Social Question

thorninmud's avatar

What's the best way to handle this awkward human/dog situation?

Asked by thorninmud (20495points) June 6th, 2014

My dog and I are regulars at our local dog park. Pretty often, one of the dogs will try to hump one of the others. This park requires a pass, and one of the requirements to get the pass is that the dog be spayed or neutered, so the humping is more a social exercise than a sexual one.

This elicits a whole range of reactions from the owners. Few seem to really not care; some are mortified, some make nervous jokes, some turn away and pretend not to notice. More often than not though, someone will try to stop it just to make the awkwardness go away.

Everything I’ve read says that humping is just a normal part of canine social interaction. Sometimes it communicates dominance, but submissive dogs will also hump. Sometimes it’s a way to stir up a play tussle. One behaviorist says that it’s a way of venting overflow excitement. All agree that it’s nothing that calls for human intervention. Getting scolded for this just confuses them.

The problem is on the human side. We have such strict social codes about acceptable human sexual behaviors that seeing this unfurls all our red flags. People in the park situation also feel like their dog kind of represents them, so its behavior somehow reflects on them. That all adds to the awkwardness.

My dog isn’t one of the obsessive humpers, but he’ll occasionally get that look, and I’ll send out a silent prayer, “Please, no” because I dread the awkward situation. What I really wish is that the humans in the bunch could just get over it and let the dogs be dogs in the dog park. The dogs that hate being humped usually make that known pretty clearly, and it all gets sorted out. But it’s way messier on the human side, and we’re not nearly as good at sorting it out.

How would you be inclined to navigate this situation?

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29 Answers

hearkat's avatar

I would probably just chuckle and say, “Dogs will be dogs,” and let those with hang-ups take ownership of their own neuroses.

ucme's avatar

I assume the dogs are off the leash in this park, otherwise the humpathon would be easily avoided.
This is one of those scenarios where humans muddy the waters, let the pooches be.

thorninmud's avatar

Yep, off leash.

gailcalled's avatar

Wear a large sign around your neck that reads, “I’m just the walker. Don’t blame me.”

GloPro's avatar

I don’t want some huge dog humping my puppy’s head. I’d stop it. Once he’s older he’s on his own to defend himself. I also would not permit him to obsessively try to dominate other dogs. The occasional mount, well, I wouldn’t do much if the other owner didn’t care.

longgone's avatar

I stop the dogs humping mine, as well as my own dog humping, if the “humpee” seems overwhelmed.

Sure, dogs defend themselves, but I’d rather have a dog who knows I’ll solve any real trouble. No teeth involved. We’re a pack, it is very understansable for dogs to have their humans jump in.

My lab tries to establish eye contact with me when she’s annoyed by other animals, and I consider it my job to help her. She will still defend herself when I’m farther away, but really only does so as a last resort. Because of that, she gets along with almost all other dogs, which is very convenient when living in the city.

Coloma's avatar

Haha… social blunders, I see a Gary Larsen cartoon in this.
I’d just make sure I was monitoring my own dog, correcting any potential overly assertive behaviors and secretly laugh to myself about all the uptight humpaphobics.
From she who has had monster horse penises dangling in her face and people behaving all weird when your horse drops his junk. lol

syz's avatar

A good number of dogs don’t react well to being humped and may snap or bite, so I always try to redirect their attention with a toy or game.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The dogs should be PUT IN JAIL for public obscenity! Not.

Coloma's avatar

I wouldn’t react well either if a stranger tried to hump me. lol

CWMcCall's avatar

I would not allow my dog to be party to this kind of behavior. Normal or not this is a dog park not a dog brothel. They are there to socialize and play not procreate. What other people’s dogs do is their business. Our park is 20 acres so there is plenty of room to be around the dogs that play nice.

Seek's avatar

They’re not going to accomplish any procreating anyway, as they are all spayed or neutered.

Dutchess_III's avatar

They are dogs being dogs. People are putting their own silly morals on the dog’s behavior. As far as the dogs are concerned they ARE playing “nice.” Just because it’s not the human ideal of being “nice,” doesn’t mean it’s bad.

ninjacolin's avatar

Are there any canine STDs to worry about?
I’m with you on this one, I think I would want to be able to just let it happen while silently cringing of embarrassment.

Coloma's avatar

Maybe these dog parks should have the “Pervy Puppy” enclosure where the frisky dogs can hump away while the others play. lol

longgone's avatar

@Dutchess_III Humping is not part of play, usually. It is a way to assert status, and dogs don’t consider it to be “playing nice”. Look at the body language and face of a dog that is being humped. Most of them are extremely uncomfortable. In my opinion (and that of numerous animal behaviorists), it should be discouraged. You’re right, of course, in that the people at the dog park are discouraging it for the wrong reasons. Human shame is no reason to yell at a dog.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Got it. Thanks.

Brian1946's avatar

There should be an ordinance that all the poochies must wear spiked panties!

Coloma's avatar

Muzzles and chastity belts methinks. lol

downtide's avatar

What @syz and @longgone say. My dog hated being humped and would snap at any dog who tried it so I would make sure she wasn’t involved. I wouldn’t let her hump other dogs either (though being female she very rarely tried). They aren’t doing it for play or friskiness, it’s a domination behaviour and not a friendly one.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, with all of that in mind….I’d say scold. Try to train it out of them. It may confuse them, but I imagine all of the other behaviors we train them to display confuse them too. I mean, it ALL goes against their nature.

GloPro's avatar

That’s a great idea for neutered dogs. What about intact dogs that you intend to stud? You don’t want to discourage mating as a whole…

longgone's avatar

I wouldn’t scold humping dogs, for what it’s worse. I’d divert them, or simply take them somewhere else without comment.

To dogs, status-seeking humping and the “real” kind are distinctly different, so I wouldn’t worry too much. Two different statements, you see.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@GloPro In this instance, dogs aren’t allowed in the park unless they’re spayed or neutered.

@longgone I wouldn’t train them out of it for my sake. I’d do it for those sillies around me who feel offended.

OpryLeigh's avatar

Because I work with dogs and humans in a training and behaviour situation all day, every day, I am fairly relaxed about this. My (female) dog is a humper but I know the reasons why it happens so I can laugh it off without feeling embarrassed and I can usually predict when it’s about to happen so I just try to distract her where possible before she starts. A squeaky toy usually works. This tends to happen a lot when dogs get over excited in play or a greeting but it can be stressful for the dog receiving (and the dog humping). It’s also a displacement behaviour, a way of coping in an uncertain situation, it can become a habit if allowed. If your dog gets to this point then they may need a bit of quiet time to calm down so it may be worth popping coming away from the park at that point and maybe lead walking (I don’t recommend lead walking in the park if the majority of the other dogs are off lead) for the rest of that exercise session. Try not jump to the conclusion that your dog is ‘asserting his dominance’ when he/she does this.

longgone's avatar

@Dutchess_III I’d be too rebellious for that, I think.

longgone's avatar

Thanks, @Leanne1986 for adding what was missing in my posts…: Excited dogs often hump without meaning anything by it.

Some professionals also say that mounting can be attention-seeking behaviour, by the way.

Two more reasons why diversion is a good idea, but scolding is not – you wouldn’t want to yell at your dog just because he had the audacity to get excited.

downtide's avatar

@Leanne1986 ”(I don’t recommend lead walking in the park if the majority of the other dogs are off lead) oh boy, I saw this a lot at my local dog park. Keeping your dog on a leash whilst the others are loose is a recipe for disaster. It’s like a big red “Bully me” target to the loose dogs, and the one on a leash can’t defend itself effectively.

If you can’t trust your dog off-leash in this sort of situation don’t take the dog to a dog park.

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