Our Katie is a five-year-old Lab mix. She’s always been obedient and will lick you to death if you let her. Now suddenly, when little kids come over, she gets super excited and starts humping them. Why now, after all this time, is she doing this? I thought only male dogs hump. Any ideas on why she does this and how to stop her?
— Anthony Meule, Valley Stream, New York
The truth is, both male and female dogs hump, and for many reasons. If dogs aren’t fixed, it’s a behavior tied to mating. But if Katie is fixed then she could be humping because it simply feels good, she’s super excited or stressed, or has a health problem, like a urinary infection.
If there’s no health problem, then the clues point to the excitement (or stress, depending on how she’s interpreting her encounter with the kids). There is no general harm in the behavior, but most people don’t want a dog humping their legs, which can become a compulsive behavior for a dog if allowed to continue. You can curb this behavior through distraction and training.
If possible, give Katie a quick walk before the kids come over. This reduces pent-up energy. Then, distract her when the kids come over. Get her attention by shaking a can of coins or clapping your hands and telling her to “leave it” when she tries to hump anyone. Show her a toy or high value treat – something yummy she doesn’t normally get, like a chew treat or a piece of hot dog. She should come over to you for the treat, which will help distract her during the initial excitement around the kids’ arrival. If she acts too wild, put her on a leash for these encounters until you get her trained.
If the kids are super-excited when they first arrive, it’s okay to ask them to be a little quieter until Katie has time to adjust and settle down.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.