Todays problem is often the butt of jokes or an embarrassed quietly asked consult room question. It is rarely discussed out loud. Why do some dogs hump peoples legs, cushions, soft toys or other dogs?
While the motivation behind humping behaviour seems obvious enough, it is actually not that straight forward. Dogs hump for two separate reasons. Humping can be and often is sexual, but it can also be due to a dog trying to exert or display dominance. In other words sometimes dogs hump because they are being bossy. If your dog is female or desexed and it humps things or other dogs then dominance is the usual reason. Similarly if male dogs hump other male dogs, then one dog is trying to dominate the other.
Dogs that hump visitors or your children are letting you and them know that they are the boss. Dominance humping is as much for display as anything else so they usually make sure there is an audience. Humping for dominance can lead to all sorts of other issues if you allow it to continue. It is certainly not a behaviour that you should encourage. This is especially important because a dog that feels that it has humping “rights” over people will also will start to feel that it can punish them for perceived wrong doing. Aggressive behaviour, like biting, often follows with disastrous results.
The question is how do we eliminate the humping behavior? Firstly if your dog is not already desexed then get it done. If you must keep them undesexed then there is an implant that can achieve a removal of the sex drive for 6 - 12 months.
If your dog is still humping despite desexing then training is important. The use of a simple and firm “No!” and telling your dog to go away and redirecting their behavior into a sit/stay usually will help. Obedience training helps reinforce more appropriate behaviours.