Why Do Dogs Hump Toys? | Understanding Dog Behavior


Why do dogs hump toys?

I’m sure you’ve seen those videos of dogs humping things like pillows, random people’s legs and even other dogs. It was really hard for me to figure out why my dog Enzo would do this to his toys. With a puzzled look on my face I went down the rabbit hole to find the answer to why do dogs hump their toys?

I found out there are actually many reasons as to why your dog might hump toys or other objects!

In short, mounting (also known as “humping” or “hunching”) is a normal behavior in all dogs. While it is part of sexual behavior, there are other reasons for this behavior such as: establishing dominance, over-stimulation, stress response, attention-seeking, and occasionally due to medical issues.

If this is a new behavior for your dog, ask your veterinarian to check that no underlying medical conditions could be causing problems. Also, be advised that a “fixed” pup (neutered or spayed) is less likely to display mounting behavior than intact pups.

For more detailed information on determining if your dog’s humping has become a problem I’ve dedicated a full section of this post on what to look for along with more specific details around this behavior and how to stop it.

Main Reasons Why Dogs Hump

Sexual Behavior

The first and most obvious reason for dog humping is due to sexual urges. This is especially apparent in puppies that have not been “fixed” yet (aka neutered or spayed). My pup Enzo is a shepherd rottweiler mix and when it comes to some larger breed you typically wait longer than other breeds before taking them in to get “fixed”.

Whenever Enzo is feeling “frisky” he gets his favorite hedgehog toy or finds a blanket and starts humping. This is likely to continue happening a lot more frequently until we get him neutered so keep this in mind if you are in a similar situation.

In addition, it’s important to understand that there are certain times when dogs will be more sexual. In girl dogs this is when they are in “heat” which occurs when they reach puberty. So if you are noticing a sudden increase in the frequency of humping this is something to note before getting concerned with the sudden change to their behavior. 

Dominance

The second reason dogs hump is due to dominance. As explained by animal behaviorist Dr. Mary Burch, “Often, humping has nothing to do with sex”. Very often, Dr. Burch says, humping is an attempt at dominance. This can apply whether it’s a human, toy or another dog on the receiving end.

We had a friend come over the other day and part of Enzo’s greeting was to hump this person’s leg. This will be more prominent depending on your dog as some tend to be more dominant then others. 

This behaviour tends to be more about territory than anything in most cases. You might see this with other household animals, or people coming into your dog’s territory.

Over-Stimulation

The third reason for dogs humping is due to general excitement. This can be from playing and socializing with new friends or just from being really happy you are home. When dogs are over stimulated it can lead to friendly biting, barking, humping, and a number of responses.

So if your dog only tends to hump during moments like, you coming home from work or during playtime, they might be over stimulated!

Stress Response

No one If a dog is overly stressed or anxious, humping might be their way of coping with their feelings. It might seem like a strange thing to do when stressed but seeking pleasure can be a way to relieve stress.

It’s like when you come home from work after a stressful day and all you want to do is eat food and watch TV. These things give us pleasure and it can distract us from the stress that we are experiencing.

Everyone and every dog has a different way of dealing with stress and some dogs use humping as an outlet. 

Attention Seeking

When your dog starts humping their toys do you immediately respond to this behavior? Perhaps you tell them to stop or you take the toy away. If this sounds like you then your dog could be doing it to get your attention.

Boredom in dogs is not a new phenomena and can lead them to do anything and everything to get your attention. If you ignore this behavior you may find it goes away, however, if the boredom has not been resolved they will find something else to do to get your attention. So make sure to find time in your day to stimulate your dog and keep them entertained.

Medical Condition

Last on the list of reasons why dogs hump is one that we do not wish onto any of our beloved furry friends. While this is usually not the case, there are a few things we should consider.

Some dogs get skin allergies, urinary tract infections, priapism (persistent erection) and other medical conditions that may be the reason for humping.

When Does Humping Become A Problem?

As seen above in the reasons why dogs hump, 99% of the time it’s a completely normal part of play. However, this can become problematic if your dog starts mounting other animals that do not like being mounted.

In addition, it can also become a problem when it becomes a compulsive habit for them. The best thing to do is to curb the behavior early on if it’s excessive to avoid any future issues with your pup and also with other animals.

How to Stop Your Dog From Humping

Desexing

It comes as no surprise that desexing your dog can curb sexually motivated humping. However, it’s important to know that recent research has determined spaying/neutering specific breeds at a young age can have negative impacts on long-term health. So make sure if your pup is still young to ask a professional when the best time would be for your specific dog.

Catch Your Dog in the Act

Another great way to stop dogs from humping is to catch them in the act! It’s important to address this behavior while it is happening! Use a keyword they can begin to understand such as “stop” or “off”. Avoid using common words used in everyday conversation or any keywords that might be mistaken for another command. For example, if you say “down” but your dog knows how to lay down when you say “lay down” it might be confusing for them.

If you catch them in the act enough times and respond with your keyword then proceed to stop the behavior they will eventually get the hint.

Offer a Reward / Redirect Behavior

Another great way to stop your dog from humping is to redirect their behavior. If you catch them humping and they stop when you tell them too, offer a reward and redirect them with something else. Offering a treat for good behavior is a distraction in itself and will help redirect them.

In addition, if your dog does not respond to your command you can try to lure them away with a toy, treat, etc. You know your dog best so whatever you can use to excite them enough to distract them from the behavior is going to help.

With my pup Enzo he loves going on walks so whenever I say “wanna go for a walk” he’ll stop almost anything and come running to me. This is one of the ways I will redirect his attention, along with using his favorite toys (while avoiding ones he humps).

Minimize Mounting Opportunities

When your dog builds a habit of mounting visitors and other family pets, the best thing to do is redirect the behaviour. Do not make a fuss and big deal of it or you could risk encouraging the behaviour. If redirecting their attention does not work, take your dog to a calm and quiet area.

Reducing the behavior is as simple as minimizing the opportunities for them to mount. If you move them to a calm and quiet location this will remove the humping opportunity. Manage your dog’s environment and make sure to have plenty of distractions like chew toys and other activities to burn their energy.

If your dog has a certain toy that he loves to hump, take it away until the behavior has calmed down. The best thing you can do is just remove what causes your dog to hump, or move your dog somewhere else to minimize opportunities.

Seek Professional Help 

Lastly, if nothing seems to work and the behavior is causing issues it’s best to go seek professional help. I’m pretty lucky to have vets in my family so I typically reach out to them or my dogs professional trainer.

The worst thing you can do is let the habit solidify to a point that stopping it becomes much more difficult then if you were to curb it early.

FAQ’s

Is It Normal For Dogs To Hump Stuffed Animals?

It’s completely normal for dogs to hump stuffed animals, pillows, and other seemingly random items. It is a natural thing that they do to show dominance or affection in dog language. However, if your dog begins humping too excessively and frequently, this could be a sign of an underlying behavioral or health problem.

For example, dogs that have allergies or develop skin irritation may hump in order to help relieve some of their symptoms. In addition, there are also other forms of hormonal medical conditions that can lead to excessive humping. So make sure if you have any concerns about your dogs behaviour to seek medical help right away.

Should I Let My Dog Hump Stuffed Animals?

Allowing your dog to hump stuffed animals is acceptable to do but with a strict schedule. Mounting, including humping and masturbation, are healthy behaviours so long as the habit does not get out of control.

You can control this behavior with a strict schedule. The best way to allow this is by selecting a specific toy and then giving them some “private time” for a period of time. You do not want to encourage humping any time outside of their “private time” and with anything other than their special toy. In some cases you will need to swap out the toy since their taste in toys may change. Just remember, dogs respond best when they have a routine.

Why Does My Dog Hump Me When I Dance?

In short, the most probable reason why your dog humps you when dancing is because of overstimulation/excitement or attention seeking. When you’re dancing your dog perceives this as “playtime” which gets them excited and if you’re not playing with them they might hump to get your attention.

Some of the other probable reasons they might be humping when you dance can be due to sexual behavior or establishing dominance.

Why Does My Dog Only Hump Me?

Only your dog knows this answer for sure. However, some experts theorize that if your dog only humps you (as the dog’s main owner), one possibility is that no one else gets them as excited as you so they respond by humping. Another possibility is that dogs practice good target selection, meaning they sense that humping anyone else might put them at high risk for an unpleasant reaction.

Dogs hump for a few different reasons but specifically why they hump specific people and objects can be tough to determine. While humping is part of sexual behavior, there are other reasons for this behavior such as: establishing dominance, over-stimulation, stress response, attention-seeking, and occasionally due to medical issues.

Why they hump you in particular likely falls under either over-stimulation or attention-seeking.

Other posts you might find interesting:

13 Best Mind Stimulating Dog Toys: Their Features and Benefits

Why Does My Dog Hump His Bed | The Real Reasons

Alec Littlejohn

Founder and Reviewer at Pawscessories. He is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! He grew up in a family of vets and to this day he helps out around the family clinic and shares his learnings on Pawscessories. Learn more about Alec's story here

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