I was at the dog park today during a time when it was hopping! (Literally, as there were some dogs so happy to play that they were hopping around!)
One reason I love going to the dog park, aside from the satisfaction of getting to see Leopold and Halo be so utterly free and happy, is that I get to talk to other owners. Dogs really do bring all sorts of people together, which I love. Today on two separate accounts I witnessed owners remark on the significance humping—both owners commenting on the sexuality involved in the act. One was saying that she had her dog neutered recently so she figured he’d stop humping, and the other owner assumed it was a male hormone-related behavior.
Humping is actually a dominance-related behavior (unless, of course, there is actually mating going on…). But under normal circumstance, the humping behavior is just one dog telling another that they’re “top dog”. Even females partake in this declaration of doggy hierarchy. Halo has humped Leopold on more than one occasion to assert her dominance. Because this sort of humping has nothing to do with procreation, spaying and neutering isn’t going to stop the behavior. Leopold was neutered before he was even ten weeks old; and he humped at least four dogs today at the dog park.
Though, I should say he tried, as I shooed him off all the dogs he was attempting to assert his dominance over… I, personally, don’t like my dogs to partake in that behavior for a couple reasons. The first being that it’s a little embarrassing because, come on, my dog is humping someone else’s dog…. And some owners don’t understand what the behavior really means and instead think my dog is being inappropriate. The other reason is that some dogs REALLY don’t like being humped and get very angry at any dog that tries. From what I’ve seen, it seems like humping is a very insistent assertion of dominance, and some dogs really don’t respond well to that. Leopold has made a couple of dogs angry this way, which is never good.
Interestingly, asserting dominance by humping isn’t just a canine behavior. Rabbits also partake in the activity. I was once bunny-sitting for some friends and witnessed it first hand. The smaller, female rabbit asserted her dominance over the much larger male by humping his head. Ha! It was quite funny to watch because the female was so much smaller.
Whether you want to shoo your dog off of others is up to you, but it’s good to know the motivation behind the humping behavior—as some dog fights can start when one dog over-steps its bounds when trying to assert its dominance over another.