FAQ: Dogs hump my dog. What’s going on?!

I got the following question via email recently, and thought it was a bit of behavior that should go up here!

“Jenna,

My male dog gets humped by other dogs constantly. It’s so bad that I have to keep him beside me at a dog park just to keep them off. What’s going on?”

So, there’s two main causes for what you’re seeing, and both have to do with submissive dogs.
In the first, best, scenario, you have a submissive, typically very mellow dog. (Often male!) Submissive and ultra-mellow isn’t a common combination, so you don’t see it too much. (Usually these dogs are a little bit older — past their prime, but not yet prone to arthritis. They are also extremely confident and sure of their alpha dog’s — you — protection, or sure of their own ability to deal with the world.)
These dogs are usually not so submissive that they’re at the bottom of the pack — they might be second or third from the top, even — but they’re mellow enough that it doesn’t bother them when other dogs take liberties. Other dogs, meanwhile, will use that mellow dog to practice their dominating skills (like humping!) or to boost their own confidence by dominating them.
If the dog really doesn’t care (he’ll act like he doesn’t even notice), then periodically tell the other dogs to back off and give him a break. This will make it so he continues to not-mind, rather than gets cranky at being bothered all the time.
The other possibility is that the dog isn’t mellow, but rather super-submissive, and the dogs are being bullies! If that’s the case, you’ll see the dog trying to escape, tucking his tail and lowering his hips, possibly lowering his head and occasionally snapping at a humper before running away. If that’s the case, then tell the other dogs they need to back off all the time! (I’d use a squirt bottle and keeping him close for protection.)
I’ve heard different theories for why some dogs attract bullies like this, but the one common factor they almost all have is that they’re submissive, and they either don’t care if they get humped or they’re super-submissive and can’t get the others to stop. My pitty, Lily, falls into the “don’t-care” category, and dogs follow her all over the place trying to hump her! She simply acts like they don’t exist, and I laugh and roll my eyes.
In short, it seems to boil down to attitude!

Jenna

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