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Why Do Female Dogs Hump?

female dog humping
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Though dog mounting situations can be embarrassing for any pet parent, veterinarians say it’s a common canine behavior. This also extends to female dogs, who are not averse to humping things, people, and even other dogs. 

Why do female dogs hump, though? Here we outline what to know about this behavior, then follow up with expert-vetted tips on how pet parents can work to correct it. 

Though dog humping is considered normal, there are times when it can signal that something is amiss. It’s why we recommend contacting your veterinarian if you suspect something’s off or if the humping starts suddenly.

Do Girl Dogs Hump?

Dog humping isn’t a behavior reserved just for males. “While it is less commonly seen, female dogs may also hump,” says Dr. Mary R. Burch, director of AKC Family Dog. And though it’s more common in younger, unspayed dogs, “Female dogs may hump both before and after being spayed,” says Dr. Burch, who is a certified applied animal behaviorist.

While any dog can exhibit this behavior, studies show a strong link between smaller breeds and compulsive behaviors, including dog mounting.

Researchers shed some light on why this may be. For one, smaller dogs are usually more reactive and excitable than larger ones, and they tend to be products of overprotective pet parents. It can also be that we perceive similar behaviors differently depending on the dog’s size. “It may be more tolerated in smaller dogs because it is less disruptive,” says Dr. Valli Parthasarathy, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist with Synergy Behavior Solutions in Portland, Oregon.

Why Do Female Dogs Hump?

There isn’t one specific reason. A female dog who mounts another dog may be frustrated, emotionally aroused, engaging in play, trying to establish status, or even seeking attention,  says Dr. Parthasarathy. “They can hump other people or inanimate objects such as pillows for similar reasons, except for social standing.”

How Sex Hormones Play a Role in Female Dog Humping

Though it may seem surprising, female dog humping is not usually sexual in nature, veterinarians say. One classic study examining the link between hormones and behavior found that estrogen levels (the hormone vital to sex and reproduction) didn’t impact whether a female dog mounted another dog, says Dr. Parthasarathy. “However, female dogs would mount other female dogs who were actively in heat more frequently than when not in heat.”

Anxiety and Emotional Arousal

Anxiety is a top cause of female dog humping, veterinarians say. In one study looking at undesirable canine behavior, 65 percent of the dogs classified as anxious had a tendency to hump people. One view is that it’s a way to release energy caused by anxiety or excitement.

Play and Social Interaction

Mounting can be a way for dogs (including puppies) to play and socialize with each other. For dogs, play is an important way to display camaraderie and build relationships.

For Pleasure

Sometimes the answer to why do female dogs hump? is straightforward: Because it feels good. It can also be soothing. A female dog who humps an object before settling in for sleep is akin to thumb sucking in a human child.  

Dominance Theory

Dog mounting can be a way to establish dominance with other dogs. Of course, if a dog is humping an object – whether it’s the furniture or a favorite toy – the dominance theory doesn’t apply.

Compulsive Behaviors

A dog with a malady like canine compulsive disorder may engage in excessive and repetitive behaviors. Though compulsive disorders are not a common reason for female dog humping, it should still be evaluated by a veterinarian.

Inadequate Physical or Mental Stimulation

Though it’s not a common cause, a lack of mental stimulation or exercise can contribute to some dog humping behavior, says Dr. Parthasarathy. “But often humping has other root causes other than this.” In these cases, “Mental enrichment can help provide dogs a healthy outlet if lack of stimulation is playing a role.”

Medical Issues

What looks like dog mounting may actually be a way for a pup to relieve the pain or discomfort associated with a medical condition. Medical issues that may lead to dog humping include skin allergies caused by a flea infestation, vaginitis, or a urinary tract infection.

Sudden Humping: What Does It Mean?

While dog humping is considered normal, it can sometimes be a sign of something more serious, especially when it starts suddenly. When this happens, it’s recommended that you contact your veterinarian, as it usually indicates a medical condition.

Why Does My Female Dog Hump All of a Sudden?

“While humping can be from stress, excitement, or dominance, it can also be the sign of a medical condition such as an allergy, an infection, or a skin irritation if the dog is not fully housetrained (think of diaper rash),” says Dr. Burch.

New stressors or anything that increases pain or discomfort can increase anxiety, and thus lead to sudden humping, says Dr. Parthasarathy. Additionally, “If a particular dog is being mounted, that dog should be checked as well for any health changes.”

How to Stop a Female Dog From Humping

Woman exercising with dog

A humping dog who has received a clean bill of health from the veterinarian may benefit from behavior training. “Training and redirection are good ways to stop humping,” says Dr. Burch. In the study where 65 percent of anxious dogs exhibited mounting behavior, 72.3 percent improved after receiving such training.

First, determine what precedes the dog humping behavior, says Dr. Parthasarathy. “Who is present and when is it happening?” Then, if possible, work to avoid or prevent those situations. “This may mean taking a break from dog parks, reducing situations that trigger emotional arousal, or removing favored items that are being humped.”

Behavior therapy can also encourage dogs to practice behaviors aside from humping in these situations, Dr. Parthasarathy says. “If humping does occur, then calmly redirect the dog to do a different activity. Avoid scolding or punishing the dog for humping.”

If the dog is humping for attention, playing a backyard game where the dog has to retrieve a ball may help, says Dr. Burch. “Chasing and retrieving a ball are incompatible with humping.”

If you need help applying these techniques, ask your veterinarian for guidance. Or consider working with a certified dog behaviorist or certified dog trainer.