It’s a beautiful day, and you’ve decided to reward your sweet dog with a trip to the dog park. Once you arrive, you’re all smiles and are joking with some of the other owners. You turn to get a glance at your poodle, and you’re frozen in your tracks. You’re not sure whether you should be mortified or just break down in hysterical laughter. Your female dog has mounted another dog! What is that all about?
Seven reasons female poodles hump too. Mounting behaviors are not isolated to unneutered male dogs. Female dogs and dogs of both genders that have been fixed demonstrate this normal but somewhat socially unacceptable behavior too. There are typically seven different reasons why this happens:
- Asserting Dominance
- Overly Excited
- Seeking Attention
- Sexual Release
- Medical Issues
Aside from the fact that your dog is being, well… a dog, this really isn’t how you meant to introduce your precious poodle to new dogs. This article will delve a little further into each of these potential reasons for the behavior and what you can do about it.
Why Do Female Poodles Hump?
There are several reasons a female dog may mount another dog, so let’s get right to it:
1. Asserting Dominance
There are some who like to debate this point because domesticated dogs are such social animals keen on pleasing. That is true, but the fact remains that in pack behavior, there is only one Alpha. When dogs are in a group (even if it’s only a group of two), they’re likely to quickly determine who is the “boss” of whom.
When two dogs have strong personalities, there will not be an automatic subservience of one to the other. It will be asserted by the stronger of the two until it is accepted by the lesser dominant dog. Whether or not this assertion turns ugly depends on how strong the personality of the second dog is.
If you know your dog has a personality that likes to think she’s in charge, you will know that you need to keep an eye on her anytime you have her off-leash.
If you’re not sure whether or not your dog has this kind of personality, you need to examine her interactions with you. Does she try to boss you around or ignore your commands – or do you let her? If that’s the case, she either already thinks she is the Alpha in your relationship, or she’s still trying to take that role. This will be something you will need to get her clear on before she can do anything off-leash.
If you’re not sure how to be the Alpha in your relationship with your dog, it would be a good idea to get some training. Ideally, you will do this when she’s a puppy, but it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks – it’s just harder.
2. Overly Excited
Some female dogs will act as if they are humping a human’s leg, a favorite toy, or any number of other things if she gets too excited.
Dogs respond to heightened excitement levels in several different ways. Some may frenetically dash around with the “zoomies,” chase her tail in crazy circles, or roll over and wiggle on their backs. Others may jump up and down like a pogo stick; still others may hump something.
If you know that this is your dog’s natural response to situations, she finds extremely exciting, there are a couple of suggestions you could work on:
- Train her to sit and stay. This takes time and a lot of discipline, so it’s an eventual solution.
- Separate her. Put her in a different room or outside when you have guests arriving.
- Use her leash. Have her on her lead when you’re expecting someone.
There are veterinarians that will tell you that if a human can get the illness or feel the feeling, the chances are good that the same is true for your dog. Feelings can manifest physically.
That said, your super-intelligent poodle doesn’t have the ability to reason through things, so she’s not a human and shouldn’t be treated like one. This goes back to the Alpha role. You are the one in charge.
Even so, just as you can be stressed out by different situations, so can your dog. Some common stress inducers are:
- Do thunderstorms stress your baby girl out?
- Does she freak out when you put your shoes on, or you grab your keys?
- How about being left alone while you’re at work during the day?
- What happens when she sees your suitcase?
- Getting in the car and heading toward the veterinarian or groomer?
If your dog gets stressed out by some of these, there are things you can do to calm her down:
- Give her a treat when you grab your keys, put your shoes on, or leave the house. This will begin to associate your departure with something desirable.
- Leave your suitcase out for long periods of time that have nothing to do with you going somewhere. This will make the sight of your suitcase less threatening over time.
- Go for car rides that have nothing to do with the vet or groomer. Go to the park or somewhere to play and then home.
This ties back to her being overly excited. As dogs play, their excitement levels become even more heightened.
When children play tag, sometimes they get really into the game and tackle the person they tag. When dogs play and race around, it isn’t uncommon for one to mount another to take it down to the ground and claim victory.
If your poodle tends to hump when she has been playing hard, monitor playtime and slow it down every so often to help her manage her excitement levels. Calling her in for a training treat will help motivate her to stop her play and come to you. Make sure you make her sit to get her treat. This will help calm her down.
5. Seeking Attention
You’ve undoubtedly heard it said, “even negative attention is still attention.”
If your dog is feeling ignored and is not getting enough of your attention, she may display behaviors that she knows are unacceptable because she also knows you’ll pay attention to her. Even if it’s to scold her.
To avoid this, make sure you’re giving your furry best friend the attention she needs. You got her to be a companion. Be that for her too.
To break her of the habit of humping to get negative attention, ignore her while she’s demonstrating that behavior. When she stops, give it a breath, and then call her over and give her the attention she’s seeking. Completely ignore her while she’s mounting the cushion, toy, whatever.
6. Sexual Release
Your first reaction to this may be, “But my poodle has been spayed!” Yeah… and?
This is simply a natural fact.
Just because she can’t get pregnant and have puppies, doesn’t mean that your younger spayed female dog doesn’t enjoy the feel of rubbing against something. Yes, that may sound a bit graphic, but it’s just nature. Birds and bees stuff. There’s just not a delicate way to put it.
7. Medical Issues
If none of the above issues seem to be the reason for your dog’s socially unacceptable behavior, it could be that she has a medical issue that needs to be diagnosed and addressed by your veterinarian.
Some of these possible issues could be:
- Skin allergies or infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Priapism (this is not only specific to male dogs – that’s a common misconception.)
- Incontinence, which could be related to a number of more serious diagnoses.
When you take your baby girl to the vet, make sure the doctor is aware of the behaviors you’ve observed, and under which circumstances you see it most often. Be prepared to talk about how long the humping behavior has been going on and what items she’s most drawn to when she does this.
What is My Spayed Poodle’s Payoff for Humping?
You mean aside from getting the much-desired attention she’s craving? Don’t misunderstand this, you may be giving her what you feel is a lot of attention – she may just be a glutton for attention much like a toddler is.
There could be a few other more extreme reasons she keeps reverting back to the humping behavior.
Your female pup could have a mild aggression issue and still be fighting for the dominant place in the pack. If this is the case, remember that in her mind, you are part of her pack. It would benefit both of you to get some professional training, so she learns she is part of your pack.
What to do: In the interim, you could hand feed her to remind her that you’re the one in control. This takes a long time because you feed her one piece of food at a time when you say it’s time. She doesn’t get to bark, whine, or paw at you for more. She needs to sit and wait.
That doesn’t mean that you don’t give her regular feedings in regular amounts. It means that you are the one in charge of her food consumption.
Once she is calmly sitting on a consistent basis, you can begin weaning away from the hand feeding. To do this, your next step would be to put 1/3 of her food in her bowl. Hand feed her the first third, let her eat out of her bowl for the next third, and hand feed her the last third.
Gradually decrease the amount you hand feed her and increase the amount she gets in her bowl.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Have you ever heard of a dog with OCD? It’s not unheard of. Some dogs, particularly those with heavy ear leathers, begin scratching their ear to get hair out of their ear canal or to get some air under the leather. What eventually happens for some is that they become incapable of stopping their scratching without an intervention. They develop a form of doggie OCD.
The same is true for some dogs with the humping behavior. It becomes a habit they can’t stop without intervention. This will usually require a veterinarian’s help. At this point, your poodle will likely need some medicated ointment to provide some soothing and healing. You will also need to provide consistent distractions to keep her from going back to that behavior.
This one’s even further down the doggie psychological path. She could become addicted to the chemicals her brain releases when she humps something. When she mounts something, her brain receptors release the chemicals responsible for her feelings of joy and satisfaction.
Just as a human can become addicted to the comparable human sensations produced by chemical reactions, your female dog can too. If you allow this behavior to go too long, there will not be any way to stop it. She will effectively become a form of a junkie.
Keys to Successful Behavioral Training
Perhaps you’ve adopted an adult dog from your local shelter or accepted an adult dog through a rehoming process. As you get to know your new dog and she gets to know you over the first day or two, it will be time to start establishing boundaries. Your adult dog is just as capable of learning as someone’s puppy.
Commit to Patience
You have no idea what your adult dog has experienced in her life before she joined your home. Recognize that she will be confused at rule changes. Give her time to adjust and adapt to her new living environment.
That said, also know that she will most likely attempt to circumvent your authority. Poodles are really smart – she knows what she’s doing. She’s trying to be the Alpha. Do not let her! It doesn’t matter how cute she is or what antics she pulls that make you laugh with joy. You are the boss of her!
Chances are you’ve given her a new name. Use treats to get her to come to you when you call her name. Affirm her and reward her with a training treat every time she comes to you at your command.
If you truly want her to learn the rules of your household, you need to be consistent in enforcing those rules. So does everyone else in the house.
The rules for the dog need to be the same regardless of which of her humans she’s going to.
That also means that it doesn’t matter what kind of day you had at work, if she’s supposed to sit when you get home, instead of jumping on you to greet you, you will need to take the time and energy to continue reinforcing that.
NILF (Nothing In Life is Free) Training
Training your dog that Nothing In Life is Free is a very effective training method, particularly for strong-willed and/or extremely intelligent dogs (like poodles).
This method promotes that your dog does not get attention, food, treats, a special activity, or play until she has obeyed specific commands from you.
Granted, this training method does not allow you to free feed your dog, but if you are running into behavioral challenges, it will be the method that will get your dog’s attention. Once again, it puts you in the Alpha role and makes it clear to her that she is not the one in charge of any situation.
A great behavioral training course can really help when training your dog. I found a fantastic training system called Brain Training for Dogs. I really liked the private member’s area where I was able to connect with other dog owners to get solutions to issues I had with his training. If you need any behavioral training at all for your dog, I would highly recommend this course! Check it out here
If you have adopted an adult dog, you have no idea what her previous environment was like. Maybe she was dumped and was a stray for a while. Chances are good that she has had very negative encounters with humans and has been on the receiving end of harsh words, tones, and maybe even physical abuse.
To get her to trust you, keep your tone positive and calm. Avoid high-pitched/excited tones as it’s likely to excite her. You’ll end up with behaviors you don’t want.
When she does something well, pour on the praise and love. Give her a training treat. When she doesn’t do something right, keep your voice calm and repeat the command.
Try not to get frustrated.
If you get frustrated and yell, have you blown it and ruined your dog forever? No. You will have to show her she can trust you, though. Sit on the ground, go back to a calm, gentle tone, and call her to you, showing her a training treat. She may come on her belly, but she will come to you.
You’re Ok! Your Dog’s Ok!
Well, you know that your dog’s behavior is most likely something that can be corrected. You also know what you can do about it. So, for the time being, keep your dog on her lead while you’re at the dog park and help her learn some manners.
Enjoy your time with her and let her be the companion for you that you intended.
Remember… even when she is not behaving the way you would prefer, she is still your sweet little baby and will continue to bring you joy while you help her become all she can be.