We’ve all been there – you’re at the park, or having a dinner party, and your dog starts humping someone else’s pup or one of your guests’ legs.
Knowing why your pooch is doing this can help alleviate awkward situations, help you understand your dog better, and even be a conversation starter!
We attribute a lot of human qualities to our canine friends, causing people to wonder – can my dog be gay?
Can Dogs Be Gay?
Dogs live unconstrained by internal (or external, for that matter) conflicts about their sexuality. They like what they like – no big deal.
Plenty of dogs engage in sexual behavior (or sex-like behavior) with members of the same sex.
But are these same-sex scenarios nothing more than hormones run wild, or do they actually represent homosexual behavior and imply that such dogs are gay?
In short, dogs can’t really be gay, simply because dogs don’t have a sexual orientation or consistent sexual preference the way some humans do. However, dogs can certainly exhibit gay sexual behavior for a variety of reasons, which we’ll explain below!
Homosexuality in Dogs and Animal Sexuality
Dogs do what they want, when they want, and are presumably unconstrained by the internal conflicts that often plague humans. Sometimes their sexual advances even extend to other species, as countless cats, stuffed animals and human legs can attest.
It’s important to note that while these advances – which may not even involve actual intercourse – often provide sexual or physical gratification, dogs also engage in humping behaviors for a variety of other reasons. Some dogs hump things as a form of play, while others do so when they are anxious.
Why Does My Dog Hump Other Dogs?
To humans, humping in public is considered a big no-no. So when our dogs start mounting each other in public, it can cause us to feel embarrassed and confused about why our beloved fur babies are engaging in such uncouth behavior.
For dogs, mounting can be done for a variety of reasons. While it can be sexual, dogs have their own social norms that are different than those of their human friends! Through different types of play and body language, dogs use non-verbal actions to communicate. Here are several reasons your dog may be humping other dogs:
- Casual Play: With people, we’re taught at a young age what actions are acceptable in public and which aren’t. Dogs are never taught that certain actions are inappropriate, so it’s common to see a back and forth of playful mounting. This behavior is especially common amongst energetic puppies, but is seen in some older dogs as well – male or female. It is even a common occurrence with dogs that have been spayed or neutered!
- Dominance: While mounting can just be a playful act, it can also be a show of dominance over another dog. This is especially common in older dogs. If it occurs frequently or in response to many different stimuli, it can be a sign that your dog does not know how to properly socialize. This behavior can usually be lessened by proper training, especially if begun at an early age!
- Intact Dogs: Male dogs that have not been neutered are more likely to display dominant humping behavior. This can usually be alleviated by neutering your pooch, but if it is not done at a young age the behavior can become harder get rid of.
Given the many varied reasons that dogs hump one another, the fundamental differences between the brains of humans and those of dogs, and the different ways we view pair bonding, it is important to avoid drawing conclusions about their motivations – particularly when it involves such nebulous concepts as sexual identity.
Sex, Pseudo-Sex and Psychology
Speculating about the motivations of dogs usually involves anthropomorphic thinking, a term used to describe the attribution of human emotions to a non-human entity. For example, “the stop sign is angry.” This is an understandable tendency, but one researchers try to avoid. Dogs experience a completely different reality than we do, and we’re wise to draw conclusions about motivations carefully.
It’s quite possible – some would say likely – that dogs simply do what seems appealing at the time. One day they may be attracted to dogs of the opposite sex, before feeling attracted to dogs of the same sex the next day. They may even wander about the park, canoodling with one dog after another, with no regard to sex.
Females sometimes assume the dominant role when exhibiting courtship behaviors or engaging in breeding-like activity with other females, and males may assume submissive roles when engaging in such activities with other males. And the gender roles are equally flexible between same-sex couples.
The only rule is, there are no rules.
Homosexuality Throughout the Animal Kingdom
Whether or not dogs and other animals possess a “sexual identity” or exhibit long-term sexual preferences, homosexual behaviors have been documented in a wide variety of animals.
Beetles, fruit flies, several species of fish and a handful of lizards have all been documented having sex with other members of the same sex (though it is often termed pseudo copulatory behavior in such cases). Male frogs – who don’t technically engage in intercourse anyway – often grab anything that moves when it is time to get busy. Many male frog species have even evolved a “get off me!” call for just such occasions.
But these animals rarely form long-term bonds, and tend to have short relationships with their partners. It is only by considering animals that form long-term pair bonds that we can see reasonable analogies for humans. But once again, examples of homosexual behavior abound.
Many birds exhibit homosexual behavior. Penguins are some of the most famously fabulous animals, and they have even been documented raising chicks with same-sex partners. Many female albatrosses bond with other females and raise chicks together (adulterous males usually father their chicks). Dolphins are also noteworthy for engaging in sexual activity with conspecifics of either sex.
But things really get interesting when you move up to our close relatives. Macaques (medium-sized primates native to Asia) often exhibit lesbian tendencies, and bonobo chimps (our closest living relatives) take sexual freedom to a whole other level.
Bonobos engage in virtually every type of sexual behavior imaginable, and they do so with other bonobos of either sex. Multiple individuals may even be involved at times. Most scientists suspect that their free-love-lifestyle probably works to help lubricate social interactions.
Defining the Term “Gay” for Non-Humans
Just because an animal exhibits homosexual activity does not mean it is a homosexual. Many humans engage in sex with the opposite sex, despite having a preference for individuals of the same sex, and vice versa.
Behavior and sexual orientation are two different things.
We obviously can’t communicate with dogs well enough to illuminate such topics, so it is difficult to distinguish between an animal that has a long-term preference for same-sex individuals, versus a heterosexual animal that engages in a homosexual activity.
One litmus test researchers have devised seeks to distinguish between the two possibilities by noting whether or not the homosexual animal in question will still breed with a member of the opposite sex when it is likely to lead to offspring.
If, for example, a presumed “gay” male dog will still breed with a female dog in heat, he probably doesn’t have a truly homosexual identity; he just engages in homosexual behavior (such animals could probably be identified as bisexual). Most animals to which this question has been applied turnout to be exhibiting homosexual behavior – meaning that while they may enjoy a romp in the hay with another male dog, they’ll rarely pass up the chance to breed with a female.
The one exception (aside from humans) occurs right on Old Macdonald’s Farm. About 6% of male sheep court and breed other males, and refrain from breeding receptive females.
Interestingly, researchers have noted that these sheep have a smaller hypothalamus than their heterosexually oriented counterparts. This is consistent with other research, which has documented the same phenomenon in human men.
Does It Matter If Your Dog Is Gay?
In a word, no. Not even a tiny little bit.
Dogs that exhibit same-sex attraction live long, happy, healthy lives, just like their heterosexually oriented counterparts. Aside from the tiny sliver of their life that is devoted to sex and attraction, they’re no different than any other dog. They want to sleep on the couch, eat everything in the house and catch that squirrel living in the tree outside.
Your dog doesn’t know whether he is straight or gay; nor does have any idea that sexual orientation is a thing. He just knows he feels warm fuzzy feelings for other male dogs (or the reverse, in the case of females).
Any distress the situation causes is due to your baggage, not his.
Homosexuality doesn’t even prevent your dog from successfully reproducing, if that is something you have planned. Veterinarians can collect sperm manually and inseminate females, just as doctors do for infertile human couples.
Just forget about it (or celebrate it) and move on. Your dog doesn’t care if you have penchant for buxom beauties or tall-dark-and-handsome dudes – why should you care if he is partial to devilishly handsome collies?
We don’t even understand human sexuality very well. Trying to understand the sexuality of our dogs is probably impossible. And even if it weren’t, there are better subjects for us to spend our time researching. Our dogs do not care what their sexual orientation is, and we should probably follow their lead.
What about you? Have you ever suspected that your pup was gay? Have you witnessed any homosexual canine behaviors first hand? We’d love to hear all about it or your general thoughts about the topic of homosexuality in animals in the comments below.