You’re talking your dog for a walk when you meet a friend, also walking their four-legged pal. As you make small talk, the dogs sniff each other out and begin to play. Soon, things get carried away, and you stare, mortified, as your dog mounts the other and starts vigorously thrusting.
You’ve invited your boss over for dinner, and he’s sitting on the couch, making friends with your dog. Without warning, your dog gets a little too friendly, straddles the boss’ leg, and begins to hump enthusiastically. You visualize your career passing before your eyes.
Why do dogs do this sort of thing? And what can be done to stop it?
Mounting Can Have Multiple Causes
Mounting displays can have different causes, and the motivation for them varies depending on the target of the mounting. Mounting behavior when dogs are with each other tends to have different roots than when dogs mount people or objects.
But there’s one big similarity between the different types of mounting displays: They’re all very embarrassing. Generally speaking, mounting is unacceptable behavior and needs to be corrected quickly.
Mounting is Rarely Sexual
When puppies are learning how to behave in the canine world through play, mounting is normal. But, some puppies will be rather fonder of it than others. This can be the root of a long-term problem. We tend to look on everything puppies do as “cute,” making us reluctant to correct the problem.
Yes, mounting is more common in male dogs than female, and sexually capable dogs than in those spayed or neutered. Female dogs still engage in it, as do dogs who have been spayed and neutered. Because, as we’ll see, mounting is often not a sexual act.
Mounting Amongst Dogs
Mounting often occurs amongst dogs in social settings. Although it’s often viewed as a dominance display, which it sometimes is, it’s more complicated than that.
Mounting displays can be associated with generalized aggression in dogs. This can stem from dominance, but also fear.
Naturally dominant dogs may indeed demonstrate this dominance through mounting. But dogs who are uncertain of their place in the social order may experiment with mounting to determine where they stand.
Mounting displays amongst dogs can also be attributed to other factors, such as poor socialization, genetic predisposition, medical conditions, and territoriality
Sometimes, dogs mount each other simply because the play has made them too excited.
Mounting People and Objects
Though dogs mounting people may sometimes be displaying dominance as well, it’s more likely that this behavior has different roots. The dog may be excited by a new visitor, or be stressed by the change in its environment. The dog may also merely be seeking attention.
Object mounting can be a form of stress response. If something has changed in their household, or they aren’t getting enough of your time, they may respond by fixating on an object such as a pillow and mounting it.
Object mounting may be a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or even masturbation. Even neutered males can get erections or even ejaculate.
Addressing the Problem
Now that we’ve seen the different types of mounting displays and understood that they could have various causes, it’s time to talk about solutions. Mounting behavior can be drastically reduced or eliminated with owner intervention, time-outs, temporary isolation, object removal, obedience training, and, in extreme cases, medication.
Early Intervention is Critical
We’ve already discussed the fact that puppies engage in mounting behavior as play. For many of them, this behavior is fleeting. For some, it needs to be corrected.
Neutering and spaying early, between the age of eight weeks to six months, rather than waiting till they get older, is recommended. Mounting behavior doesn’t necessarily disappear with neutering and spaying, and if hormones are allowed too much time to shape the brain’s development, the behavior may remain even after surgery.
The more time a dog has to develop mounting as part of its behavioral repertoire, the harder it will be to correct it.
Ending Dog-on-Dog Mounting
Dog-on-Dog mounting can be a fleeting moment of over-excitement. Or, it can lead to serious fights with the potential for injury. In the heat of the moment, experts recommend distracting your dog with strong commands. Once you’ve gotten their attention, get them doing something else, like sitting or lying down.
In the long term, arranging play dates with friends who have tolerant dogs will allow you to practice intervention, and reinforce the impression in your dog’s mind that mounting is unacceptable.
If all else fails, professional behavioral intervention, or even medication, may be required.
Ending Dog-on-People Mounting
You’ll find out who your friends are with this one. Invite a friend over, and coach them to stand up and walk away once mounting starts. Once the dog realizes the behavior is unacceptable, it may end
If this provokes an aggressive response in the dog, professional intervention is likely required. Crating the dog when guests come over may, unfortunately, be necessary.
Ending Dog-on-Object Mounting
Sometimes, ending object mounting may be as simple as spending more time with your dog. If there’s an upset in your dog’s environment, it might be something you can address, like the placement of their bed. Or, it might be something you can’t, like a new baby.
Removing the object may address the problem as well. But if there’s an underlying psychological problem like OCD, medication may be the solution.
Mounting Can be Controlled or Eliminated
Mounting can be a passing stage in dog development or an occasional response to over-stimulation. Or, it can be a serious behavioral issue. But it can be addressed. You can enjoy that next trip to the dog park, and have your boss over for dinner, in confidence.
Mounting can be beaten!