Is your Dog Ruining your Love Life?

Dec 13 / Jennifer Thornburg

  • Does your dog bark, jump up, or hump your leg when you embrace friends, family members, or your partner? 
  • When you lock them out of the bedroom, do they whine and bark and scratch at the door? Nothing ruins the mood quite like a heartbroken, crying dog.
  • Is your dog a creepy voyeur, just staring and panting? 

Turns out this is could be one more lingering effect of the pandemic. Many dogs became quite clingy during the quarantine when we had extended time home with them. And if you didn't have many people in your home (especially those you might get cozy with), your dog may be a little bewildered and anxious when .

Hugging and kissing are exclusively primate behaviors. When your dog witnesses this strange behavior, they don't have any context and it can be bewildering, exciting or even scary!
Stranger Danger
If your dog has not received adequate exposure and socialization (most dogs didn't during Covid), they may be suspicious of people, in general. Maybe your dog can tolerate an unfamiliar person sitting but standing (and heaven forbid, hugging!) is a different story. A suspicious dog may bark, jump up, pull at pants legs and even nip or bite!

The Peacemaker

My dog is a "splitter." He will physically place himself between individuals he perceives to be in dispute to diffuse potential escalations. He will split up dogs who play too rough for his liking and the cats when they get into a spat. And he will stand by, dutifully, when there is hugging in case his services are needed.

The Fun Police
Your dog may think hugging, kissing, and squeezing are weird and want that nonsense to stop. Do you have a "fun police officer" in your home? When things get whacky, your dog can't help but bring some order to the chaos. No fun will be had on their watch! 

Dogs just want to have fun!
Perhaps your dog noticed something exciting was happening, and they wanted to participate. They may join in by barking and jumping up. This response may be harmless, but we don't like to encourage barking and jumping. 
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Some dogs will get grabby or humpy. 
Mounting of humans is strictly nonsexual. And it doesn't mean that the dog is trying to be "dominant." It's simply a sign of arousal (and not that kind of arousal). It generally indicates that the dog has big feelings and doesn't know what to do with them!
It can also be a way for the dog to relieve stress. 
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Regardless of the reason for your dog's behavior, there are steps you can take to manage and train your dog to feel more comfortable when their people hug, kiss, dance or canoodle.
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Ensure you are meeting your dog's needs.This doesn't seem related but it is so important! Most behavior concerns can be improved by adding mental stimulation, small positive training routines, walks and social time, then allowing for 'down' time. This bonding time with you will help your dog feel confident. And you'll find your dog is more content once they have their biological needs, emotional needs and social needs met. 

The power of a long-lasting treat.
You have surely considered this. If you have a dog who can toss back a bully stick like a french-fry, you may need to up your LLT game. 
Kongs are our favorite. Put some kibble, and wet food inside, seal it with peanut butter and freeze. Have a few in rotation.
There are lots of long-lasting, safe chews on the market. It's always best if they are new and exciting so plan ahead. If you need ideas, we have a gazillion.

Teach your dog to handle being alone.

You can't just stuff your dog in a crate when sexy time happens. In fact, if your dog has a hard time with separation, crating could make it worse. If you have a "velcro dog," they may have never been away from you when you're home.

Slowly conditioning your dog to being away from you while you are home is a great start. You can give your dog one of those long-lasting treats while crated or gated in another room. Keep it short and sweet. Allow your dog freedom/access to you before they are whining and the treat is gone. If they can't stay interested in the treat, back up a few steps. Slow is fast. If your dog is not able to tolerate being away from you, speak with a dog trainer to get a plan for helping your dog adjust.

Teach your dog to "place."Place training teaches your dog to lie quietly on a mat or bed, and settle there until released. "Place" can be helpful when you need to redirect your dog from undesirable behavior such as jumping, barking or hogging the couch. Just like all dog  training, place training takes time and consistency to be a useful behavior when you need it.

"Place" gives your dog information about where you would like for them to stay. And this information is very helpful for conditioning them to be ok with the incremental movements used for the training exercises. We like this video from training a dog to go to their place and settle.

Know the signs.
Understanding your dog's more nuanced signs of stress is important to changing any behavior. By the time your dog is vocalizing, they may be pretty stressed and many indicators have likely been missed. See the resources at the end of this blog post for more information.

These questions will help you determine where to start in training:
  • What specific motion from you causes your dog respond in this way?
  • When does your dog first notice, lift their head, stand up, etc?
  • At what point your dog show any signs of stress when you and your partner hold hands, cuddle, kiss in their presence?
  • Does your dog respond when you are standing? How about sitting on the couch? 

Change comes from within.

You can teach your dog to remain relaxed in the presence of loving, touching and squeezing by using counter-conditioning. 
Start by having your partner place their arm lightly on your shoulder while you toss treats on the ground. It's best to toss the treats away from you so your dog doesn't need to be close. The goal is for the movements toward and embrace predict that it will rain treats down on your dog.

If you are working on getting your dog comfortable with couch smooches, try having them "place" on their bed or mat and reward any calm behavior. You and your partner can sit on opposite sides of the couch and work your way towards each other, slowly, as long as your dog can remain on calmly in their place.

Progress gradually in small steps to a real hug, and continue delivering those treats. If your dog reacts at any time, you're moving too fast with the process and you'll need to stop and take a few steps back. With time, your dog should look forward to hugs and kisses because great things happen every time they occur!
Baby steps

Every individual movement toward the bow-chica is a new behavior for your dog to get accustomed to. So, take it slow and be certain your dog is calm and content before moving to the next step of training. Keep these training sessions short and always allow your dog to walk away when they want.

A Note About Safety
This blog post should not be used as a substitute for professional dog training or behavior consulting. If your dog displays aggressive behavior, contact a professional for an assessment and appropriate behavior modification program.

See the following blogs for more information:

20 Ways Dogs Communicate Stress
Ladder of Stress
Some Dogs Hump
Replace Bad Behavior with Good Behaviors!

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