Dogs sniff each other’s butts and stick their faces in our crotches as a way to say hello. Not exactly our style, but it’s the canine version of networking (“Oh my gosh, Luna! We met at the park last year, how are you?”), so do what you gotta do, dog. However. When this overly familiar behavior escalates into constant humping or licking, it feels like it crosses a line. Right? Why do dogs hump people? Is my dog…attracted to me? And what’s with all the licking? Dr. Darcia Kostiuk, a senior veterinarian for Champion Petfoods, assured us this is fairly normal—for puppies. If you’ve got an adult dog who humps and licks, she said it may be anxiety.
Why Does My Dog Keep Humping My Leg?
Puppies are all about exploration. They learn boundaries by nipping at each other and eating things that make them puke—not cute, but it’s all part of growing up. This includes humping. “[Puppies] hump to test if they are dominant to the person or dog they are engaging with,” Dr. Kostiuk said. “It’s all about establishing a dominance hierarchy.”
Dr. Kostiuk said yes, sometimes dogs hump for pleasure. It’s most common in growing puppies before neutering. Their hormones pretty much take over (been there, amirite?). They might simply enjoy the activity, sexually or platonically. If it becomes a feel-good habit, dogs could continue humping stuff—and you—into adulthood.
Another reason adult dogs hump? Anxiety. Dogs can feel depressed and anxious! PureWow spoke with a woman named Emily, whose Shih Tzu-Lhasa Apso mix, Pat, would not stop humping things or people and occasionally other dogs (only some dogs, because Pat has standards). According to Emily, Pat goes into hyper hump mode when new people are around or he’s in an uncomfortable situation. For instance, when Emily works out and breathes hard, Pat thinks she’s in distress and will hump his bed. This also happens when the air fryer is on because the noise bothers him. Pat’s vet said it was clearly a case of anxiety. Dr. Kostiuk had the same sentiment. “Constant licking and humping can indicate an issue with anxiety because the dog doesn’t know how to self-soothe.”
Why Does My Dog Keep Licking Me?
Licking, like humping, can be a manifestation of anxiety—especially if licking and humping happen simultaneously. Think of it as stress eating! You’re feeling anxious. Candy helps. You don’t think twice. You raid your kid’s trick–or–treat bag. It’s the same with dogs who lick a lot.
Licking can also be a sign of affection (mother dogs lick newborn pups to bond with them) or a simple test to see if you’ve recently eaten anything delicious (pups have been known to lick mother dogs’ mouths to see if they’ve brought food home). Tongues deliver information about the environment to dogs’ brains.
Should I Be Worried If My Dog Humps and Licks Me Constantly?
Dr. Kostiuk said it’s worth investigating if the humping and licking behavior is constant, as this could mean a very anxious (or unhappy!) dog. “If the dog is humping and displaying aggressive behavior, further obedience training lessons may be needed,” Dr. Kostiuk added. Dogs do weird things (like eat their own poop). It’s always worth noting how often the behavior occurs and checking with your vet to see if further action is necessary. Again, it’s more worrisome in adult dogs than it is in puppies.
What to Do If Your Dog Keeps Humping and Licking You
The solution depends on the motivation, but typically involves retraining your dog’s coping skills. Emily’s vet prescribed an anxiety medication for Pat and advised training him to associate stressful scenarios with good things. “They suggested I get his attention every time he is in the act or tries to hump something or someone and tell him to immediately ‘sit,’” Emily told us. “Then, reward him and give him a distraction…like a toy or keeping him geared on you with training treats.” She also removes him from situations with lots of commotion or strangers, especially in their own home. Letting Pat chill in a quiet space where he feels safe eases his anxiety.
Dr. Kostiuk said in some cases—especially if those thrusts and licks become aggressive—more rigorous obedience training could be the solution. Working with a reputable trainer or behaviorist could teach your pup healthier coping methods or habits. Plus, once puppies are between six and nine months old, spaying or neutering them often deters this behavior.
Extra Credit: Why Do Dogs Sniff Butts and Crotches?
As a reminder, dogs’ noses are much stronger than ours—like, 100,000 times stronger, according to Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM, and Lynn Buzhardt, DVM, of VCA Animal Hospitals. On top of that, 30 percent of the canine brain goes toward sniffing, interpreting and acting on scents. (Compare that to just 5 percent of your own brain.) Every dog’s rear-end smells different thanks to anal glands. So, when dogs exchange butt whiffs, it’s just a memory refresh to figure out if they’ve met before.
As for the dog-snout-in-crotch scenario, they’re sniffing sweat glands to figure out who we are. The AKC says if dog nostrils could reach our armpits, they might go there. In theory, a very tall Great Dane might choose the armpit of a very short person. But more often than not, it’s gonna be the crotch.
Unlike butt sniffing and crotch greeting, humping and licking indicates a potential mental health issue with your pup. Ignoring it isn’t wise.