Dear Doctor – Getting over the hump

Letter to Tufts Veterinarians


Q I have a dog rescued from a neglectful situation — a Papillion about nine years old, the vet thinks. We have been together for three months, and he is coming along nicely. But he likes to hump when he plays with our neighbor’s dog. If he liked to engage in other play behaviors as well, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, but that’s the only activity he will engage in. We try and quietly redirect his energy, to no avail. Any ideas? We realize that when hormones are involved, it’s hard.
Suz Brooks

Bethel, Connecticut

Dear Ms. Brooks,
A You do not say whether your dog has been neutered, which sometimes cuts down on the problem considerably because once castrated, a male dog’s testosterone level falls to zero.

We say “sometimes” because neutering will not completely eliminate humping in most dogs, and in a third of them, it won’t help diminish the behavior at all. That’s because a neutered dog is not an “it.” He remains a “he.” Masculinization occurs in utero due to small bursts of testosterone from fetal testes. In addition, humping is often a dominance behavior rather than a sexual behavior. In those cases where humping still occurs, you need to train your dog by saying “Off” or “Stop it,” rewarding him with a delectable treat when he complies. In a nine-year-old it’s going to take longer than it would with a puppy, but you can still make it happen over time. Perhaps working to keep the two dogs engaged in some kind of play — throwing a ball for them to compete over or filling a couple of Kongs with a bit of peanut butter for them to wrestle over — will help, too. Try walking them outside together on leash, too — anything to give their being together a new context.


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