Petplan on addressing mounting behavior in dogs

Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Feb 29 2012

Your dog’s mounting behavior is likely an embarrassment to you, but to him, it’s just canine nature. Or is it? Today, we’ll take a look at the most common causes of this unacceptable (by human standards) habit.

Many people find the subject of canine mounting difficult to bring up at a routine veterinary visit, but try not to be too shy about it. As veterinarians, I can guarantee you that we’ve heard FAR worse questions! I think that, for the most part, my clients think that mounting behaviors are sexual in nature and therefore will subside after neutering. These clients become frustrated when the behavior continues after castration. The truth is, there are a variety of reasons for mounting behavior. Let’s take a look at some of them.

  • Anxiety: Anxiety is actually the main reason that dogs display mounting behaviors, either toward people or nearby objects. Mounting serves as an outlet for extreme emotional arousal or getting too excited. When a new person comes to the door, causing excitement to your pet, he might mount her leg in lieu of knowing how else to express his excitement. The same goes for when a new toy comes into the house and becomes the target for mounting behavior. Over time, mounting can become an attention-seeking behavior as well.
  • Sexual in nature: Even if your pet is neutered, he still might have the motivation and ability to go through the motions of copulation. If he’s not neutered, consider doing this to curb some mounting behavior – doing so reduces the behavior by 50% in 70% of patients.
  • Dominance: Many people think that dominance is the most common reason for mounting behavior, but that is not always the case. It can be used to establish dominance or remind a companion who is dominant, but it can also be a part of normal play between two dogs with a healthy relationship. Dominance certainly plays no role in the mounting behavior your dog may display toward his favorite toy.
  • Self-soothing: Much like thumb sucking soothes our children, mounting behavior can calm our pets. Dogs can sometimes be found mounting their favorite toys during stressful events or before going to sleep.

While mounting behavior is natural, it is not preferred, and can occasionally get out of hand and become a compulsive problem. The goal in dealing with it is to try to decrease the frequency and duration of events. If this blog sounds all too familiar, bring the matter up with your vet, who can give you some tips for dealing with your pet’s mounting behavior.