Sometimes you just need a good hump. If you’re a dog. We’re talking about dogs here. Why do dogs hump even when they’re not gettin’ it on? Check out the top five reasons:
1. Play date!
By six weeks old, male and female puppies already start with those sexy pelvic thrusts as a normal, healthy part of play. Later in life, it could help dogs get attention from their buddies. Most research shows that mounting in play is one way that dogs win friends and influence doggies. It’s like saying, “Let’s be friends. Like me! Like me!” Keep this in mind for the playground, kids!
2. Arousal and excitement
Fist pump? How about air hump? Sometimes dogs get excited about going in the car or playing at the park. Dogs. Get. Excited. Like cheering when your team scores a touchdown, a hump here or there could easily pop out during times of excitement.
3. Nervous nancies
For dogs, mounting is a well-known displacement behavior, associated with emotional conflict or anxiety. If a new person or dog drops by the house, a nervous Nancy could quickly become a nervous humper.
Some kids suck their thumbs to calm down; dogs don’t have thumbs, so some may get in the habit of mounting, say, a pillow, while winding down for the night. Who are you to judge?
5. Who’s the boss?
Many folks think dog mounting is about dominance. Why not? It looks and feels all “dominance-y.” But researchers find that mounting alone does not indicate dominance. And while we’re at it, dominance is never a trait of an individual; it’s about an ongoing relationship between individuals. So, mounting an inanimate SpongeBob pillow cannot be about dominance. Look elsewhere before slapping the “D” label on a mounting dog.
Meet the Expert: Excessive mounting many not always make for a happy dog or human camper. A humper could be bored, understimulated, or anxious. Check out tips for keeping all four paws on the floor from the ASPCA, as well as Jolanta Benal, CPDT, at Quick and Dirty Tips.
Julie Hecht is a canine behavioral researcher, science writer and PhD student at The Graduate Center, CUNY, NYC. She regularly covers canine science at Dog Spies on Scientific American, Do You Believe in Dog?, and at The Bark. Julie holds a magnifying glass up to dog behavior with the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab in NYC. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter @DogSpies.
Jamie Wolfe is a designer living in Brooklyn, New York. She doesn’t typically spend this much time drawing humping dogs. She’s more of a cat person. You can follow her drawings and scribbles here: blog.jamiewolfe.com. Follow her on Twitter @jamikwolfe.
Check our facts!
American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. 2008. “Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animals.”
ASPCA. Virtual Pet Behaviorist. “Mounting and Masturbation.”
Bekoff, M. 1974. “Social play and play-soliciting by infant canids.” Am. Zoo. 14(1): 323–340.
Bergman, L. 2012. “Canine Mounting: An Overview.” NAVC Clinician’s Brief. Jan. 61-63.
Drews, C. 1993. “The concept and definition of dominance in animal behaviour.” Behaviour 125 (3/4): 283–313.
Hecht, J. 2012. “H*MPING Why do they do it?“ The Bark. Issue 70: Jun/Jul/Aug.
Neilson, J.C., et al. 1997. “Effects of castration on problem behaviors in male dogs with reference to age and duration of behavior.” JAVMA 211 (2): 180–182.
Pal, S.K. 2008. “Maturation and development of social behaviour during early ontogeny in free-ranging dog puppies in West Bengal, India.” Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 111 (1): 95–107.