Hump Day: Not just Wednesdays

Hump Day: Not just Wednesdays

A longtime client sent me an email a few months ago that contained a video that was not suitable for all audiences. It was a short video clip of his cute, little, fluffy dog performing some impressively rapid pelvic thrusts worthy of an Elvis impersonator on amphetamines, while holding a favorite toy in his front paws at the same time. It was simultaneously comical and disturbing, with the potential to become viral on YouTube. The subject of the message was, “Failed Neuter?”

Here’s a topic nobody else wants to talk about, but as embarrassing as it is — challenge accepted. If sex education is offensive to you, consider yourself warned, and read no further. If you enjoyed Seinfeld’s “Master of His Domain” episode, you’ll be fine.

So your neutered male dog is vigorously humping the cat (to the cat’s intense chagrin) and you’re wondering why the dog still has “urges.” Wasn’t neutering him supposed to cure him of this and all other obnoxious sexually driven behaviors?

Short answer: Nope. But, as is my nature, I’ll give a bit of a longer answer for entertainment (and educational) purposes.

The normal neuter procedure for a male dog involves complete surgical removal of the testicles. Boys, please stop with the theatrical protecting of your own — this is not about you, and for goodness sakes, it’s done while the dogs are under the influence of anesthesia and pain control. In fact, most dogs have zero complications after this procedure and are back to being themselves as soon as the anesthesia wears off. Once this surgery occurs, there is no possibility of a “reversal” and these patients will not be able to father pups, since sperm are required for fertilization of the female’s eggs, and the testicles are the organs that manufacture sperm.

The testicles also happen to be the major producers of testosterone, and so after a neuter, many of the behaviors associated with “maleness” can be clicked down a few notches on the annoying scale, with a few caveats, one being that if a behavior has already become a habit, neutering may not change it. Testosterone-driven behaviors in dogs are generally those that help the dog secure a large territory and compete successfully with other male dogs to win mating privileges with female dogs. These include:

• Marking every bush, tree and lamppost with urine.

• Roaming, patrolling and defending all claimed territory.

• Challenging, chasing away or dominating other male dogs.

• Locating and attempting to breed with any and all female dogs in season within range.

• Humping (behaviorists call it “mounting”) is part of this spectrum of behaviors, and plays a role in the challenging of other dogs as well as the obvious set of maneuvers required to impregnate a female dog.

• Mounting another dog (or person, or cat) is a normal part of play, occurring long before puberty in pups (which happens at about 6 months of age for most). In fact, both male and female dogs, juvenile to adult, neutered and spayed, will exhibit mounting behaviors in social interactions. This is normal, and while mounting is generally perceived to be a dominance gesture, it does not necessarily signify aggressive tendencies. The enthusiastic pelvic thrusts, particularly mortifying to most pet owners, are quite normal, too. Yeee-ha!

Mounting is also associated with “self-pleasuring” behavior (the medical term is “masturbation”) and this is also normal and natural for many different animals, neutered and spayed included. Neutered male dogs and cats can still achieve an erection, which shocks many people when they witness it, as it is admittedly difficult to ignore, particularly with dogs. And the prostate gland still allows (non-fertile) ejaculations.

Mounting for self-gratification is often triggered by and carried out with a specific item of clothing, toy or even another animal. Our dog, Marty, positions himself on the edge of his fluffy bed while he pays amorous attentions to his favorite stuffed monkey. We have named the monkey “Wednesday,” but Marty’s special relations with Wednesday are not limited to one day a week… if you know what I mean. Walter, our dachshund, has been known to “do pushups” on his best buddy and golden retriever, Westley. Tom, our tortoise, is very attached to his rock, “Nancy.”

Years ago, wrapped in her thick, warm bathrobe, my Mom would contentedly read a book before bedtime. Murdock, our cat, would often join her, snuggling cozily in her lap, purring. He especially “loved” her robe. Luuuuuved it. I find it amusing that she was always reading a romance novel at the time. Being unceremoniously and ignominiously dumped off her lap in the midst of his pleasure-seeking did nothing to dissuade Murdock from trying again on another day. He wasn’t very smart, but he was luuuuuuvable.

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