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Thursday, 9 August 2012

Getting the hump

My friend has a rescued Lurcher bitch, Daisy, aged about 18 months old. Daisy has been spayed and has lived with Wendy and her family for about six months. Within the last two weeks Wendy's father has come to stay and brought with him Mr Tibbs, an elderly entire male Yorkshire Terrier. Daisy and Mr Tibbs get on pretty well - apart from the odd squabble over food.

In the last few days, Daisy has started humping Wendy's leg! She's quite a large dog so its no joke - and Wendy's worried her young grandsons could be knocked over by this exuberance. Daisy has never exhibited this behaviour before. Mr Tibbs isn't interested in playing with her - although she tries her best to encourage him, and he certainly isn't interested in her in a sexual way either!

Has anyone had experience of this? Is this humping linked to the arrival of a male dog in the home - or is it just coincidence? Why has Daisy suddenly started humping Wendy? Any ideas on how to stop it please?

Rosie Peace, by email

Karen Wild, behaviourist, advises...

Hi Rosie,

Sometimes dogs can start humping out of excitement or stress, so I would imagine that with the change in routine and general family disruption (even though it is enjoyable having family to stay) then Daisy could be reacting to this.

It is common for bitches to hump, spayed or unspayed, so I’d say that whilst hormones do play a complex part in their behaviour, it may not simply be that it is because there’s a male dog in the house. The only sure way to test it might be to bring another female in, or castrated male, but this is just testing theory and does not really help the current situation.

In particular Daisy needs to be controlled and prevented from practicing on people as children will not be able to control her if she is large. By all means, provide her with a large cuddly toy she can hump as this might help her maintain some enjoyment. As for the human side of the equation, treat her humping behaviour in the same way as you would deal with any other unwanted behaviour from a dog. Put a lead or houseline on her collar so that you can move her gently and calmly away from the situation, teach her an ‘off’ command and reward her well for moving away, or if you cannot supervise her place her in a quieter room with something tasty to occupy her. Try not to pay her too much attention when she does it, and concentrate your efforts on settling her more readily so that she does not reach the same excitement levels. You might want to get an ADAPTIL plug in which is a pheromone therapy that can help create a calming atmosphere as well as putting the above into practice.


  1. Michael Baugh has written a brilliant blog post on what humping is and is not; it's here:

    In short humping is not, never has been, and never will be anything to do with status, or "dominance".

    It is a behaviour centred around arousal, and by that I mean excitement or nervousness NOT sexual. It can sometimes turn into an attention-seeking behaviour after a length of time and what has happened in the past in response to the behaviour.

    The way to "cure" the problem is to find out why she's doing it, it could be frustration at an apparent play-mate not wanting to play; it could be the excitement of having a busier than normal house; nerves at the new house guests (especially if dad perhaps isn't using modern training methods, whereas Wendy is); uncertainty at how to interact with an older dog; even boredom can produce a humper!

    It might be as simple as making sure she has some mental stimulation, as well as physical exercise; or ensuring that she has plenty of downtime (on average, dogs need around 16 hours of sleep per day - even young dogs) but to give any useful comments, more information would be needed on the behaviour, including: what happens just before it starts, what time(s) of day it's likely to happen; what area(s) of the house it occurs in; which resident(s) are present; what the current response to the behaviour is from each person who deals with it; what she's fed; and how often she's exercised, and how.

  2. Only Daisy really knows why she is doing it. We can only guess.
    Many dogs, both male and female, hump when they get over-excited during play. I would suggest trying to halt the play a little earlier than normal so she doesn't get to that level and mount. Keep play and games to a certain location of the house so the excitement will not grow in a quiet living room, for example.

    Give her an alternative. Just before she shows the mounting behaviour, pop her in her crate or a quite room with a Kong filled with some yummy food. If it is too late and unwanted behaviour occurs, be very unemotional and unattached yourselves. Quietly walk out of the room and shut the door for a maximum of two minutes. This informs her that it is not acceptable and the attention that she may crave ends when she humps. It also allows her to calm down a little.
    And of course, reward her randomly when she is not mounting. Perhaps issue the odd, 'good girl' and toss a bit of kibble on the floor or request a sit randomly and fuss her for sitting.
    Good luck.