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We’ve all been there before. You go over to a friend’s house. You love dogs, so naturally, you start to play with your friend’s pup. Eventually, their pup ends up getting excited and they might even mount your leg and start humping you! What’s going on here?!
Dogs are capable of sexual attraction, however, they’re not sexually attracted to humans. Sexual attraction works differently for humans compared to other animals, including dogs. Humans are reproductively isolated from dogs and are too different genetically. Humans also don’t have the same hormones and pheromones that dogs do and don’t display the same mating behaviors.
You’re also not alone with these questions and advising veterinarian Dr. Joe Menicucci says “We get questions about mounting dogs and sexual attraction in the clinic several times a year- especially when it comes to new puppies”.
In this article, we’ll do a deep dive into both human and dog sexuality. We’ll explain why these two species don’t mesh sexually. We’ll also talk about what else could motivate a dog to hump a person or sniff their private parts besides sexual attraction.
So, Can Dogs Get Turned On By Humans?
Even though we consider them our “fur babies” and parts of our families, dogs are still animals.
Animal sexual attraction is motivated by courtship behaviors and by a variety of chemicals and pheromones. In theory, if a human were to display the courtship rituals of a female dog, a male dog might start to be interested.
However, the interest usually wouldn’t go far unless it was accompanied by some other motivating factor. To arouse a male dog, a female dog will usually put their tail to the side and back up towards the male. When a female does this, she’s usually in heat and her vulva is bright red and swollen.
This makes it pretty hard for a male dog to ignore. But, it also would make it hard for a human to emulate the same thing. Plus, dogs have great senses of smell and can tell the difference between dog and human hormones.
Reasons Why Dogs Aren’t Actually Aroused By Humans
Now, let’s discuss some of the biological reasons why dogs aren’t sexually attracted to humans, even if they do show clear preferences for some people over others, and while you might be thinking, “then why does my dog hump people’s legs,” we’ll answer that question below.
For now, we’ll talk about genetics, sexual attraction, and reproductive isolation.
Reason 1: For Dogs, Attraction Works Differently
Sexual attraction for dogs just doesn’t work in the same way as it does for people. Actually, dog attraction isn’t that complicated. It’s not dictated by species or appearance. Species as different as Chihuahuas and Great Danes might even attempt to breed. That’s why there are so many individuals of mixed breeds. Dogs also don’t take any social or emotional cues into sexual attraction.
For dogs, attraction usually revolves around estrus and heat. Estrus can occur as early as 6 months of age for female dogs. At the beginning of estrus, the female dog experiences a rush of estrogen and enters a stage of readiness for mating.
Usually, during this time the vulva will swell and blood will seep from the dog’s vagina. After a few days, the female dog will allow the male dog to mount her and have sex. Not A Bully’s advising veterinarian, Dr. Nita Patel told us that “Heat cycles typically happen every 6 – 8 months and last anywhere from 1-2 weeks at a time.”
Adult male dogs are always ready to mate but their attraction heightens when a female is in estrus. These cues from the female attract the male and eventually, they’ll mate.
It’s truly not possible for a human to give off all of the same cues that a dog would in order to attract a male dog.
Reason 2: The Genetics Don’t Line Up
Genetics play a big part in sexual attraction and mating. Some species can cross-breed and produce infertile individuals. These animals are called genetic hybrids and occur rarely in nature.
Probably the most popular of these genetic hybrids might be the liger. A liger is a combination of a tiger and a lion. These two species are related genetically, closely enough that they’ll not only be sexually attracted to one another but will also breed and produce sterile offspring. However, Dr. Menicucci notes that “these hybrids are generally the result of human intervention rather than natural occurrences” so even when it’s possible it’s still rare for genetically different species to mate.
So, why does this matter?
Humans and dogs are so different genetically that no chance of mating or offspring occurs. It would be unnatural for a dog to be attracted to a human because biologically, there’s no point.
Genetics might not directly affect sexual attraction, but they play a big role in reproduction, and dogs only mate for reproduction purposes, not for pleasure.
Reason 3: Reproductive Isolation Creates A Divide
Reproductive isolation is an evolutionary term that describes how and why two species might not be sexually attracted to or compatible with one another. Because of reproductive isolation, two species that look the same won’t pursue things with each other.
So, what causes reproductive isolation?
Sometimes physical barriers can cause species to become reproductively isolated from each other. A river or island might keep species from interacting. Other times, differences in mating behaviors and rituals might create a divide. Animals might see others as weird or strange for their courtship practices.
Lastly, reproductive isolation can cause differences in pelvic bone structure and size that make it impossible for certain species to mate.
Humans and dogs are certainly isolated reproductively from one another. They not only have very different mating behaviors but also have completely different sizes and shapes of sexual organs. So, dogs won’t usually be sexually attracted to something that they’re isolated reproductively from.
Humping Has Nothing To Do With Attraction Toward You
Wow, we’ve covered a lot about dog sexuality! But even so, it doesn’t explain why dogs hump people and even objects. Is it sexual attraction or not?
Overstimulation often leads to hyper-arousal which can translate to aggression, fear, or sexual behaviors. You may even notice your dog aggressively hump you, regardless of their gender.
I find that overstimulation is a seriously underrated issue for many dogs. Overstimulation happens when there is too much for a dog to process. That might mean too much noise, too many dogs or people, or just too many novel things in their environment.
Overstimulation can happen in different situations. Some of the most extreme overstimulation I’ve seen is in a shelter situation, however, having any number of dogs in a small vicinity can cause them to act out in ways they normally wouldn’t, and that also includes dog parks.
Overstimulation can also happen in a familiar environment during play or when new people or dogs come over. The experience could be stressful or very exciting. If your dog humps or mounts people or dogs when they come over, they might just be having a hard time processing everything and might turn to this basic sexual behavior, but it doesn’t mean they are attracted to humans.
Dr. Nita Patel explained to us “humping and mounting could also be a displacement behavior or a cry for attention, as your dog knows they will be attended to if they do this behavior.” Dr. Menicucci adds that “mounting can also be a display of dominance, play, stress relief, or excitement and is far from being exclusively related to sexual behavior.”
In other words, there are a lot of possible explanations which is what can make this behavior so confusing and context is critical. If you’re still struggling to figure out your pups mounting behavior, you’re always welcome to ask one of our professional dog trainers for free.
Sexual Frustration In Dogs
While dogs don’t hump humans because they are sexually attracted to them, they can experience sexual frustration which can be a real issue for intact male and female dogs. If your dog is not neutered or spayed, expect to see a lot more influence from their hormones.
Male dogs that aren’t neutered have higher levels of testosterone which can lead to unwanted behaviors like aggression and humping.
Unneutered males might even have trouble coexisting with other unneutered males in the same household. Sexual frustration for an intact male won’t make them feel attraction toward humans but it can cause them to hump not only you but even inanimate objects like beds or pillows.
Intact female dogs can also become sexually excited during estrus. These hormones can cause female dogs to hump things. So, it’s not unheard of for your female dog to hump you, your arm, or other objects.
Although these feelings of sexual frustration or excitement might cause your dog to hump you, it still doesn’t mean that they’re sexually attracted to you. They’re really just looking for an outlet.
But Isn’t It Sexual When Dogs Sniff Your Crotch?
Are there other situations when you question your dog’s sexual urges? Maybe they like to sniff crotches? That can leave you feeling embarrassed and even a little violated.
Luckily, this crotch-sniffing behavior doesn’t have anything to do with sex. Dog noses are super sensitive and it’s natural for them to want to sniff around.
When dogs see other dogs, they often sniff each other butts. Some dogs want to do the same thing to their human owners or friends. Dogs might even sniff you more when you’re on your period because things just smell different!
Dr. Menicucci drives the point home when he explains that “Dogs use their sense of smell to gather information about their environment and other beings, including humans. This behavior is driven by curiosity and the dog’s olfactory system rather than sexual attraction.”
How Do You Get Your Dog To Stop Humping You Or Other People?
To an extent, it might be natural to see your dog mount and hump people and objects, or just you. Whether it’s natural or not, you probably don’t want your dog humping you. Even though there’s nothing sexual going on, it’s still uncomfortable and can feel weird.
We’ll share some tips below but if you’re still having trouble, feel free to ask one of our trainers or leave a comment below.
Neuter and Spay
Dr. Menicucci explains that “Spaying and neutering can reduce certain behaviors influenced by sex hormones, including some instances of mounting.” That means you should start here if your dog hasn’t been spayed or neutered. Besides potentially reducing humping behavior you’ll also be helping manage the population.
Don’t Reward the Behavior
The first thing you’ll want to try when your dog mounts you is to either turn around or sit down. Get into a position that makes it more difficult for them to mount you. You can even try pushing them off, although that might heighten their motivation.
If that doesn’t do it for your dog, you can try putting them in a time-out to calm down. Use a quiet room or a crate to let them chill out. When they come back out, they shouldn’t go straight back to humping.
Make Sure Your Dog Gets Enough Mental Stimulation and Exercise
In some cases, exercise and mental stimulation can help mitigate overstimulation and stress-related behaviors that may be causing mounting.
What About Male Dogs and Female Humans?
Male dogs aren’t attracted to female humans or any gender for that matter. Male dogs are attracted to other dogs of their own species, during estrus or times of sexual excitement.
That being said, male dogs can exhibit certain behaviors that can be misread as a sign of sexual attraction towards female humans, like mounting or humping.
This could be particularly noticeable in their reaction to specific scents, such as those related to human hormonal changes. Dogs possess an extraordinarily sensitive sense of smell so they may show interest in the unique scents associated with female humans, like those present during menstrual cycles. However, this interest is driven more by curiosity about unfamiliar scents rather than sexual attraction.
Do Female Dogs Get Attracted To Male Humans?
In the case of female dogs, behaviors such as following, licking, or nuzzling male humans could be misinterpreted as signs of sexual attraction. However, these actions are typically expressions of affection, comfort-seeking, or social bonding and they are in no way sexual in nature.
Some might observe that female dogs exhibit certain behaviors towards male humans during their heat cycle, which could be misinterpreted as sexual attraction. These behaviors, however, are more reflective of the dog’s heightened state of arousal and social interaction during this period, rather than an attraction to male humans.
In essence, a female dog being sexually attracted to a male human is unlikely, given the vast differences in the biological and psychological makeup of dogs and humans. Interactions that might seem indicative of such attraction are, in reality, expressions of the female dog’s social and instinctive behaviors.
There are a few reasons why sexual attraction doesn’t transfer between dogs and humans. Sexual attraction overall doesn’t work the same for humans as it does for dogs. Reproductive isolation is an evolutionary process that makes it unlikely that a human and a dog would couple. Plus, the genetics just don’t add up.
So while it might look sexual to us, like a lot of canine behavior, things aren’t so simple.