the dog feel more anxious.  If the dog humps only occasionally, ignore it or distract the dog into another activity such as chasing a ball or running around.

Distraction is a good option.  Make a loud, sudden noise such as a clap or high pitched, excited squeal and then encourage the dog to do something more socially acceptable such as play tug, chase a ball or run around outside.  Daily physical activity helps reduce this behaviour in very active dogs as well.

If it is suspected that a dog is humping out of anxiety or for a medical reason, it is important to speak with a veterinarian.  They may have a solution that will help the dog in more than just this anti-social behaviour.

If the dog humps a specific toy or cushion, simply remove it and the obsession may be lost.  Alternatively, if the dog just won’t stop no matter what you’ve tried, give it a toy to hump and reward it for only humping that toy in a given and private location.

For a dog that displays a pattern of humping such as with visitors or at the park, use training and rewards to gain control over the situation.  For example, if visitors to the house are the usual target, undertake dog training so that he learns basic commands which can be utilised during these excitable moments.  Once the dog has learnt these skills, ask a willing friend to help continue the training at home.  Have some treats ready and the dog in the house when the friend knocks on the door.  Control the dog using commands and rewards before opening the door and greeting the friend.  Keep the dog on a lead if necessary.   Continue with the friend in different situations, all the time rewarding the dog for positive behaviour.  After several ‘practice visits’ you will hopefully be able to invite guests into the home again without fear of embarrassment.

Although controversial, some vets will prescribe drugs which will help with the dog’s behavioural problems.  Speak to your veterinarian for further advice.

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