Original Question: My daughter has a neutered brother of Guinness. When they play they constantly take turns humping each other. This seemed to start after neutering, which was around six months for Guinness and eight for his brother. They spend hours together several times a week. We can control it in the house but outside it is constant. They don’t get together with other dogs so that is not a problem. My wife is thinking of getting a training collar. What are your suggestions? Thanks for your help in advance. - David
Many of us think of humping as a completely sexual activity, but actually that’s not always the case and certainly in a neutered dog, the hormone levels and sexual drive is going to be very low or non-existent. Humping can be carried out in a number of different situations. For example, as a dominance activity or displacement activity where the dog humps when it’s feeling a certain emotion and the typical ones here would be stress, anxiety or excitement. Perhaps excitement is the more likely one in your case as well as it being a play behavior. Humping can also be a learned behavior. For example, did you start off finding it funny and making a fuss of it so they’ve now both learnt that actually they don’t mind it and if they repeat it, it then gets your attention. Not necessarily in your case, but if you’ve got an older dog who is castrated, then because they’ve been humping things over some time or if they’ve been sexually active it could have become a learned behavior and therefore removing the hormones doesn’t stop it or doesn’t stop it completely.
So there are a number of things that we can do here. Now the first is to try and remove yourself from the scene or ignore them because if they’ve learned that they get your attention and you give it to them, then it’s just going to perpetuate the problem. You can try and distract them from each other so that the introduction is more low key and try and make sure that they’re tired out before seeing each other. If it’s only happening outside, maybe try letting one dog out at a time. So it’s a bit harder if they’re not being supervised and they’ve got access through a dog flap or something like that. Now you could also start training your dog to come when called and then when they’re exhibiting the behavior that you don’t want, so in this case the humping, you can call them away to stop that from developing. And then another option is to put the dogs in time out as soon as they start humping and the thought here is that they’ll learn that actually that humping behavior causes all the fun to stop and it’s not something that they should continue.
Now the final part of your question was the training collar and by this, I presume you mean an electric collar or a shock collar. Training collars are very easy to use incorrectly and the results of this can mean that it either ends up reinforcing the behavior or it leaves a dog just really stressed and scared without having a clue why it’s being punished. They’re really not something that I would recommend at all. If you’re not getting anywhere with some of these other suggestions then the best thing to do is going to be to enlist some professional help such as with a dog trainer or a behaviorist to get this problem behavior resolved.
I hope this helps.
Dr. Alex Avery, BVSc