Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.
I’ll bet you’ve wondered why your dog humps your arm. I know I did, and I’m sure you have too.
I know it’s embarrassing—especially when your friends are around and you don’t know how to stop the behavior. But it’s not just about making the situation less awkward.
More importantly, we as dog owners need to understand why our dogs do certain things and if they are problematic.
So why does my dog hump my arm?
There are many reasons why your dog humps your arm, such as displaying their feelings of excitement or boredom, asserting dominance, being sexually aroused, and many more. Most are not reasons to be worried, but if not corrected, can lead to compulsive behavior.
In this post, you will learn all the different reasons why your dog might be humping your arm (or in fact anything else), when it is a problem, and what you can do to resolve this.
- 13 Reasons Why Your Dog is Humping Your Arm
- When Is Humping a Problem?
- Should I Let My Dog Hump My Arm?
- How Can You Stop Your Dog From Humping Your Arm? 8 Ways
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- In Conclusion: Why Does My Dog Hump My Arm?
13 Reasons Why Your Dog is Humping Your Arm
Dogs are known for their playful, affectionate ways.
They love to cuddle and give hugs, and they will often greet a loved one with a wagging tail and a headbutt.
But sometimes, your dog may use his or her hind legs to lock on and thrust your arm, chest, or another part of your body for longer than you’d like.
This is known as humping—and it’s not just a bad habit; it’s a sign that something is going on with your dog.
Numerous triggers such as the presence of other dogs, unfamiliar persons, or particular forms of play, can stimulate dogs and get them overly excited.
A dog may exhibit actions like jumping, barking, and humping to express their excitement, and in some cases (especially smaller dogs), they might even pee a little.
2. Stressed or anxious
There are several reasons why dogs hump, and stress and anxiety often contribute to that.
A dog may act out in ways that help them deal with their negative feelings and one such behavior is humping, which a dog may use as a means to let off steam or as a diversion from nervousness.
For example, if you’ve recently moved into a new home or adopted your dog from a shelter, it might start humping as a way to express its anxiety over the change in environment.
Similarly. a dog might start humping if you’re away from home or if it’s left alone for long periods of time.
Dogs are playful animals, and they often use their bodies to make playful gestures.
Humping is one such gesture, and when your dog does it, it could mean that it is trying to play with you.
It is likely to display other signs too such as putting its head down and its bum up.
This is especially common among younger or more energetic dogs.
Humping can be a way for a dog to release pent-up energy or to engage in rough-and-tumble play with their human companions.
4. Seeking attention
If a dog starts licking and humping you, it could mean that they’re trying to get you to pay attention to them, more so if they’ve learned that this behavior is effective in getting a response.
When this happens while you’re playing with them, they’re likely just trying to get you to stop petting them so they can play some more.
On the other hand, if it happens when you’re not interacting with your dog at all, it may be a sign that they have separation anxiety or are feeling lonely and need some attention from their owner.
5. Show dominance
Dogs, like humans, are social animals.
They communicate with each other and with us through their body language.
According to WebMD, this behavior is a way for the dog to assert itself over other dogs or people, and can often be seen in older dogs.
This can be very uncomfortable for the owner, but it’s important not to overreact.
If you try to punish your dog for this behavior, it will only make things worse.
Instead, try reinforcing good behavior by giving your dog a treat or playing with him when it stops the action.
6. Sexually frustrated or aroused
First, let’s make sure we’re clear on what we mean by “sexually frustrated.”
In this context, we’re not referring to the kind of frustration you’d feel when you can’t find a parking spot outside the grocery store.
We’re talking about a different kind of frustration—one that relates to your dog’s sexual urges.
Dogs are very much like humans in that they have a lot of hormones pumping through their bodies.
These hormones can make them feel hungry, thirsty, tired, happy… and sexually aroused.
So if your dog starts humping something (or someone!) when he or she wasn’t doing so before, there’s a good chance it’s because he or she has developed some pretty strong sexual desires.
I don’t know if you’ve experienced this but I used to have a male dog that won’t leave a spayed female alone!
This is especially apparent if they are not spayed or neutered and is not limited to only intact males, but it can also occur in females.
You might also see undesirable behavior with dogs in heat accidentally peeing in the house!
If you’ve got a dog who constantly humps your arm when you’re trying to get work done or watch Netflix, well, you got to ask yourself if you are giving it enough to do.
Not only should we engage with our dogs regularly, but it can also be useful to offer them toys that stimulate their brains so that they don’t get bored too easily.
You also need to understand the breed of dog you have too.
An active breed is not going to like sitting in a corner for most of the day!
8. Socially awkward
We all seem to have that one friend who behaves in an awkward manner no matter the occasion.
Dogs too? Yes!
The thing is if your dog did not go through proper socialization as a puppy, it can pick up on some nasty habits that can be hard to correct as they grow older.
This happens a lot in dogs that were adopted from shelters and rescues, where the staff simply does not have the time nor capacity to train and socialize all the dogs.
Similar to the reason above, your dog might have learned this action and it became a habit over time.
If your dog has demonstrated humping behavior in the past and received a positive reward for it, it will most likely continue to do so going forward.
This is a result of the behavior being reinforced and developing into a learned reaction.
10. Compulsive behavior
Compulsive behavior is a common issue for dogs and can be frustrating for their owners.
Some examples of compulsive behavior include excessive barking, spinning in circles, or even humping your arm.
They engage in recurrent, seemingly pointless behaviors to the point where it interferes with daily activities.
These actions frequently continue even when the dog is not being rewarded for them, which may indicate underlying tension, anxiety, or medical discomfort.
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11. Priapism and paraphimosis
While it can look silly and definitely make things very awkward, priapism is no laughing matter.
It is a medical condition in which a male dog has an extended and painful erection that lasts for over 4 hours.
This is not sexually motivated, and quite frankly, the exact cause is still unknown.
During an episode, a dog might experience penile swelling or redness, and trouble peeing.
It can also lead to paraphimosis, which is a condition when the glan penis is unable to return to its sheath for a long period of time.
These 2 conditions should be treated as emergencies.
12. Urinary tract infection (UTI)
It is possible for a dog with a urinary tract infection (UTI) to hump in an effort to relieve the discomfort or suffering brought on by the disease.
Dogs are quite susceptible to UTIs, a disease that affects 14% of all dogs in their lifetime.
This is brought on by bacteria that infect the urinary tract, and when it happens, you will notice frequent urination, pain or discomfort during urination, and blood in your dog’s urine.
13. Vaginitis or balanitis/balanoposthitis
In very basic terms, these two medical conditions are related to the inflammation of the private parts of dogs.
Vaginitis affects the female, while Balanitis is an inflammation of the penis, and balanoposthitis is an inflammation of the penis and the foreskin or prepuce.
Common symptoms of vaginitis include abnormal vaginal discharge, inflammation or swelling of the vulva, and discomfort or pain when urinating, while dogs with balanitis/balanoposthitis may experience swelling or redness of the penis, abnormal discharge, and difficulty urinating.
Humping is simply a way for a dog to get some relief from the irritation they are feeling.
Doggy says, you might be keen to read this too: Why Do Cocker Spaniels HOWL? [Separate Fact From Fiction]
When Is Humping a Problem?
Humping is not necessarily a problem, but it might develop into one if it continues or becomes disruptive.
Some dogs (notably younger ones) will occasionally exhibit humping behavior, although this is usually nothing to worry about, just like if a puppy starts humping at 12 weeks old.
But if a dog is excessively humping things or people, or if the habit is causing issues at home or in public, it could be necessary to handle it.
Humping, for instance, can be an issue if it happens in dog parks, during obedience lessons, or when guests are around.
In these situations, working with a vet or a qualified dog trainer may be important to address the problem and teach your dog more suitable behavior.
Doggy says, consider reading this next: Why does my dog lick my armpit?
Should I Let My Dog Hump My Arm?
I do not recommend allowing your dog to hump your arm or any other body part, simply because it is not necessary or the right thing to do.
Allowing your dog to continue doing it will reinforce the behavior, making it more likely to occur in the future.
What you should do instead is to divert your dog’s attention to something more acceptable, such as a toy or a treat, if they are humping your arm.
Along with providing consistent and positive reinforcement training, it is a good idea to establish clear boundaries and standards for your dog’s behavior.
Read on as I share some tips on how you can stop this embarrassing act from happening.
Doggy says, you might be keen to read this too: Dog humping pillow
How Can You Stop Your Dog From Humping Your Arm? 8 Ways
1. Learn the underlying reason
As you have learned from the sections above, there could be many reasons why your dog is behaving this way.
Be sure to take some time to go through the list and associate the reason with how your dog is acting.
By understanding why it is doing what it’s doing, you can then develop a solution for it more effectively.
2. Redirect their attention
Changing the focus of your dog’s attention can stop them from humping your arm.
Try to stop your dog from humping your arm by diverting its focus to something more acceptable, such as playing with a toy or getting a treat.
Alternatively, you should also try teaching it a simple stop command such as “stop” or “leave it”.
By doing so, you may be able to stop the humping behavior in its tracks before it becomes a problem.
3. Don’t give it attention
A good approach to get your dog to stop humping your arm is to ignore or avoid paying attention to them when they do it.
Ignore the behavior and refrain from rewarding your dog when they start to hump your arm.
What you can do is simply stand up and walk away, not maintaining any eye contact.
Be as stoic as you can in order not to send the wrong signal that this is fun! That will be super counter-productive.
4. Establishing boundaries
Dogs are pack animals and they thrive when they have a clear place in that pack.
For this reason, it’s important to establish a clear hierarchy between you and your dog.
It’s also important to make sure that your dog understands that he or she is not the leader of the pack.
Speak to your dog in a calm and assertive voice and tell him or her “No” or “Stop” and then put him in a stay position on the floor.
Give him a treat after a couple of seconds of obedience and praise him for staying in place.
Do this several times until you see that your dog understands what you want him to do when he hears these commands.
5. Give additional training and exercise
As highlighted earlier, a bored dog will turn to undesirable behavior just as humping.
Give it lots of training and exercise to keep it mentally and physically stimulated.
Make sure that you are also giving your dog plenty of human interaction—time spent playing with you or another person—and also regular exercise.
Don’t just let them run around the yard; take them on walks or hikes so that they get more energy out!
6. Keep them calm
On the flip side, an overly excited dog will also tend to behave in an erratic way at times, so if that is the case for you, calming your dog down could be the right solution.
Our dogs often mimic what we do, so bring your tone and voice down.
You can also lay them down and offer a belly rub instead, so it takes its mind off any stray thoughts.
But if you do want to help it let off some steam, take your dog outside!
7. Neuter or spay
At some point in time as a dog owner, you are likely to face this decision about sterilizing your dog.
In this aspect, it will prevent them from being able to reproduce and will also reduce the testosterone levels in their body.
Lower testosterone levels will mean that they are less likely to hump objects as a way of showing dominance over them.
8. Consult a veterinarian or dog behaviorist
Have you ruled out medical issues that might be causing this behavior? If there is one, you should definitely discuss your options with your vet.
Otherwise, checking in with a trainer or behaviorist might make more sense.
They can help you to train your dog to eliminate unwanted actions that your dog is performing, but most importantly, a well-trained dog is a happy dog!
Doggy says, consider reading this too: Why does my dog headbutt me?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why do dogs hump only certain persons?
This is most likely a situation where a dog wants to assert its dominance over a stranger. Alpha dogs will want to protect their territory and humping is one way of letting the newcomer know who’s boss.
Why does my girl dog hump stuffed animals?
Your dog may use humping stuffed animals or other objects to express pent-up energy or to establish dominance over the object. It’s also likely that your dog is merely playing as they are discovering their surroundings and the wider world.
Why does my desexed dog hump?
Dogs who have been spayed or neutered may continue to hump for a variety of reasons such as showing dominance, stress, or a lack of suitable outlets for energy. Even though they are no longer able to breed, desexed dogs may hump things or people for any of these causes.
Do dogs hump their favorite person?
Dogs do hump their favorite person, but it’s not necessarily a sign of dominance. It’s more likely that your dog is trying to get your attention in a very specific way, or being very excited seeing them.
In Conclusion: Why Does My Dog Hump My Arm?
It is important to know that humping behavior is not always related to sexual arousal.
In fact, many dogs will hump objects or people regardless of their sex or reproductive status.
What’s more important as a dog parent is to be able to understand your dog’s behavior and how to handle them appropriately.
Never stop learning!
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