Photo by Kate B
We have probably all experienced that graceful moment when a dog spontaneously decides to mount another dog, or hump someone's leg in public. Why do dogs do that, and how can this behaviour be stopped?

Why do dogs mount and hump?

A lot of people think the only reason for dogs to hump is sexual gratification. This is far from being the truth. Humping can be caused by many reasons, one of them being dominance and asserting the dog's social status. That's why female dogs can mount and hump as well as males. Dogs can also hump for attention and just because they like how it feels.

Obsessive humping of random objects such as toys, pillows, furniture, the air etc may be a sign of extreme stress, insecurity, anxiety, or irritation in the genital area. Humping behaviour in puppies is usually their natural way to learn about pack hierarchy, submissive and dominant roles. It has nothing to do with sexuality whatsoever.

How can you stop mounting and humping?

First of all, you should find out why your dog likes to hump, and then work on eliminating the cause. Here are a few general tips about stopping your dog's mounting and humping behaviour.

• If your dog's humping is obsessive, the number one thing to do is to schedule a visit to your vet to ensure there is no underlying medical issue that requires treatment.

• After medical conditions have been eliminated, make sure your dog is neutered or spayed. High levels of testosterone and other hormones result in higher levels of aggression and a stronger urge for dominance. Therefore, unneutered and unspayed dogs tend to exhibit humping and mounting behaviour more often. It's been reported that fixing your dog can reduce it's humping behaviour by about 60%.

• Correct your dog's humping or mounting behaviour. Distracting usually works well but it should be done right. Don't try to distract your companion from humping by offering a treat or a toy. If you do that, your dog will associate humping with positive reinforcement. In other words, it will be encouraged to hump more. Instead, command your companion to sit or perform another well-known act (read about teaching your dog basic commands), and praise your dog after it has obeyed.

• If humping is caused by stress, insecurity or anxiety, you should work on eliminating these issues as much as possible. Socialize your dog, make its environment more friendly and less stressful, provide your companion with lots of daily exercise, both physical and mental.

• Work on reinforcing your pack leader role.

Don't expect your dog to stop humping as soon as you've decided to work on the problem. How fast you'll progress depends on the causes of the unwanted behaviour, on the fact how deep your dog's habit is, and on your persistence. Don't get upset if your don't succeed at once. Every dog is unique, and you can never know how much time you'll need. Be patient and stay positive! If you realize you cannot fix your dog's behaviour, seek professional help.