Ask the Trainer: Humping a touchy subject | SierraSun.com

Ask the Trainer: Humping a touchy subject

Carla Brown
Special to the Sun

Dear Carla,

I have a 4-year-old male chocolate Lab who is very lovable. We hike in the woods daily with lots of loose dogs. I end up putting him on a leash when we meet other dogs because he occasionally gets into a scuffle, which I think is protective of me, or he wants to hump the new dog he meets, which can start a scuffle when they don't appreciate it. He has been fixed since he was about 9-months-old. How can I stop this behavior when we meet new dogs?

Thank you.

Barbara

Dear Barbara,

Many dog owners attribute humping to dominance or sexual arousal, which certainly can be the case. However, often dogs who hump lack confidence when greeting other dogs and hump because they don't know how to greet properly. In some situations, dogs (and even young pups) will hump people, objects and other dogs because they are uncomfortable and just don't know what else to do. Fortunately, it is not necessary to establish the reason for humping in order to curb it, since the very same technique works quite well across the board.

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Cues that need to be rock solid are: His name, "leave it (turn and look at me)," "come/here" and some other action cue you can use to replace the humping. A simple "sit" will do since he can't hump if he's sitting!

Always begin training a new cue in a quiet environment with minimal distractions then gradually add distractions. While training, you might want to have him drag a 30-foot long line when outside so you can step on it to stop him if he takes off. I recommend using a harness with a long line because a sudden stop could hurt his neck. Once he has seen a dog and is on his way to him/her, it is likely he doesn't even hear you yelling at him.

Labs are usually very food motivated, but try using better rewards (chicken, hot dogs, or steak) when you go outside and really need him to pay attention. Better yet, don't feed him a morning meal and use his kibble mixed with the better treats. Do some warm-up exercises before walking so he knows you have the good stuff.

If he does run off and proceeds despite your attempts to call him back, calmly go get him, move away from the action and give him a five minute time-out. Repeat the time-outs if necessary. Removal from play can send a strong message that what he's doing will end the fun. It will give him an opportunity to calm down and try again.

Consistency is the key to eliminating a behavior like humping. You'll need to practice the cues I've listed above in many different scenarios with increasingly difficult distractions, but consistently enforcing the time-outs is equally important.

Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog Training and Education Center in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email her at savvydogtruckee@mac.com.