One of the most lovely things about dogs is that they tend to love without discrimination. What this might make some dog owners wonder, though, is whether dogs can actually have any kind of preference in terms of who they love.
That’s right, some dog owners may, in fact, wonder if their dogs can be gay.
Seriously, Can Dogs Be Gay?
Okay, let’s start with the obvious here – dogs don’t do labels. Your dog doesn’t worry about what to call his or her behaviors. Your dog is a dog.
Do dogs engage in behavior that’s sexual – or sexual-adjacent – with other dogs that are the same sex? Almost certainly! There are definitely enough examples out there that it’s impossible to deny that happens.
Does this mean that dogs can be gay? Well, no, not really. Dogs don’t have sexual orientations, so they’re not going to be exhibiting homosexual behavior. Dogs are dogs.
Dogs and Sexuality
So we know that dogs don’t exactly have labels. How, then, do we explain the actions that dogs take? Dogs definitely have a tendency to engage in behaviors we’d describe as sexual with everything from other dogs to the legs of strangers, so how can that be described?
So, sometimes dogs definitely hump things because of physical reasons. It’s not exactly pretty, but it does happen. In many cases, though, dogs behave this way because of reasons that are entirely non-sexual. In fact, dogs behaving this way can actually be because of some of the complex rules of dog socialization.
Why Dogs Do “That”
Yes, your dog has probably humped something in public. It’s not a thing we want to admit as dog owners, but it happens. It’s even more appalling when dogs do the same with other dogs, as we really don’t want to acknowledge exactly what’s going on.
This behavior is more properly called mounting, and it’s something that happens for any number of reasons. Intercourse is one of those reasons, of course, but it’s not the only one. In fact, this is actually a behavior that’s more tied to social cues in most cases.
The biggest reason why dogs mount one another is that they are playing. Dogs don’t think there’s anything inappropriate about doing this to another dog, so they’ll gleefully do it whenever they get a chance. There’s a reason why puppies will mount virtually anything that moves, after all – they’re just having fun.
In other cases, mounting can be part of a dominant action. When an older dog mounts a new dog, he or she is showing that he or she is in charge. This is actually a sign that your dog might not be all that well socialized, though, and it’s something that a good trainer might help you to learn how to control
As an aside, dogs who haven’t been spayed or neutered are almost certainly going to engage in these dominant behaviors more often. Neutering or spaying won’t get rid of the behaviors entirely, especially if you have the procedure done after your dog gets used to these actions.
Dogs and Sexual Identity
A much better question than whether dogs can be gay is why we tend to ask the question at all. What we’re really doing here is humanizing our pets – we are acting as if they are furry humans and trying to make them adhere to our own morals and customs. This is natural given the time we spend with our dogs, but it’s also not a realistic way to think about our pets.
Dogs are, quite simply, dogs. They do what they want for complex reasons, but all of those reasons are definitely dog reasons. If your dog decides to hump a dog of its own gender, it’s doing so because it wants to do so and not because of any deep-seated sexual identity issues.
A Note About Homosexuality in Animals
Now we get to the complicated part because we have to disassociate the actions of dogs with the intent that we ascribe to those actions.
Homosexual intercourse isn’t necessarily the norm in the animal kingdom, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. A number of different types of animals engage in same-sex intercourse, though most of them don’t necessarily pair-bond. There are, however, animals that absolutely do pair bond with other animals of the same sex.
Relationships that are far more analogous to human same-sex relationships actually show up from time to time in birds. Penguins, for example, will form same-sex couples, as will albatrosses. Dolphins are likewise observed to engage in similar behaviors.
As you might not be surprised to know, apes have a variety of different sexual preferences. Lesbianism, for example, is fairly frequent in macaques. Bonobos, on the other hand, might be described to be bisexual as the norm. Bonobos tend to use sexuality as part of their social toolset, so it’s not uncommon to see these apes balancing several relationships with apes of both sexes.
Just because we see the behaviors in animals, though, doesn’t mean that we can necessarily give them any kind of label. While we can be as scientific as we like, the truth is still that we are attempting to describe a very human category to animals who might not have the same motivations.
For example, it’s really hard to tell if a dog – or monkey, or bird – actually has a sexual preference for single-sex or if that animal is simply engaging in that activity because he or she has been presented with an opportunity. It isn’t uncommon, for example, for a dog to engage in homosexual behaviors to immediately turn around and breed with another dog.
In short, we definitely see homosexual behaviors in the animal kingdom and we certainly even see animals who seem to have a preference for bonding with the same sex. We can’t really apply human labels to any of those animals, though, because it’s rather impossible for them to let us know exactly why they’re engaging in those behaviors and what it means to them.
But What if Your Dog is Gay?
The great news here is that it probably doesn’t matter at all.
Honestly, your dog could engage in sexual behaviors with virtually anything on the planet and it could still live virtually the same life as a dog who regularly engages in heterosexual intercourse. Your dog is just a dog, the same animal who tries to drink out of the toilet and who has very strong feelings about his or her favorite dog food – sexuality just isn’t something that matters in his or her world.
The great thing is that your dog has no idea that labels even exist. Maybe your dog likes dogs of the same sex. Maybe your dog really just likes his or her favorite dog toy. Your dog knows that certain things make him or her happy and that he or she will act on those feelings. That’s not the worst way in the world to live.
In fact, homosexuality really doesn’t even play a role in a dog’s life in the way it plays a role in human life. You can still breed your dog (albeit artificially) without your dog caring, you can still have your dog be part of a ‘pack’ of dogs in your home, and you’ll never have to worry about another animal mistreating your dog because of what he or she does in his or her off time.
In truth, human sexuality is a lot more fluid than we give it credit for being. There’s so much work done to understand human sexuality, in fact, that it’s just silly to imagine that we could ever understand how dogs view the same sorts of topics. Instead of worrying about what your dog prefers, just be happy that your dog prefers to spend time with you.