September 2, 2008

 We were once a society that viewed animals as their own individual species. Today, our world is quickly changing into one which views domestic animals as individual members of our human family. It is no wonder that we often relate to our domestic animals in human psychology or behavioral terms. Yet, can we really draw parallels between their behavior and ours?

In nature when different species cohabitate together, each animal species continues to retain their instinctive and species-specific behavior. For example, a variety of animals live together on the same safari plains but each species behaves very differently. This is what makes a giraffe behave differently from a zebra even though they are neighbors. Among many other things, they have different mating rituals and different ways to communicate with each other. Likewise, our domestic animals are clever enough to learn our means of communicating with them (sit, stay, come, hand signals, etc) yet they will continue to retain their canine or feline behavior.

In some wild wolf packs, the only members of the pack that are allowed to mate are the alpha female and the alpha male and mating between subordinates is discouraged. The goal is to have enough resources and care for the pups and ultimately, the entire pack. “Humping” behavior in dogs serves two purposes. The first is the obvious need to reproduce. The second purpose behind such behavior is to exert dominance onto another dog. A dog will only tolerate this mounting behavior if he/she views that the dog doing the mounting is above him/her in rank. This subordinate dog can be of either sex, which is why it is not uncommon to see a male dog humping another male dog.

Like us, domestic dogs relate to us as members of their family. In other words, they think of us as members of their dog pack. If and when a dog humps you or another human being, they are essentially communicating the fact that they think they are dominant to you. In the event that you allow such humping behavior, you are agreeing that you are subordinate. Therefore, humping is most definitely not a behavior that you should encourage your dog to do to humans. You as a human should have a higher rank than your dog and because of that, you are also in the position to discourage and prevent him from humping other dogs or humans. By doing do so, you, as his leader, are not allowing him to be dominant over them. When you practice leadership with your dog, it definitely makes for a better time if your friends or their pets come over to your house to visit.

The question is how do we eliminate the humping behavior? Male and female dogs alike display humping behavior, although the incidence is higher in male dogs. The hormone, testosterone, increases sexual behavior and promotes humping, thus neutering/spaying your dog as early as 6 months to a year old helps to decrease the incidence of such undesirable behavior because the hormone producing organs are removed. In addition, neutering/spaying is useful because helps to prevent testicular, prostate, or ovarian cancer. Moreover, it is good practice as a responsible owner to neuter/spay your dog to keep the numbers of stray or unwanted animals to a minimum. Another good remedy would be trying to keep the dog occupied, maybe by giving him a dog treat like bully sticks.

Still, some owners may find that their dogs hump despite neutering/spaying. The use of a simple and firm “No!” and telling your dog to go away from the object or redirecting their behavior into a sit/stay away from the object would be appropriate. What you don’t want to do is to pet your dog, give him/her a chew toy, or anything that might give him/her the impression that you’re rewarding the behavior.

As we humans try to humanize dog behavior, there are some people who feel that they should provide their dog with a means of sexual activity. In fact, humans and perhaps even dolphins are two of the very few animal species that are known to mate for pleasure. Mating for pleasure is not true for dogs, so don’t feel bad when you say “No!” and disallow your dog to hump. All you are doing is showing leadership and telling your dog that no one is allowed to be the boss but you. Think about it this way: you are also bridging the gap between humans and dogs by instilling in your dog good social behavior by informing him that it is not socially acceptable for dogs to hump humans or any other object in sight.