Doggie humping is awkward no matter what your dog's age is. It's often especially surprising when a dog is still a little puppy -- seemingly too young to have those types of urges! However, mounting behaviors are quite common in pups, whether due to playtime or newly emerging hormonal feelings.
Humping behavior is not unusual in young puppies, whether it's with your leg, a furry sibling, a piece of living room furniture or even a broom in your closet. This mounting may be a type of precursor to sexuality in canines, indicates the ASPCA. After all, dogs usually reach reproductive maturity very quickly, oftentimes well before a year old. By humping on things and individuals, a puppy may be training himself for what is yet to come. Once a puppy is physically capable of reproducing -- think around 6 months old -- the humping behavior usually becomes much more "real." Puppies are often ready to mate at that point, unless they are already fixed.
Playtime Fun and Games
In a puppy -- or adult dog for that matter -- humping can actually just be a bit of harmless play. Pushing and humping are both relatively common ways in which dogs play. Puppies who haven't spent a lot of time interacting with their littermates or peers may engage in an inordinate amount of humping during play, however -- perhaps as a result of simply feeling overwhelmed.
Big Time Nerves
A puppy may also mount on random objects and people as a way of dealing with anxiety, apprehension and stress. If you just brought a new pup home from an animal rescue organization and the newbie begins humping a table leg, he may just be trying to cope with the daunting uncertainty and unfamiliarity of the brand new setting. A first-time ride in the car may also evoke this nervous humping behavior.
Humping also can be a style of canine "displacement behavior," according to veterinarian Laurie Bergman in her "Clinician’s Brief" article. This behavior describes a doggie action that arises from a blend of confusing emotions. If a puppy feels simultaneously happy and bewildered, he may start humping on things as a way of letting go of the pressure. Perhaps you're throwing a big party and the presence of guests has your little cutie just a little too excited. He doesn't know whether to fear all of the strangers or go up to play with them, therefore the humping begins!
Expression of Dominance and Higher Status
If a puppy humps another pup, it may be his way of showing his dominance -- he feels socially superior and he wants the other party to be fully aware of it. No room for confusion there.
By Naomi Millburn
Toledo Area Humane Society: Canine Rivalry
The Merck Veterinary Manual: Social Behavior
The Merck Veterinary Manual: Behavioral Problems of Dogs
NAVC Clinician’s Brief: Canine Mounting - An Overview
ASPCA: Mounting and Masturbation
Tri-County Humane Society: Getting Over the Hump
ASPCA: How Will Neutering Change My Dog?
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.