It can be really comical when our dogs and puppies hump; Grandad’s just sat down with a cuppa and pooch goes to town on his leg! But why do puppies hump? It’s probably a question you’ve often asked yourself with a chuckle, you’ve seen your puppy cut loose on another puppy, or perhaps one of their toys. Those of you with female puppies need not be smug either. It’s not just a boy thing, yes girls hump too. So why does your puppy hump, and should you ever be worried about your puppy humping?
Keep on reading and we’ll be helping you understand why puppies hump, what you should do if your puppy is a bit of a humper and if letting them hump their toys is a good or bad idea.
As you’re about to discover, puppies hump for all kinds of reasons. Positive reinforcement training will help you deal with it! Download the Zigzag puppy training app to start your puppy training journey today and reduce your puppy’s humping! We also have a team of puppy training coaches who are fully qualified dog trainers and behaviourists. They’re available at the click of a button, oh and you can call us too. Although a humping conversation might make us laugh a little, we WILL be able to help, we promise!
Why do puppies hump?
There are many reasons that puppies hump, and they’re not all because they’re feeling fruity, don’t worry!
Puppy humping can be a very normal way of expressing how they feel through their body language. It is often, but not always linked to anxiety and/or overarousal.
Puppy humping is a stress response
That’s right, when puppies get stressed and feel anxious, they will often hump. We call this a displacement behaviour, and it’s as common as us biting our nails, or fiddling with our hair.
Tired puppies will also hump more to deal with the feelings they’re having, and puppies do have BIG feelings.
Puppies hump due to over-arousal
Stress doesn’t necessarily mean your puppy’s having a nervous breakdown, it can also be about over excitement and over-arousal. Your puppy is a buzzing bursting ball of energy and needs to get rid of that excess energy.
Humping is a self-soothing behaviour that helps your puppy calm down and get rid of some of that energy they have.
Pop by and read our article on puppy biting as this is very commonly seen when your puppy is over aroused and tired too.
Puppy humping is practising sexual behaviour
Well, a pup’s gotta learn the moves, even if we take away their equipment to carry out the deed. We don’t think it’s abnormal or unnatural for Rover to practise hunting behaviours when they’re a puppy, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that one of the reasons puppies hump is to practice other kinds of behaviour too.
Puppy humping can be attention seeking behaviour
Do you only pay attention to your puppy when they hump something? Perhaps you laugh and get everyone to watch when your puppy humps their favourite toy? From your puppy’s perspective, it’s getting your attention…and you know how much they love your attention.
Puppies hump because it feels good
Because some dogs really do enjoy doing ‘the wild thing’, usually when they’re getting a little older. But also because getting rid of that excess energy when you’re stressed brings about a huge amount of relief in your puppy or dog.
Humping can be a normal part of puppy play
It can be an invitation to play, or a demand even. We know, in humans, you’d consider it a bit rude, wouldn’t you? But in puppies, it can be quite normal. It’s worth watching out if your puppy is constantly humping one particular dog or if your puppy is always the one being humped. Otherwise, in the words of Frozen, let it go…
Puppies hump to de-escalate situations and calm things down
Have you ever heard of someone calling their dog ‘the fun police’ and wondered why this might be. This is often the dog that gets in the middle and has a quick hump, ‘chill out guys’ is the message they’re sending other dogs.
Puppy humping is not about dominance
We think you might have heard this reason why puppies hump, a lot, right? ‘Your puppy is being dominant’ ‘My puppy is just showing the other who’s boss by humping them’ or ‘Mummy dogs hump their puppies to be dominant’ when there is:
- Little evidence that this behaviour is ever seen between conspecifics in dominance hierarchies
- No functional point in trying to assert dominance in this way
- A number of other reasons why puppies are humping that are far more plausible
What do I do if my puppy is humping?
In order to stop your puppy humping you need to do some sleuthing and find out the reason why your puppy is humping. Put in place some management protocols to reduce the amount of stress your puppy is experiencing and map out a training plan for what you’d like them to do instead.
- Find out what situations your puppy is humping in
To figure out why puppies hump we need to write down all of the situations that you’ve noticed your puppy humping.
- Remove stressors to reduce puppy humping
Stressors or contributing factors to your puppy humping you, other people or other dogs, might be any of the following
- Overtiredness – puppies need a huge amount of sleep
- Playing with too many other dogs in a group or for too long – keep play sessions short and sweet before your puppy gets to that tipping point
- Noise sensitivity causing anxiety
- Strangers coming to the house
To help your puppy feel less anxious, reduce the things that contribute to the humping.
- To stop your puppy humping teach them to do something else
Sounds obvious, but teaching some relaxation and calm behaviours so that your puppy can find other ways to calm themselves down will go a long way.
There are lots of ways to teach a puppy to calm down that you can do to help reduce puppy humping. If your puppy is humping during play, it can be an idea to interrupt the play frequently and get the dogs to do something else. This might be some focus work or just taking a play break to allow their arousal levels to go down.
Be sure that your puppy is not getting bullied during play or being the bully as this can lead to stress, anxiety, and humping.
- Interrupt and do something else with your puppy if they start to hump
Play a game, give your puppy a chew or stuffed kong, do some scent work, anything to help lower their arousal, so that the humping doesn’t become a habit.
Just a warning, many dogs do not appreciate being humped by other dogs, and it can cause fights or a good telling off from the dog being humped. Don’t let your puppy be ‘that guy’ and make sure they don’t hump other dogs.
Should I let my dog hump stuffed animals?
Why do puppies hump soft toys? Well, a common thing that people do is allow their dog to hump stuffed animals or a favourite pillow or cushions when they feel the urge.
It is common to see male dogs doing this, especially if they smell a bitch in heat, but actually male and female dogs both mount to relieve themselves, and because it feels good!
If your dog is humping a lot, pay close attention to make sure they’re not doing it because they’re stressed, but in general, allowing your puppy to hump a toy is not such a bad thing. Sometimes they just have the urge. Aherm….
If you’re worried about your puppy’s humping please feel free to reach out to our Zigzag puppy coaches. We’ve heard it all and will do our best to help you figure out why your puppy is humping and what you can do to stop the puppy humping! We also have many positive reinforcement games and training lessons in the Zigzag puppy app. Download a trial today, and look through the programme or chat to one of our expert puppy coaches. While you’re here you might want to check out our article, amazing puppy facts.