It’s common for us to speculate on what our dogs are thinking and why they may behave the way they do. We often ascribe human characteristics to our dogs, and compare their interactions with other dogs in human terms. So it’s only natural when we see dogs mounting other dogs of the same sex to wonder — can dogs be gay?
Can Dogs Be Gay?
Can dogs be gay? The short answer is we’re not sure.
Behaviors can be identified, measured, and recorded, but the truth is a bit more complex than a simple yes or no, and there’s a lack of scientific data available to back up any answer.
The Definition of Gay
To explore the question of whether dogs can be gay, we must first define what it means to be gay, and those definitions will be different for humans and other members of the animal kingdom. After all, gay, straight, and all the other labels on the spectrum of sexuality are human inventions, and we shouldn’t expect animals to fit nicely within them.
For humans, identifying as gay or homosexual usually means having an attraction to others of the same sex, although it doesn’t have to include a sexual relationship. Human sexuality is fluid, so a strict definition may not always apply.
With animals, you could apply the same definition. However, the trouble comes with interpreting their behavior. We can only make educated guesses whether a dog’s behavior is sexual, social, or just because they want comfort.
Animal behaviorists and scientists measure two qualities when determining whether same-sex relationships are more than just coincidence:
Scientists observe whether the animal is exclusive to the sex-same partner and whether they ignore other potential mates of the opposite sex. Scientists measure the longevity of those relationships in contrast to other relationships within the same species.
So Are Dogs Able to Be Gay?
Dogs can and do hold same-sex relationships for friendship and comfort, but that doesn’t necessarily make them homosexual. Attributing the human idea of homosexuality to dogs isn’t sufficient in identifying a dog as gay.
What we would call homosexual behavior is common in animals, but long-lasting homosexual relationships between two animals are far less common.
Although dogs exhibit gay behavior, they do not necessarily have a dedicated preference for one sex or the other. Dogs don’t form long-lasting relationships with opposite-sex partners either.
What About Other Animals?
There are recorded instances of animals of the same-sex forming long-lasting relationships, even raising young together.
A pair of male Humbolt penguins identified as being in a long-term relationship made the news when the BBC reported them beginning to rear an abandoned egg together until it hatched at the Wingham Wildlife Park in Kent, England.
However, this kind of behavior is rare in the animal kingdom, and in dogs, it’s even more unlikely.
Psychology, Pseudo-Sex, and Sex
Interpreting a dog’s behavior often requires anthropomorphizing or assigning human characteristics to something that isn’t human. That’s why we say a dog looks sad after they do something wrong when in reality, they’re probably just reacting to us.
Your male dog choosing to sleep on the bed with your other male dog is just two dogs sleeping on the bed together. They have a different reality than we do, and we can’t apply our reality or qualities to them. We also can’t apply our sexual orientations to them.
Sexual Orientation in Dogs
Dogs don’t have a sexual orientation so much as they have a sex drive and a complex set of innate behavior rules. Trying to apply human concepts to other species is like trying to paint a picture using Newton’s law of gravity: they don’t necessarily conflict nor correspond.
If someone insists on applying a sexual orientation to a dog, then bisexuality would likely suit them best. That doesn’t mean that all dogs will hump or mate with both genders. The habits of a specific dog are ultimately contingent upon their nature and the current situation.
Why Does My Dog Hump Other Dogs?
You may have seen your dog hump other dogs of the same sex at the dog park. Perhaps that’s the reason you’re wondering if your dog is gay. Humping is often not a sexual act, even if it appears to be.
A dog’s predisposition to hump other dogs and inanimate objects is due to various reasons other than sexual gratification, including stress relief, instinct, and just for fun.
Heightened arousal, a term used to describe sexual and non-sexual excitement, is often one of the factors. The dog gets excited and directs the energy somewhere, which leads to mounting and humping behavior.
Dogs Hump to Relieve Stress
Dogs feel stress and anxiety just like we do, and it’s essential to keep these feelings in mind when caring for your dog. Humping can be therapeutic for dogs and serve as a coping mechanism to their stress.
Suppose your dog suddenly begins mounting or humping other dogs aggressively after a significant life change like a move or introducing a new pet, and it’s become disruptive. In that case, you may wish to manage the cause rather than the side-effect.
It’s Social Hierarchy
A dog humps as a matter of natural instinct. The act of mounting an object or another animal may make them feel good, or it may be a display of dominance over another dog.
Humping and what appears to be same-sex behavior may be a way of placing themself above another dog to end an argument or disagreement.
Dogs Sometimes Hump Playfully
Dogs sometimes mount and hump dogs of the same sex playfully. Owners may even refer to their dogs as “play humpers” since it only happens during play.
This behavior is especially common in puppies learning and practicing behaviors. However, just because a pup exhibits behavior a human would consider sexual doesn’t mean they have reached sexual maturity; it’s simply an act of playful folly.
What About Training Dogs Not To Hump?
Even though humping is normal behavior for dogs, there are times when it’s undesirable or inappropriate.
Reasons for training your dog not to hump include:
- It bothers you, your family, or others
- It has become a habit
Teach the ‘Leave It’ Command
If your dog’s humping is bothering dogs at the dog park, teaching a ‘leave it’ command can be a big help. This command teaches your dog that you always have something better than whatever they should leave. This command can also work for instructing your dog to ignore garbage on the ground or ignore animals like squirrels.
Even if the behavior doesn’t worry you or the other dog’s owners, some dogs don’t appreciate being humped and can become aggressive and even start a fight to get the dog to stop.
If the dog is trying to hump a person’s leg, likely out of excitement, you can push them away, turn away or otherwise make it impossible for them to do what they want to do. The dog can also be placed in a brief time-out in a quiet room to calm down.
Speak With a Professional
You can usually stop aggressive or compulsive mounting and humping with the help of a qualified professional. Often a dog that exhibits these behaviors has built up a habit, and the result of the humping or mounting is too good to give up.
Established behavior can be more difficult to curb than distracting or teaching a command. Still, a professional behaviorist can work with your dog in a positive way to get long-lasting results.
Can a Dog Be Transgender?
Can dogs be transgender? No. For a dog to be transgender would require a level of awareness about their gender, which is separate from their sex, that at this time, we don’t believe dogs have.
Dogs can be intersex, though, which is a medical condition where the internal reproductive organs are not the same sex as external genitalia, secondary sex characteristics, or behaviors. The dog may be assigned female based on external characteristics, and when a vet spays the dog, they discover both testicular and ovarian tissue.
Intersex dogs are very rare, although certain breeds like basset hounds are more likely to be intersex.
Does It Matter If Your Dog Is Gay?
There is very little evidence that dogs can be gay. The most likely culprit is humans assigning a human sexual orientation to an animal that does what instinct and environment tell them to do.
If a dog enjoys the feeling that humping another male dog brings, he’s probably going to do it, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s gay. It means he’s a dog. Even if your dog is gay, which science says is very unlikely, does that matter to you?
Dogs that are spayed or neutered are less likely to mount other dogs, and female dogs used for breeding can be artificially inseminated if the male refuses to breed her.
In the end, it’s doubtful that dogs are gay, straight, or any other label on the spectrum because those are human labels for human sexuality.
Learning about your dog’s behavior can be interesting. It’s a lot of fun to watch them explore and make new friends. Knowing why they act the way they do can make both of your lives better, but remember, they’re a dog, and sometimes dogs do things just because they can.