THIS IS EMBARRASSING: UNDERSTANDING MOUNTING DISPLAYS IN DOGS Mounting displays in dogs. Why do dogs do this sort of thing? And what can be done to stop it?


Youโ€™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. Why do dogs do this sort of thing? And what can be done to stop it?

You’re taking 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 their motivation 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 learn 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 at 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. However, 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 Crucial

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 ages 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 to do 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. 

Professional intervention is likely required if this provokes an aggressive response in the dog. 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.

How do you fix mounting behavior in dogs? 

Addressing mounting behavior in dogs requires consistent training and positive reinforcement. ASPCA advises to watch your dog closely, especially during playtime with other dogs. Look for signs that he's about to mount another dog, such as stiffening, staring, or lifting a paw. As soon as you notice your dog preparing to mount, firmly but calmly say "Leave it" or another command you've chosen for this purpose. This interrupts the behavior and redirects his attention. If your dog responds to your command and stops, immediately praise him and offer a treat as positive reinforcement. Be consistent with your commands and reactions every time your dog attempts to mount. This helps him understand what is expected of him. If your dog doesn't respond to your command and continues to mount despite your efforts, calmly end the play session. This teaches him that mounting behavior leads to the end of fun activities. You can also practice the "leave it" command regularly, even when there are no other dogs present as it reinforces the command's importance and helps your dog understand it in various contexts. If these don’t work, seek guidance from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.

What is inappropriate mounting in dogs?

While mounting can be a normal part of dog behavior in certain contexts, such as during play or breeding, it becomes inappropriate when it happens excessively, persistently, or in inappropriate situations. When a dog tries to mount humans, whether it's their owners, visitors, or strangers, it is generally considered inappropriate and can be uncomfortable or alarming for some people. Mounting behavior directed towards inanimate objects such as furniture, toys, or other items may indicate boredom, frustration, or a lack of appropriate outlets for energy. While mounting can occur during play or social interactions with other dogs, it becomes inappropriate if it is excessive, persistent, or causes discomfort or conflict with another animal. If a dog displays mounting behavior while engaging in training activities or during obedience sessions, it can be disruptive and may indicate a lack of focus or self-control. Mounting that occurs in situations of stress, fear, or tension may indicate that the dog is using mounting as a coping mechanism or as a way to assert dominance or relieve anxiety.

Do dogs mount to show dominance? 

Mounting behavior in dogs can have various reasons, and while dominance is one of them, it's not the only one. Unneutered male dogs may mount as a sexual behavior, particularly when they sense a female in heat. However, neutered dogs and even females may also mount for sexual reasons. Dogs, especially puppies, may mount during play as part of their social interactions. Gary Landsberg, DVM, a veterinary behaviorist in Ontario, Canada, says that puppies or older dogs can be seen mounting each other during playful sessions, which is a common play gesture. Mounting can sometimes be a response to stress or excitement. For example, a dog might mount when feeling anxious or overstimulated. Some dogs may mount to assert their territory, particularly in multi-dog households, often linked to a sense of ownership rather than just dominance. Dogs can also mount as a way to get attention from their owners or other dogs.

At what age do dogs stop mounting?

Neutering (for males) or spaying (for females) can often decrease mounting behavior related to sexual motivations. Neutering or spaying usually happens around six months to a year when puppies reach puberty. Before that, mounting is just playful behavior that puppies use to discover their strength and social position. This can also continue in the latter years, even if in female dogs that have been spayed. Proper socialization and training can also influence mounting behavior. Dogs that are well-socialized from a young age and have consistent training are less likely to engage in mounting as they mature. Some dogs may naturally outgrow mounting behavior as they mature and become more socially adept. 

Mounting can be beaten!



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