Why Do Female Dogs Hump?
Some dogs will hump anything: the air, pillows, blankets, their favorite stuffed animal, humans, and every dog in sight. It’s pretty embarrassing when your dog mounts the neighbor or that teddy bear in the middle of the room while you’ve got company over.
And it’s not just male dogs getting in on the action; female dogs hump, too. Growing up with male dogs I was used to them humping, and I had the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality about it. But a couple of years ago my female dog jumped up on my leg & started humping. To say I was surprised is a bit of an understatement. I found myself wondering ‘Why do female dogs hump?’ so I decided to find out for myself.
Humping in Female Dogs Can Have Multiple Motivations
If you have a young male dog that hasn’t been neutered there’s a good chance his humping might be all about reproduction. But as easy as that explanation is it doesn’t explain the humping done by neutered dogs and females.
Growing up we had a Lab that mounted a certain relative every single time she came to visit. After distracting him getting him to settle we’d tease her and say “Oh, he really likes you.” As a child I assumed it was just my dog being a pervert; but when Laika mounted my leg during a training session I was in shock. I’d always assumed humping was just a male dog thing.
Mounting can be quite embarrassing for us dog owners and we do our best to explain the behavior. But the truth is female humping is something we’re only beginning to understand.
Humping in Dogs Is Not Always About Reproduction
What we can say is that humping in dogs is not just about reproduction, nor is it the sign of a necessarily dominant dog. Humping is seen in dogs of both sexes whether they’re fixed or not. Humping is classified as a non specific arousal in dogs, and it can be triggered by multiple situations or stressors.
Mounting behavior is seen in puppies as young as 6 weeks old – and although it tends to appear more in males a lot of females mount as well. And just as tail wagging doesn’t always indicate a happy dog, when it comes to mounting there’s multiple reasons behind the behavior.
Why Do Female Dogs Hump?
Canine cognitive science has come a long way over the past few decades, but we’re still left making a lot of generalizations. Female dogs exhibit humping behavior during play, times of stress, when they’re excited, out of boredom, for attention, and out of frustration – it’s a behavior that varies based on context.
Humping in female dogs can be triggered by:
- over arousal
Unlike most other mammals, neutered male and to a lesser extent, neutered female dogs will continue to mount other dogs. Quite common and quite normal. In fact, neutered male dogs tend to mount more than intact males, presumably due to a lack of discriminatory experience. – Dr. Ian Dunbar, Humping is Normal, Yet Rude and Lewd
Humping In Dogs Is Often Triggered By Excitement
Over excitement can bring out mounting behaviors in any dog, females included. It’s not uncommon to see humping at the dog park or doggie daycare; places where there’s a good chance of dogs becoming over stimulated. When dogs get over excited their energy has to go somewhere. Some dogs get the zoomies,while others start to hump.
Humping in dogs can be seen in a number of environments and the target of the humping is widely varied. Some dogs become over excited during play sessions and start humping their owners legs, while others tend to only mount other dogs. For some dogs having visitors over causes over arousal, and for others it’s a trip to the dog park. At it’s core humping in dogs (for both males and females) is a non specific arousal response.
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. – Julie Hecht MSc, Why Do Dogs Hump?
Frustration & Stress Can Cause Humping in Dogs
Like humans dogs display a wide variety of behaviors when they get stressed out. Some dogs sulk, some hide, some lick themselves repeatedly and some dogs turn to humping. It’s not uncommon to see dogs that are stressed out during a training session start to mount as a quick way to relieve stress. And although it’s not common humping in dogs can turn into a compulsive behavior.
Mounting could also be what ethologists call a displacement behavior, meaning that it’s a byproduct of conflicted emotions. For some dogs a new visitor to the house could elicit a mixture of excitement and stress that could make for a humping dog. – Marc Bekoff Ph.D., Why Dogs Hump
Humping in Dogs Is Not a Sign of Dominance
When dogs have been studied the mounting behavior appears quite often amidst play behaviors and excitement, especially among female dogs. It has not been found to be related to aggression or submission signals. Dogs that exhibit friendly behaviors towards one another such as muzzle licking are also the ones commonly found to be mounting.
Mounting could be part of a suite of behaviors associated with aggression, such as high posture, resource guarding, direct stares, and threats and standing over. But mounting, by itself, doesn’t indicate a status issue. By itself, mounting might not mean a lot. – Peter Borchelt, PhD, and CertifiedApplied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), H*mping
Conclusion: Dogs Hump For Various Reasons
When it comes to figuring out why female dogs hump it’s important to understand the context in which your dog starts the behavior. In general humping in dogs is an arousal response that can be triggered by:
Any variation of the above can explain why dogs hump when it’s not in relation to reproduction. The context needs to be taken into consideration since the humping behavior itself is just a sign of general arousal.
There isn’t one single explanation for why dogs hump; and until dogs can tell us exactly what’s on their mind we’ll have to take it in context. Humping is normal dog behavior despite being quite embarrassing for some dog owners. It might just mean “I want to play” or it might be caused by stress, it varies by situation.
So why do female dogs hump? They hump for the same reason males do; it’s an arousal response. Deciphering all the reasons behind that arousal is another question we haven’t quite figured out.
Check out out the Rest of Our “Why Do Dogs” Series:
- Why Do Dogs Love Belly Rubs?
- Why Do Love to Lay in the Sun?
- Why Do Dogs Go Crazy After a Bath?
- Why Do Dogs Have Spotted Tongues?