How do I stop my dog's embarrassing habit?

(Q) Our castrated dog Sam humps my husband when he leaves for work. After he's gone, Sam goes upstairs and humps a pillow or cushion on the bed. Why does he do this and what can we do to stop this embarrassing habit?

(A) Behaviourist Claire Arrowsmith says: Mounting behaviour is often not related to sexual urges; it is often exhibited when a dog is overexcited or frustrated.

Consider what sort of relationship your dog has with your husband. Is your husband responsible for walking or playing with Sam? If so, he may be frustrated when your husband leaves the house. What is the morning routine? Sam may be overexcitable because he needs to go out and expend his energy.

Depending on how you reacted when he first started this habit, it may now be a learned response that he knows will get your attention. Try to change the morning routine so that Sam has something to do, perhaps working for his breakfast with an activity toy that he has to roll around.

Your husband should give this to Sam before he leaves the house, possibly doing this in another room at first so that Sam can't follow him to the door. Everyone should stay calm and remember to praise and encourage Sam when he is behaving more appropriately.