Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Humpity humpity

I am staying in a rented room near the aquarium where I’m doing an externship this week, and my hostess’ dog likes to hump me. I’m trying to suss out all the intricacies of his reasoning.

Humping is generally seen as a dominance behavior in dogs: one dog does it to another dog to assert his dominance. (If he is mistaken, a fight might break out.) This dog is probably trying to assert his dominance over me. But my hostess tells me he has never tried to hump any other guests. Why not? (Maybe he felt secure in his relationship with them and didn’t have to try to prove himself. He’s a big dog and it’s possible they were scared of him.)

But she adds that he does try to hump her neighbor, a little old lady. So if he likes to hump people that he feels insecure about, why her? And, alarmingly, does he think I am as much of a pushover as a little old lady?

Dogs are weird. It’s always a little frustrating when I can’t quite suss one out: “why did I spend so much money on vet school if I still don’t know everything?”


  1. It is a way of playing. When dogs play, they typically engage in behaviors that simulate hunting, combat or copulation. Think about this... when a dog is having sex with a female dog, is he trying to dominate her? Is that what the behavior is for? So, why do we think that humping is dominance? It isn't. So, just give the dog a substitute thing to do, a fun toy, and redirect the play to another activity.

  2. I guess I should also say that it could also be a displacement behavior or a vacuum behavior for some dogs. Even so, the best solution is to redirect the behavior. And then try to find the root cause, if any, that would trigger a displacement or vacuum behavior.

  3. It's an attention getter-playing behavior. Some dogs like it (labs looove it).
    So play with him, just not with your body or hands... they can get kind of pushy, emotional and out of control with people, so use a ball or another toy, or throw some kibble on the floor (this is miracle)

  4. You went to vet school, but not behavioral school (at least, I don't think so?). Think of it as extra credit!

  5. Hmm -- humping as attention-getting, not dominance. I'll have to read up on that!