Unless they are trained and disincentivized, dogs of both sexes, both neutered and intact, can and will hump anything in their immediate vicinity. Even a casual observer of canine interaction can tell you that humping behaviors involve everything from stuffed animals to couch pillows, from human arms to table legs. Answering the question, “Why do male dogs hump other male dogs,” then, requires us to shift our perspective a bit. Dog humping happens for a variety of reasons, including:
The plain and simple fact is that dogs are indiscriminate about their humping. Boy dogs hump other boy dogs and girl dogs hump other girl dogs. Humans ascribe moral or ethical systems to everything, including having a wide range of conflicting notions of sexual propriety. Therefore we think it odd, strange or even comical that sexual congress should take place outside of our well-organized mental frameworks. A better question to ask is, “Why do even spayed or neutered dogs engage in humping or mounting activities?”
Let’s start from first principles and then drill down to the specific question at hand. The spectrum of answers to why dogs hump should reconcile us to all of the stranger and more precise queries we have. This includes why male and female dogs, long after they are fixed, continue to hump each other, people, toys, blankets, and a vast array of other things. Mounting is a learned behavior that begins when dogs are puppies. Why do puppies hump?
Mounting and dog humping behaviors may begin to emerge in puppies, male and female, around six weeks after whelping. As soon as they have gained control over their tiny legs, these precocious babies begin humping each other. It is thought that this activity performs a range of functions, including play, exploration, and the foundation of social hierarchies among the litter. As they approach sexual maturity — depending on their size, breed, or mix, this can be at any point between 6 months and 1 year of age — humping develops its sexual component.
Even when humping is ostensibly geared toward sexual activity, it still may have little to do with reproduction and more to do with gratification. Male and female dogs, intact and fixed, masturbate. Once puppies learn that stimulating their sex organs has a pleasurable feeling, it can develop into a habit. Dog masturbation manifests itself in both excessive licking at their genital areas and in humping behaviors. If they are not trained early on, modes of autoerotic gratification begin to encompass humping and rubbing.
Spaying and neutering may lessen a dog’s sex drive, but they do not completely eliminate the joy of stimulation, nor do these operations address the other functions that humping serves. Male dogs humping even after being neutered may have a component of social organization or assertion of dominance, but fighting, sniffing and territorial marking all play larger roles in that context. Fixed male dogs may continue to hump different- and same-sex dogs for a number of reasons, most of which can be dealt with through training, attention or distraction.
Some dogs bark, yelp, howl, dig or rip up things around the house when they are stressed. If a dog is not trained early that humping is an unacceptable response, it can develop into their primary method of stress relief. Do you live in a single-dog household and find that your male dog humps other males upon meeting them in the dog park or at home? Humping is one way that dogs deal with the anxiety of first contact scenarios. This can be inconvenient or awkward when unwanted attention leads to fighting.
A similar answer can be given if your dog regularly humps objects around the house. Training them to stop requires time, effort, and a wealth of distractions. Does your humping male dog have sufficient toys to play with when you are out of the house? Is he getting sufficient exercise during a typical week? Distraction and redirection can be useful strategies if male dog humping is becoming problematic. Perhaps you play fetch or tug-of-war the moment humping begins, and reward him for stopping.
Excessive humping, along with excessive licking or biting at their erogenous zones, can be outward symptoms of internal health problems. A dog who only humped sporadically, if at all, and is now doing it all the time may be suffering from allergies or a urinary tract infection. Problems urinating can cause male dog to seek relief in any way he can, including humping.
It may sound strange, but if you notice a dog maintaining erections for extended periods of time, he may be dealing with priapism. We all know from endless erectile dysfunction commercials that long-lasting erections can be painful and require medical assistance. Though priapism is rare in dogs, it does occur, and humping is one way dogs may seek to self-medicate. If your male dog is humping other males, females or random things in your home with increasing frequency, it could be a sign not of a behavioral issue, but of a medical one in need of veterinary attention.
Copulation and reproduction are two of the most wondrous things in all of the natural world. To the vast majority of the 8.7 million species that share our planet, they are, and always have been, two distinct and separate things. Your dog isn’t homosexual; that’s an all-too-human designation for a universal proclivity. A large number of animal species — dogs included — that share our planet engage in same-sex behaviors, most of which have little, if anything, to do with the reproductive drive.
So, does your boy dog hump other boy dogs, blankets or toys occasionally? It’s a perfectly normal activity, even for neutered male dogs. If you notice it early, effective, consistent and positive training can prevent humping from becoming an aggressive or destructive problem. If it arises later in life and quickly becomes repetitive, schedule a veterinary consultation since it may signal a treatable health issue.
This piece was originally published on May 4, 2018.
About the author: Melvin Peña trained as a scholar and teacher of 18th-century British literature before turning his research and writing skills to puppies and kittens. He enjoys making art, hiking, and concert-going, as well as dazzling crowds with operatic karaoke performances. He has a one-year-old female Bluetick Coonhound mix named Idris, and his online life is conveniently encapsulated here.
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