Funny thing occurred on the weekend. My family and I were visiting my parents and we both have dogs. They have played and tangled together for 4 years now as my dog is now 4 going on 5. Anyhow, my golden retriever started mounting my parents Labrador retriever. Mom says to me, “why is Kolby trying to dominate Howie? He hasn’t really done a lot of that.”
I have also seen and talked a lot about this behavior in puppy class, and I would like to bring more understanding to why dogs mount.
Most people believe that mounting another dog means one dog is trying to dominate the other. The truth is, mounting is not a dominance behavior at all. The definition of dominance refers to prioritizing access to a resource. Mounting does not gain access to food, toys, space, or anything else that is tangible (a resource).
The following are the most common motivations behind mounting in dogs.
- Arousal -at a certain level of excitement the energy is dispersed elsewhere sometimes showing as zooming dogs, barking, and sometimes even mounting.
- Anxiety -will lead to mounting as a displacement behavior -some dogs will scratch, sniff or dig while others will mount (people also display displacement behaviors)
- Play -when dogs are at play, they will mix up behaviors in new and different sequences -some believe play is practice for real world (chase, stalk, hunt, pounce, mouthing, fighting, wrestling and mounting) -all mixed with other signals = just kidding/playing
- Status -While common attribute for mounting, dogs almost never use mounting as a form of status seeking or as a display of status
- Feels good -frankly, dogs just like too -humans masturbate -allow to happen in private time but when humans are around or other dogs don’t like it -REDIRECT the behavior.
By Michelle McParland, RVT, Puppy Preschool Instructor