Dog Displays Misplaced Affections

Kelly Roper

A spike in hormone levels can cause some unusual behavior problems in our canines. Read on to learn more about one pet owner's situation.

Dog Displays Misplaced Affections for Toys


My puppy Amber is ten months old and has had her first season. Just recently she started some strange behaviour! She has lots of toys and usually plays with them all, but over the last week she began "humping" them.

We took several toys away from her, but she just tried it with the next one. There is one toy in particular she has taken a liking to. When she goes to sleep she has it tucked in beside her, almost like a baby. She doesn't play with it anymore and when I throw it for her she runs over, picks it up and begins "humping" it.

Why do you think she has started this all of a sudden? We don't want to keep taking her toys away in case she gets bored! Should we punish her for this behaviour? It's quite embarrassing!

Thank you.

Expert Reply Please do not punish your dog for this behavior!

"Humping" is a common behavior among dogs that can be used to express dominance over other people and things. It may also be a signal that your pet is going through some hormonal changes at this time. It will take some patience and redirection on your part, but this behaviour can be changed.

In the meantime, I have a few questions for you.

  • How old was your dog when she had her first season?
  • Is there any chance she was accidentally bred?
  • Has there been any significant change in the size of her teats? This would give us a clue about her current hormone levels.
  • Does she seem to be eating more, or perhaps even turning her food away?

Dogs will sometimes adopt toys as surrogate pups, whether they are actually pregnant or simply going through a false pregnancy. My suggestion is to temporarily remove all of her current toys to break the cycle of behavior. Give her a completely new toy like a Kong, or something similar that doesn't encourage her to show her "misplaced affections". Usually this will be enough to get a pet back on the right track.

In the long run, you might want to consider having your dog spayed. Once this type of behavior begins, it often recurs in future seasons. Spaying your female will level out those pesky hormones and you'll likely feel relieved that you no longer have to deal with messy seasons.

Thanks for your question!

~~ Kelly

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Dog Displays Misplaced Affections