You may be confused by a puppy or female dog attempting to mount another dog, someone's leg or inaminate objects. After all, it's understandable when a male dog exhibits mounting behaviour, but there are many reasons for mounting, or "humping," that don't involve the dog's sex drive or desire to mate. If mounting is excessive---or embarassing---there are remedies to stop it.
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Although the roots of mounting are purely instinctual sexual and mating behaviour, dogs do so for several reasons. Mounting is a way of expressing dominance and establishing social order. This is often why dominant bitches, as well as males, mount other dogs, and dominant or pushy dogs hump people's legs. Mounting may also be learnt attention-seeking behaviour, unwittingly trained by an owner who finds it cute or makes a fuss when his dog does this. Dogs also sometimes display mounting behaviour if they feel anxious or insecure, probably because they are trying to re-establish control over their environment.
Puppies exhibit mounting behaviour as soon as they are able to walk and play. Puppy play is all about preparing for adult life and social interaction, and mounting is a way of cementing pack behaviour, as well as simply a way of figuring out how to interact with animals (or inanimate objects.) It's not sexually motivated in young puppies, as their sex hormones have yet to kick in. At about five months of age, male puppies typically experience a hormone surge. When a young, intact male dog mounts, it is more likely to be sexually driven behaviour. As the dog advances through adulthood, sex hormones wane, as does mating-driven humping.
Be aware of your dog's body language among other dogs in settings such as parks. A dog who repeatedly tries to mount other dogs is asking for a fight. While non-confrontational and submissive dogs submit or simply move away, other canines might not be so polite and will react forecefully. A well-adjusted adult dog will correct and teach a small puppy proper manners, but a less-friendly dog is likely to start a fight with an adolescent who tries this move. Step in and remove your dog from the situation if he's trying to hump other dogs.
Don't let your dog get into the habit of humping. Stop it with a swift "no" or startling sound. If possible, step in and begin a brief play session or give some commands. If the dog is too hyper to pay attention and calm down, put her in a crate until she calms down. Don't scold her for the mounting behaviour, but make it very clear it is not tolerated. If your dog is being very insistent or obsessive about mounting, discuss the problem with your veterinarian.
Spayed bitches may be more likely to hump other dogs and people. Spaying reduces the calming female sex hormones, creating an imbalance and increasing the influence of male hormones. According to Chris Zink, DVM, at least one study found that early spaying or neutering actually increased sexual behaviour such as mounting, and that spayed bitches were more likely to be fearful and aggressive.
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