As Much as you Hear it, Humping is NOT a Sign of Dominance

First off, I would like to address the word dominance. Many people use this word out of context to say, “Oh that dog is just trying to show dominance.” when the dog is humping another dog. But honestly, dominance does not fit there.

One would use the term dominance when you are looking at more than one dog and a valuable resource, like a nice juicy meaty bone. If one dog kept possession of this bone, either because a) he intimidated the other dog b) he fought harder for the bone or c) the other dog didn’t care enough about the bone, then we would say, after many altercations, this dog was dominant over the other dog. Now just because this one dog was dominant over the bone this time, another resource, like a shiny red ball, could be a different story. The dog who was not dominant over the bone could be the one dominant over the ball.

Remy when she was a puppy, playing keep away with her toy.

Humping is often a sign of anxiety, stress, play, relief, and reproduction.

Joni's rottie, Damien, being humped by her ex-boyfriend's dog, Charlie. Just from the picture, I think Charlie is wanting attention from Damien, who is more interested in the toy.

Believe it or not, most of the times while you’re at the dog park, the humping you see is generally playful. If a dog is just standing there and another dog jumps on top and begins to hump, most dogs will turn away and begin to hop around. This is a way to start a new play session when things have settled down. Sometimes dogs hate to be mounted and will snap and show a less than playful attitude. If the dog is more timid, a more confident dog that doesn’t get the hint may make this into a game and continue to mount to get a rise out of the other dog. If the dog does get the hint, the dog will stop the mounting attempts.

Amy's dog, Spot, mounts Anna's dog, Huney.

If the dogs go through a tense moment, the dogs may hump to relieve their stress or anxiety because they are overstimulated. Say a dog fight had just occurred and the dog who started the fight has left. Afterwards, the dogs may relieve their stress or anxiety of the fight by humping.

I’ve also read many times that the timid dogs are usually the ones getting humped. I usually look at this as them being picked on. Delta was never really humped as a young puppy but many many dogs always picked on her, because she was on the timid side. It’s not until recently that dogs have actually stopped picking on her. They would pick on her by hitting her with their chest and knocking her down, getting close to her and barking constantly and moving in like they would nip at her (Delta wouldn’t actually let them make contact). If I were not to stop this behavior immediately, I’m sure it would carry on until Delta had enough and she began to fight back. Delta has definitely come out of her shell now and can run with the big dogs. It’s such a joy for me to see her blossom into a beautiful, well behaved, well socialized pup.

Humping can also be used for enjoyment… and of course, we know for reproduction.

Delta humping Doc when he didn't want to play.

Delta has always been a humper, since the day we brought her home. But she’s only ever humped three dogs in her life. Doc, Remy, and my friend’s golden retriever, Kody. She frequently humps Remy when:

– someone is petting Remy and wants the attention on her. (My mother-in-law always exclaims, “Oh Delta, why are you humping Remy?!” Therefore acknowledging Delta’s existence)
– Remy found something more interesting to do, but Delta wants to play play play.

She humps Doc when:

– She wants to play play play
– Someone is petting Doc and not paying attention to her.

Delta humping Doc. At this point, she wanted to play but Doc wasn't in the mood. (Which is hardly EVER!)

She has only humped Kody once… at the dog park. It was getting very late and we were the only ones left. Kody was off exploring around the dog park but Delta was still ready to play. She went over to Kody, mounted him, which then lead to a small game of chase. That’s the only time she’s ever done that to any dog besides my mother-in-law’s dog and Doc.

I hear so many people throw the word dominance when they see dogs humping, but half the time they aren’t even looking at the dog’s body language. The dogs are happy, playful, and usually begin a game of chase or bitey-face. If the dogs were showing ‘dominance’, don’t you think the dog below the humper would roll over, WILLINGLY, onto their back  showing submission, instead of playing back? (Which gets me into a whole other story about why you SHOULDN’T alpha roll your dog. The submissive wolf rolls itself, the alpha shouldn’t have to. The only time this occurs is when the alpha is about to kill the submissive pack member… no wonder so many dog bites occur when alpha rolling! And dogs know we are people. They do not look to us as their ‘alpha’ or ‘submissive pack member’. Believe me, we’re not cool enough to be a dog.)

Nichole's Tigger mounting Meatball.

Hearing this word thrown around so much just really irks me and I felt the need to address this. I hope some people may change their mind about what their dog is doing.

If you don’t believe a girl majoring in biology, hoping to get her masters in animal behavior… then hear it from a professional, positive reinforcement trainer, Casey. She is an amazing dog trainer at Rewarding Behaviors Dog Training in New York.

Click Here For Mounting Blog

Got Spots? Shall Enjoy.

Doc

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About gotspots

Mother to two spotty dogs. Positive reinforcement user and avid RAW feeder.
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