Whether you are at home alone or at a busy dog park, a humping dog can be uncomfortable and embarrassing for you as an owner, especially if your dog starts humping your arm.
Humping is an instinctual behavior in dogs, and if they start to learn that it can get them attention it can easily become a habit. As puppy’s hormones are changing and they might start displaying this natural behavior, and you might even notice humping as a response to different stimuli in their environment.
But why does your dog hump your arm specifically?
The main reason dogs hump people’s arms is pent-up energy. Pent-up energy in dogs can be triggered by stress, boredom, over-stimulation, excitement, or even sexual frustration. Humping is a natural dog behavior and it can usually be easily discouraged through management and redirecting.
Humping is a natural reaction to all sorts of different kinds of stimuli and some dogs are more prone to it than others. Before coming up with the best plan to redirect and change the behavior, let’s first figure out what is triggering your dog to hump your arm but reviewing the most common reasons.
Reason 1: Your Dog Is Stressed
Humping is often a stress reliever for dogs, therefore if your dog is incessantly humping your arm it could be a sign of stress and anxiety. Your dog could have developed separation anxiety if they show any of these other symptoms:
- Pacing and whining
- Non-stop barking
- Accidents in the house
If you noticed any of these behaviors and your dog humps your arm when you get home, it is unlikely that your dog is aroused or asserting dominance, they are more likely releasing pent-up stress from being alone and anxious all day.
If you are concerned that your dog humping your arm is a symptom of separation anxiety, a certified trainer can help you create a training protocol to alleviate their anxiety. For severe cases, a veterinarian might recommend anti-anxiety medication.
Reason 2: Your Dog Is Bored
Some bored dogs might try to play with you, others might suddenly be getting into the trash, and some might try to hump your arm. Humping is a natural behavior for dogs and if they are bored, they might resort to trying to hump your arm as an outlet for the boredom.
Especially if it gets you to pay attention to them, or even better, do something fun like a walk or training session with them. Even dogs that sleep a lot need some sort of mental stimulation and depending on your dog, they might need a short walk in a new park to add mental stimulation to their routine
However, if you have a high-energy dog like a husky you might need to add even more exercise and structured training games. A bored dog might start acting out by humping your arm to try to get your attention and release some of that pent-up energy from boredom.
Reason 3: Your Dog Is Overstimulated
Since humping is a basic instinct for dogs, you might find it is a behavior they resort to when they are overly tired or overstimulated.
If you have ever attended a dog daycare, gone to a puppy class, or brought your dog to a dog park, you have probably witnessed a tired dog or puppy who has been playing too hard start to hump other dogs or their owner’s arm.
This is usually not a behavior that stems from dominance or aggression but from your dog being tired, wanting to keep playing, and has not learned how to relax. Like an angry toddler who refuses to take a nap so they do not miss the fun, a dog who humps when they are playing is probably over-stimulated and does not have the skills to self-regulate their behavior.
Since this problem is especially prevalent with puppies, you should start training impulse control and relaxation with your puppy as soon as you bring them home so they can learn how to self-regulate their behavior as they mature.
Reason 4: Your Dog Is Excited
Just like zoomies, a dog might suddenly start humping you from a burst of energy or a sudden feeling of excitement. Sometimes you might even witness your dog humping blankets or attempting to hump your arm while having the zoomies. This labrador has excited zoomies, and it could easily turn into excited humping.
A dog that is prone to humping will often include this behavior in their zoomies as well. Whether they have just eaten, are happy to see you, or have pent-up energy, your dog might express their excitement by humping your arm.
Reason 5: Humping Is A Learned Behavior
What do you do when your dog humps your arm? Does your dog primarily hump your arm instead of anyone else? Do you push them off, get up and do a fun activity with them, feed them, or give them something to chew on so they leave you alone?
If this is your reaction when your dog humps your arm, there is a chance you might be unintentionally rewarding or encouraging this behavior. Now if your dog is bored, they have learned that if they hump your arm you will give them your attention.
Even if it is an unwanted behavior and you react negatively, negative attention is still attention. The best way to keep your dog from accidentally learning that humping your arm is a good way to get your attention is to prevent it. Keep them busy and exercised before they get the idea to hump your arm!
Reason 6: Your Dog Is Aroused
Female dogs go into heat, or an estrous cycle, about every 6 months. Her heat cycle will last almost two weeks and you must keep her separated from unaltered male dogs to prevent an unwanted litter. Male dogs are incredibly sensitive to hormones and if they smell a female in heat and cannot get to her, they can take out their sexual frustration by humping anything nearby like their bed or even your arm.
While neutering can help with the hormones that cause arousal in male dogs, it does not always prevent humping. My female border collie went through one heat cycle before I could spay her.
All of my boy dogs have been neutered since I adopted them, and while my male chihuahua-mix could have cared less my border collie was going into heat, I did have to separate her and my neutered male heeler-mix.
If there is a female in heat nearby, your dog may have redirected their arousal onto you and your arm if they cannot get to the female dog they smell. It is sexual arousal, but not for you, your dog is simply redirecting onto you.
While this is mostly an issue with unaltered male dogs, even neutered male dogs can be “turned on” by the scent of a female in season and redirect that sexual frustration onto your arm. It is important to keep your intact dogs, whether male or female, secure to prevent any unwanted litters.
If you have not spayed your female dog yet, watch this video for tips on what a heat cycle looks like and how to keep her safe and comfortable.
A Note On Dominance
Some people theorize that a dog humping your arm or other dogs is not only an instinctual behavior, but the dog trying to assert their dominance over you.
However, training and living with your best friend should be a partnership based on positive reinforcement and proper boundaries. Even a well-trained confident pooch might have triggers that cause them to hump your arm.
If your dog is humping your arm, you do not have to worry that they are trying to assert dominance over you. Dogs are probably redirecting their pent-up energy and have not learned to redirect it to more appropriate behavior.
Whether their behavior causing them to hump your arm is based on stress, excitement, sexual frustration, or over-stimulation; it is highly unlikely they are humping your arm to show dominance. It is more likely that humping your arm has become a learned behavior to cope with repressed energy.
How To Change the Behavior
If your dog is out of control humping your arm, humping when excited, after eating, or whenever they get stressed, you need to shape more appropriate responses to these triggers. Excessive humping, especially on you, can not only be uncomfortable but could also injure you or your dog.
Once you start to learn their triggers (stress, arousal, excitement, over-stimulation) that cause them to hump your arm, you can start training them to learn more appropriate behaviors. We’ll give you the basic steps to solve this problem but if you want to learn more about training in general you should check out our review of Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Top Dog Academy.
Redirect Their Behavior To A Toy
Redirection in the dog training world means you teach your dog to choose a more appropriate behavior over unwanted behavior. If your dog is humping your arm out of excitement, training them to go play with a dog toy is a much better release for their excitement.
If you notice your dog is over-excited with pent-up energy, distract them with a toy before they begin to hump your arm. You can condition them to:
- Play fetch
- Play tug
- Chew on an appropriate chew toy.
- Teach them to use interactive food toys
You can also redirect your dog to go to their mat if they get too stimulated. Mat training is a great game to work on with your dog. Kikopup has a great video to get you started on training your dog to go to their bed or mat.
For a dog that is humping your arm because of stress, you might want to consider crate training. A dog who is becoming destructive because of separation anxiety might need to be kept in a crate to keep your house safe and your dog from hurting themselves in an anxiety-fueled panic.
Many dogs learn to love their crates and to see them as a safe spot. If properly crate trained, dogs who might hump your arm because of stress might instead redirect themselves to go into their crate. If your dog is sleeping in their crate with the door open, you know they feel safe and secure and you have done an excellent job redirecting their stress behavior.
Many dogs, especially young high-energy breeds and puppies, have a hard time learning to turn off their brains and relax. This leads to over-stimulation, which can lead to humping your arm. Pushing your dog off and then ignoring them until they relax is a helpful way to train out the humping behavior, but some dogs need to be shown or conditioned to relax.
Start by calmly rewarding your dog when they are relaxing on their own; this is also known as “capturing” the behavior. When your young puppy or dog lies down without prompting from you, reward them with praise, petting, or treats. By positively reinforcing the behavior when they offer it, your dog will be conditioned to offer relaxation as a go-to behavior.
Spay and Neuter Your Dog
A neutered male dog can still feel sexual frustration if there is a female in heat nearby and express that pent-up energy by humping your arm. So while neutering is not always a solution to your dog humping, one study has shown that it can reduce the behavior by up to 70%. So if your dog is humping your arm because of arousal, neutering can certainly help reduce the effects of the hormones and ease their frustration.
However, even if your dog still might hump, only spaying and neutering your pets can truly prevent any unwanted litters.
Should I worry when my dog humps my arm?
If you have the right tools to help shape and redirect new behaviors to replace humping, you should not have to worry about your dog humping your arm.
However, if you think it is a symptom of severe separation anxiety or a medical issue, never hesitate to get help from professionals.
Humping is usually a behavioral issue but might be a symptom of a UTI. A UTI, or a urinary tract infection, can usually be easily diagnosed and treated with the help of a veterinarian. Humping and rubbing can help relieve the pain and discomfort that is caused by a UTI.
If you notice any other symptoms like straining to urinate, accidents in the house, or cloudy or bloody urine, it is time to take a urine sample to your veterinarian.
While it is embarrassing and uncomfortable for you as the owner, humping is a natural dog behavior. The best thing to do is to prevent the behavior before it happens. Once you figure out what triggers your dog to hump your arm, you can start redirecting them to better behaviors like playing with a toy, going to their crate, or learning to turn off their over-stimulated brain and relax instead.
Remember, our dogs do not understand embarrassment in the capacity that humans do! You have to actively shape their behavior so that your household and arm are hump-free.