Behavior - Mounting and Humping


Humping behavior in female German Shepherd Question: I have a female German Shepherd who will be 3 years in February 2000, and who recently started demonstrating some strange humping behavior . I didn't think female dogs exhibited this behavior at all, but as of late, she seems determined to hump my male cat who she actually raised and weened from 6 week of age. She was fixed 1 month prior to the cat's arrival. I should additionally note that I brought a new male puppy home approximately 10 weeks ago and I seem to notice the humping behavior afterwards. Should I be concerned about her behavior? What is this behavior telling me about my dog? Eva Answer: Eva- There are several possible explanations for this behavioral change. Mounting behaviors occur due to sexual hormone influences, dominance behavior, anxiety, and sometimes as a sort of obsessive/compulsive disorder. Spaying a female dog will sometimes result in an increase in testosterone influence, if they produce androgenic (testosterone-like) hormones at higher levels than most females and then the suppressing effect of estrogen is removed due to spaying. This can cause an increase in aggressive or dominance behaviors and that can mean that mounting (humping) behaviors will occur. It is possible to test for hormonal levels and to get an idea whether this is the problem, if that seems necessary at any point. Since there is are two new pets in the household, your dog may just be attempting to show dominance over it, not really recognizing that the cat probably has no clue what that sort of behavior means but that it is natural in the relationship with the new puppy. This sort of behavior will often settle down rapidly once the cat objects sufficiently and the puppy gives in and shows acceptance of a subordinate status. That isn't always the case, but there is at least some chance for it. Whether or not you should be concerned is hard to say. This is actually relatively normal behavior unless it does get so prevalent that you have to consider an obsessive/compulsive or anxiety based cause. In those cases, there are medications that can help, such as fluoxetine (Prozac Rx) or clomipramine (Clomicalm Rx). Most of the time medications are not the answer. It is OK to discourage this behavior, if it doesn't slow down, using distracting commands such as "sit", "here", "down", etc, or by using a head-halter type collar and stopping the behavior each time it starts by controlling your dog with the halter. Mike Richards, DVM 11/15/2000

Humping Behavior Question: Hello, I have 4-year old neutered male Boxer that has started some pretty disturbing behavior. He has started "humping" his toys. We buy used toys from garage sales (we wash them in hot water prior to giving them to the dogs) and recently we bought a big (about 2 feet tall) teddy bear. Jake loves it...too much. He chews on it and then will put it between his legs and hump it. He also does this if we try to take the bear away from him. Today he started humping his canine brother! I don't know how young/old he was when he was neutered since we adopted him when he was 3 yrs. Thanks for your help yet again, Kim PS I'm not sure if it matters, but Jake is currently taking metronidizole (500mgs once a day) and prednisone (10 mgs once a day) for inflammatory bowel disease. Answer: Kim- Although it isn't highly likely that this is a problem, are you certain that Jake was not cryptorchid (that his testicles were not retained in his abdomen)? If not, it might be worth testing to see what the testosterone levels are, or if that is unequivocal to do a human chorionic gonadotropin challenge test. There are some reports of hypothyroidism causing behavioral changes of this nature and corticosteroids (such as prednisone) do sometimes induce behavioral changes in dogs. It would be unusual for a dog this young to have hypothyroidism but it still might be worth checking for. If it is possible to stop the prednisone, it might help. Do not do this without consulting your vet on the advisability of doing it and also on the proper method of tapering the medication since it has been used on a daily basis up to this time. Using metronidazole with another immunosuppressive, such as azathioprine, might make it possible to stop the prednisone but that is definitely not a sure thing. If the testosterone levels are normal, hypothyroidism is not present and stopping prednisone is not helpful, then this would have to be treated as a behavioral problem. It would be really helpful to have the advice of a veterinary behaviorist in this case, because this can happen as a result of displaced aggression, dominance behavior, stress and probably other reasons. Sorting through these is easier with the help of an expert. I hope that this helps some. Mike Richards, DVM 9/15/2000 Humping behavior Q: DEar Dr. Mike, WE HAVE A PROBLEM WITH OUR 6 YEAR OLD NEUTERD MALE YELLOW LAB. IT SEEM THAT HE IS ALWAYS TRYING TO HUMP ON OUR KIDS, AND THEIR FRIEND IT GETS TO BE VERY EMBARRASING AND VERY SCARY TO SOME OF THE KIDS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD WHEN THEY COME IN THE YARD TO PLAY. HE ALSO DOES IT TO MY WIFE BUT HE DOES NOT TRY IT WITH ME.. LOOKING FOR SUGGESTIONS CONCERNING HOW TO BREAK HIM OF THIS HABIT.. HE JUST RECENTLY STARTED DOING THIS.. HELP PLEASE .... A: It would be a good idea to have your vet examine your Lab and rule out the possibility of a hormonal or other physical disorder, due to the age of onset of this problem. Many dogs do wait a while to try to establish dominance but six is a little old to just start this problem. The best approach, if physical causes are ruled out would be to consult with a veterinary behaviorist. This sounds like dominance behavior but it is particularly important to distinguish this from other possible behavior problems since the treatment approach is different. Please ask your vet to help you find a behaviorist in your area. Mike Richards, DVM Mounting Behavior Q: We have an 8 year old Samoyed (neutered) to go along with our 10 week Lab puppy. The Samoyed is constantly trying to go after (I don't mean biting, I mean sex) the puppy, even though the Samoyed is neutered. Do you have any ideas/suggestions/hints, etc... how we can curb this behavior??? I don't even feel like we can leave the two dogs alone cause our Samoyed is constantly trying to do this. Thanks for any help. Curt A: Curt- Mounting behaviors are both sexual and social behaviors in dogs. A dominant dog (or a dog attempting to show its dominance) will often mount the submissive dog. Your samoyed is probably trying to let the puppy know it is dominant. You may be able to ease the need to constantly express this behavior by reassuring your older dog of its dominant status. Feeding him first, petting him first, putting his leash on first when preparing for walks, letting him out the door first all help. In some instances it is necessary to ignore the younger dog when both dogs are present and keep the attention given to the puppy "private" so that he is not jealous. As the lab grows their relationship may change and the behavior change, as well. If these suggestions don't work you may need to talk to your vet about referral to a behaviorist unless your vet is comfortable working with behavioral problems. Mike Richards, DVM


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...