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Why Do Dogs Hump Toys?

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Dog Behavior By Alex J. Coyne 3 min read January 13, 2020

why do dogs hump toys

For this article, we’re getting serious about the birds and the bees – and, well, the legs, the pillows, the slippers and sometimes the horrified-looking stuffed giraffe that’s seen better days…

Yes, we’re talking the big humping question. Have you ever wondered why some dogs hump their toys, why dogs hump your legs (or worse, your guests’ legs), and why some neutered (and even female) dogs will engage in the behavior of mounting or humping objects?

Today we’re revealing why!

Reason 1: Dominance

It turns out that mounting (or humping, both terms are equally correct) isn’t a behavior just restricted to mating. Dogs will hump or mount others as a form of asserting their dominance.

This is, at least partially, stated as a common reason as to why neutered dogs will suddenly mount the family cat: It’s far more about territory here than anything else, and the same should apply to dogs who charge at people and hump their legs.

For neutered dogs who hump, the recommended solution seems to be distraction instead of downright scolding the behavior – which might create a compulsion instead and have the complete opposite effect.

Distract your pooch with their favorite toy, a treat, a thrown stick. In the case where dogs aren’t neutered, many pet owners and vet-sites recommend that people take their dogs to the vet to get the snip.

Reason 2: Pleasurable Sensation

The most obvious reason dogs will hump legs, toys, slippers or anything else is because it feels great.

Yup, it could be that simple, though it’s worth pointing out that it’s not necessarily sexual. Some dogs will still engage in this behavior even if they have been neutered, and it’s seen in both male and female dogs. Distraction is likely the best cure.

This dog certainly seems to be enjoying his intimate time with his squeaky pig…

Reason 3: Playtime

When not sexual, dogs might just be responding to general excitement instead.

Owners may see their dogs do this when they get home and their dogs go for their legs (or guests’ legs) first.

Most sources recommend simple distraction as a solution, others say it could be a sign that your dog isn’t getting enough play-time with other pups and thus doesn’t quite know what is appropriate behavior.

Reason 4: Response to Stress

Is your dog overly stressed? Humping might be their way of projecting their stress – yes, the same way someone has a terrible day at work, comes home and then stress-eats an entire bowl of cheesecake pudding with a spoon.

In that case, your dog could benefit from a consultation with a dog behavioral expert who could diagnose and treat your pooch’s problem properly, and hopefully get to the root of the stress. The key word seems to be repeated: Distraction. Find the root cause of your dog’s stress and see if you can ease their tension and distract them from their habit.

Your best bet here for curing their compulsion is for finding the root cause of their stress and dealing with that. Speaking of compulsion…

Reason 5: Compulsive Behavior

A stress-response becomes a compulsive behavior once it interferes with normally ability to function. Again, the same is true for humans and their canine companions, so watch for it in your pooch.

A visit to the vet is recommended, as at this point you haven’t eliminated medical issues, either.

Could it Be a Medical Issue?

The cause of your dog’s humping compulsion, according to WebMD Pets, could also have a medical root cause. These could include a urinary tract infection or simply an itch in an awkward spot.

Here, we – and they – recommend an immediate visit to the vet to see what can be done to fix the problem.

Have we answered your question? Let us know if you’ve spotted any other weird behaviors from your dog you would like us to check into for answers.

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Written by

Alex J. Coyne

Alex J. Coyne is a freelance journalist with eight years’ experience writing for publications like People Magazine, Re:Fiction, Great Bridge Links and NB Publishers. Sometimes, his three dogs take him for walks around the neighborhood; they offer helpful feedback on his work and
offer little to no comment on his singing.

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