Why does your dog hump you?

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage

"Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage"

Why does your dog hump you?  This is another story leading on from a previous post about how my dogs reflect my emotions

My Labrador retriever, Archie, occasionally humps me.  Because I have been interested in working with Kevin Behan's principles in NDT, I have refrained from scolding him for it. Instead, I have tried to understand what the behaviour is telling me.  He only does it in the house, only in certain 'safe' rooms in the house, and only with me.  The two hounds never try to hump me, although they will occasionally hump each other.

What I understand from what I've read about 'humping' is that it’s a way to feel connected with the other party.  It is a way of getting energy moving between the two.  What I also understand from following NDT is that a dog does not have separate sense of self.  Any behaviour you experience in your dog reflects the energy in the system.  The actions you experience with your dog is therefore as much about what is going on for you.  It is these two main points that I have been considering when trying to understand this behaviour

It was towards the end of a long day recently, when I sat down to relax and read.  I was frustrated when Archie jumped up beside me on the sofa and started to 'hump' my arm.  My immediate reaction was that of annoyance.  The attention was stopping me relaxing.  That was closely followed by self-recrimination.  Why had I not managed to resolve this behaviour of Archie's, what sort of dog owner was I?  I managed to halt the self-destructing  thought process.

I started to wonder if it was in response to something going on in me.  I focused my attention inwards.  How was I feeling?  I started to notice that I didn't feel too great.  Tears welled up in my eyes and it felt like sobs were trying to escape from me. The emotion seemed stuck.  It wasn't 'free-flowing'.  It was as if the tears were trying to get over some speed bumps!   (I later discussed this 'stuck emotion' with my counsellor who suggested that it might indicate feelings that I hadn't accepted as part of myself).

The thoughts that accompanied my feelings were in relation to a friend who had recently turned away from me.  I hadn't been sure why, only that it was in response to something someone else had said about me.  I did not know the reasons for the rejection and, I thought, had resigned myself to never finding out.  As I got in touch with my feelings there and then, I realised that I still felt very hurt about, what I considered to be, the unfairness of it all.

Then, in that brief moment, I noticed that Archie had stopped trying to hump my arm and had curled up beside me on the sofa.

I went to bed shortly after.  The next morning I woke up and the feelings of hurt and rejection were still on my mind.  As often happens in these cases for me, I woke up knowing what I had to do.  I resolved to write a letter to my friend stating my point of view, how his behaviour had made me feel.  I knew I had to have my voice heard - even though it might make me look stupid. (On recounting the story to my 15 year-old daughter I was amused when I was met with her response  'seriously Mum....what?  You wrote a real letter and put it in an envelope, with a stamp and everything...? What are you like!' How times have changed 🙂 )

I didn't really expect to hear anything back.  The important thing for me was to speak my truth. But the following day, I was overjoyed to receive a response back.  A 'thank you' for getting in touch and an apology. (And the response was more speedy than my snail mail method -  by message to Archie's Facebook account 🙂 - what that dog does for me)

The resulting, very positive outcome gave me a lesson in vulnerability - reminding me of Brené Brown's quote

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness

I would like to leave you with the thought, that until I tried to understand Archie's behaviour by considering myself, I hadn't even been aware that I was holding onto those feelings. Acknowledging and dealing with them turned out to be hugely healing for me.

Archie taught me to be present and aware.  And if you'll humour me my sentimentality, the whole incident reminded me of a Bryan Adams song, which now comes into my head whenever he starts to get 'active' with me!

Bryan Adams – (Everything I Do) I Do It For You 

Archie in the snow
Archie in the snow


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  1. Hi Joanne — this is a really interesting post — I really respect the vulnerability involved in sharing the post as well as the message about vulnerability expressed in the story — and I LOVE that picture of your dog!

    1. Thankyou Alwynne 🙂 I reckon the more we share the more we will learn 🙂 And thanks for the comment about the picture – the bottom one is mine (I’m learning) and the top one was done by a friend (www.ruralshots.com) who’s teaching me!

  2. My female has started doing this. She began after her spinal surgery so I thought at first it was muscle spasms. But they aren’t, the are more and more frequent. She will walk up to or around me and face me with her behind humping. I’ve never scolded her for it because I always thought of it as natural dog behavior that perhaps they themselves don’t quite understand, and she always had an air of confusion. Over time I have noticed how emotionally charged she is during these humping moments. As my life has become more hectic, more dramatic at work, more drama in my social life that I have chosen to cut off from (and yet remain unresolved), her humping has increased in frequency and intensity. Recently she climbed up my leg and grasped it to hump and I was very surprised. I calmly removed her from my body and thought not much of it at the moment but it has been plaguing me. I never thought to connect that event with my own emotions.

  3. Melissa that is really interesting. The way I see it is they are trying to get energy moving, ours or theirs. My lab is the only one that humps me and sometimes he does it after he has been playing with the hounds. When he does it then I wonder if it’s him trying to release stuck energy that he wasn’t able to give to the hounds – I take it as a mark of trust in me that he is able to do it!

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