He's not like this at home

NICK BARNETT
Last updated 12:07 13/12/2012

The other day, at the local small dogs' playgroup, there was much more humping and intimate exploration going on than usual - and I'm speaking of the dogs here. It was noticed and commented on among the humans present, one of whom observed that "tis the season to be jolly".

Maybe she was right, and among all the other delights of December is a heightened propensity among dogs to rub against each other lewdly, even though you never hear about this in seasonal carols.

Scamp humps Connor
  Sometimes the tables are turned: Scamp bothers Connor at the playgroup.
Or maybe the presence that day of a not-yet-desexed male puppy disturbed the group's collective hormonal balance.

Whatever the cause, my Connor was an active (and, sometimes, passive) participant. The object of his interest, as always, was Phoebe; there are times when he just won't leave her alone, and those times are mostly when other people are around. Which is why I regard him as a "social humper".

We can be walking with the dogs down a street, encounter friends, and immediately see a change in Connor's behaviour. He starts bothering Phoebe, nudging her and placing his chin dominantly on her withers. Then he humps.

It's as though he's saying "I'm the boss here; see how I prove it?" Also, he's ensuring extra attention from the people present, all of whom affect to be amused and unembarrassed yet seem anxiously optimistic that the humping will soon stop. It is, after all, terribly distracting to have sexual stuff going on in the background - as any viewer of Spartacus: Blood and Sand will know.

(Connor does do it at home, too, but with less alacrity than he shows with other people around. We try to discourage it, not to protect our sensitivities but to protect Phoebe's back. And Phoebe gets up to it too, waiting for Connor to be engaged in chewing a toy and then mounting him from all sides and at all angles; Connor chews on, oblivious.)

I often make a little excuse or explanation, along the lines of "He's not like this at home!" Maybe, with Connor's displays, I feel that he's selling himself short, presenting himself poorly, whereas I'd like other people to know how good and charming he is (and by extension, what a good owner I must be?).

Gah, I'm a socially anxious parent.

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