By Sara Reusche, CBCC-KA CPDT-KSA CVT
Q: My dog humps other dogs at the dog park. He’s neutered but he does it anyway. How do I make him stop?
A: Nobody wants their dog to hump! Experts agree that the first step in resolving this issue has to do with figuring out why it’s happening.
Lindsay Kinney CPDT-KA of Paws Abilities Dog Training says “Dogs hump for a variety of reasons. Before trying to stop the behavior, I’d want to know the cause. What is the dog trying to communicate? By addressing the underlying cause, it’s likely the behavior may resolve itself.”
So why might your dog hump? Kinney points to several reasons. “Dogs may hump when overexcited, anxious, or in play.”
Sue Smith of Paws Abilities agrees. “I find most dogs who hump other dogs who aren’t in heat are overstimulated.”
“Humping is normal but I like to interrupt it. It can be overexcitement or stress,” advises Carrie Davis, CPDT-KA and Certified Family Dog Mediator of Paws Abilities.
Contrary to popular myth, humping is rarely or never about dominance. Instead, most dogs who hump are worked up, worried, or really, really awkward (the doggy equivalent of the guy at the bar who sends an inappropriate picture as a come-on).
Since most dogs appreciate being humped just as much as you appreciate receiving said photos, it’s important to intervene anytime your dog mounts another.
“I’m So Excited!”
If your dog goes over-the-top on a regular basis, set him up for success.
Davis recommends that you avoid stationary play. “We move at dog parks and don’t just ‘hang out’ in one area.”
If that’s not enough to do the trick, be ready to intervene right away. Kinney says to “call your dog for a short time-out to have them cool their heels. Interrupt the humping with a recall, or remove [your] dog calmly.”
The best tools for overexcited humpers are a good recall, “leave it” command, and impulse control. Consider signing up for a training class to polish up your excited guy’s manners.
Smith has a couple of favorites, depending on your dog’s needs. “If your dog has other over-the-top responses in normal settings [like freaking out on leash when he sees other dogs], a Beginning Reactive class will give you tools to address this and the other issues.
If it’s just this one habit, then a Focus and Control class will help you get the impulse control your dog needs [at] the dog park.”
Davis advises a clear progression of consequences. “Good recalls and attention are needed to be able to verbally move your dog … our rule is: I say ‘No Humping,’ and if he doesn’t stop, I gently remove him.”
Remember that practice makes perfect. Kinney says “It may take a while, but with practice they … learn that humping causes a short time-out, while other forms of play lead to continuous freedom.”
Frat Parties and DnD Campaigns
But what if your dog isn’t over-excited?
If you notice that he has anxious body language, it could be that he’s not having a good time at all. The dog park can be a bit of a frat party environment, and some dogs would much prefer a quiet Dungeons & Dragons session in the basement with their besties.
For Nervous Nellies or dogs with bigger personal bubbles, Kinney recommends thinking outside the dog park box.
“If your dog is humping because of stress or anxiety, try to find another outlet for your dog’s energy. They might prefer a hike in the woods or a game of fetch instead. Many dogs love the company of just one or two other playmates, but get overwhelmed by large crowds at dog parks. Invite a friend over for coffee and a doggy playdate.”
Sara Reusche, CBCC-KA CPDT-KSA CVT, is owner of Paws Abilities Dog Training.