It’s time for a trip to the dog park, and nobody’s more excited than your dog! She’s practically leaping out of her skin, she’s so thrilled to run around and play with other dogs.
You get there, let her off the leash and there she goes! Within minutes she’s found herself a buddy to play with, and the two roughhouse like it’s what they were born to do.
But after a particularly intense chase, your dog tackles her playmate and he remains on the ground, admitting defeat.
Her response? To victoriously straddle him and hump away while looking proudly around the park.
It’s the kind of behavior you’d expect from a male dog during mating season. But your little lady?
Is she confused about her identity? Are her brain signals getting scrambled by the excitement of a good play session?
Let’s find out why female dogs hump and what to do about it. It’s an awkward conversation, sure, but an enlightening one nonetheless.
Is Humping Normal?
Forget gender for a second — why do dogs hump at all? And is it normal?
Humping, or mounting, is a completely normal dog behavior that begins fairly early on in puppyhood. Puppies begin humping each other when they’re around six weeks old, and the behavior continues throughout their lives.
You’ll know humping when you see it — it’s pretty tough to miss!
Your dog may approach another dog from behind and ease the front of her body onto the back of the other dog’s, bracing herself with her front legs on his sides. Then she’ll start moving her rear end back and forth against the other dog’s.
Even if there’s no other dog around, your dog may still hump other things: the side of your couch, her favorite stuffed animal, even your leg.
It doesn’t matter whether your dog is male or female, nor does it matter whether or not he or she has been neutered or spayed. Humping is a behavior that transcends gender and sexuality.
So, then, what does it mean?
As we’re about to see, it could mean many different things. And context will be the key to determining what the real reason is.
The Many Causes of Female Dog Humping
If your female dog is humping other dogs or objects, one of these reasons is probably at the root of the behavior.
Sex and Arousal
When we see dogs humping each other, our minds immediately make the connection to sex. After all, that’s how most animals mate with one another, and it’s what’s given rise to common suggestive phrases like “doggy style.”
But when the dog doing the humping is female, the situation gets a little muddied. That’s… not how sex works!
The truth is that for dogs, sexual humping doesn’t need to involve full-on mating.
Both male and female dogs get aroused, and humping helps relieve that arousal regardless of gender. Yep — dogs can and do masturbate, and for many, humping is their preferred way of doing so.
Even spayed or neutered dogs, though sterile, still feel sexual arousal and seek ways to relieve it. Sterilization doesn’t seem to change the fact that stimulation of that variety feels good.
It’s even believed that puppies hump each other as a type of sexual education, even before they become sexually mature. We guess practice makes perfect!
When your female dog mounts another dog during a play session, chances are it’s related to dominance.
It’s a holdover from their days as wolves in a pack, where they obeyed a social hierarchy in which some wolves were dominant over the others. Asserting that dominance often involved displays of physicality, such as pinning disobedient members to the ground or, yes, humping.
Today’s dogs don’t generally live in such structured groups, but those dominant instincts remain in place.
So when they’re at their most primal and uninhibited — like when they’re engaging in rowdy play — the dominance displays come out in full force.
Claiming victory in a wrestling match may involve a triumphant run around the lot or an ebullient howl. But often, it involves humping too.
Dominance-motivated humping isn’t sexual, even though it can certainly look like it. Rather, it’s a way to exercise those wild instincts and satisfy a deep-seated need for social structure… and for a dominant position within that structure.
Boredom and Anxiety
In some ways, dogs are like teenagers. They’re rowdy, they’re messy, they don’t always listen and they have some, uh, interesting ways of dealing with boredom.
Some dogs can tolerate the solitary hours while you’re at work just fine, but others get antsy when they don’t have someone around to socialize with.
These dogs are more likely to act out when they’re bored, chewing up your shoes, breaking into food containers and — you guessed it — humping things.
If you’ve arrived home to find your dog humping your favorite armchair, boredom could be to blame. She just ran out of things to do while she was waiting for you to get back.
Similarly, anxiety can cause dogs to hump as well. It’s a way to release some of that nervous energy and distract themselves from their anxious thoughts.
Anxious humping is often accompanied by restlessness, pacing, whining, edginess and other anxiety symptoms. You may notice it before you leave for work, when new people come to visit or when you take the vacuum out of the closet.
Chronic anxiety may require medical intervention, so talk to a vet if anxious humping seems to be a compulsive problem for your dog.
If you’ve disciplined your dog in the past for humping and the behavior persists, it’s possible that she’s just trying to get your attention.
That’s right, those past scoldings have taught her that humping makes you pay attention to her. Even if it’s not positive attention, anything is better than nothing to a lonely dog, so the cycle continues.
The best way to stop attention-seeking humping is to ignore it as much as you can. A stern “no” or “leave it” is the most you should respond — anything more will just reinforce your dog’s belief that if she humps something, you’ll pay attention to her.
And make sure to reward your dog with lots of pets and praise when she gets your attention in a more polite, owner-approved way. Positive reinforcement of this sort is the secret to modifying your dog’s behavior and cutting out bad habits.
Most of the time, humping is perfectly normal and doesn’t indicate anything amiss with your dog, either physically or psychologically.
But sometimes, it’s a dog’s attempt to relieve pain or discomfort in her genital region.
Urinary tract infections, for example, can cause immense pain that persists after urination. Applying pressure to the region can alleviate some of the pain, so dogs with UTIs often scoot on the carpet, back up against walls or hump furniture.
Skin allergies often result in severe itching, along with pain if affected areas have been scratched raw as a result of the itching. If your dog is allergic to an ingredient in her food or to airborne allergens like pollen or dust mites, her humping could be related.
And if your dog is incontinent due to illness, injury or old age, humping could be her way of relieving the associated discomfort. Incontinent dogs often suffer from pain and rashes due to the difficulty of maintaining good hygiene while incontinent, and humping could be the only way they know how to cope with it.
If your dog’s humping is related to a medical condition, you’ll probably notice other symptoms too. Reluctance to urinate, difficulty going potty, excessive licking and biting of the nether regions, redness and swelling are all common comorbid symptoms.
Take your dog to the vet if you suspect that her humping is due to a health issue. Most related health conditions are easily treated and, once they’re gone, the humping should subside.