By Lisa Ellman
“It’s not about sex ….” This was my response to a comment made by someone at the dog park about his dog being a “horn dog,” because his dog had been mounting other dogs.
I see it all the time, as I’m sure you have, when dogs are playing and can become overly stimulated.
I know for some people it’s absolutely mortifying to see their dog do this, but it’s important for humans to take the sexuality out of it. Mounting is a typical and common dominance behavior, not only in dogs, but also in cows, chimps, lions and horses, to name a few.
The only time it’s actually about sex, in non-human animals, is when a male is alerted to a female, of its own species, that is in heat, or “estrus,” and ready and receptive to mounting.
One of the reasons we know that it’s commonly not a sexual behavior, is that it crosses gender lines — as in females mount females and males mount males.
According to a local veterinarian, one of the reasons that a female will mount another dog (female or male) is due to the cycling of hormones at the time. Even though a dog is fixed, there are still hormonal cycles that can drive behaviors.
A female dog that is cycling a higher level of testosterone may feel more dominant than her playmates at that time and exhibit the mounting behavior.
It’s a totally normal behavior, and no matter how many times you yell at your dog to stop, or physically pull them off, the behavior will continue. You are fighting instinct.
I believe as a trainer, that human intervention in trying to stop the mounting behavior is not only futile, but also inhibits a dog’s learning in how to communicate with another dog.
When dogs are playing and this behavior manifests, I believe it is best to let the dog being mounted let the mounter know to stop. This happens when the mounted dog, male or female, signals that they’ve had enough, either by turning and snapping or otherwise somehow communicating, as dogs do, to the mounter to stop.
In the long run, I believe letting dogs work it out helps to prevent escalation and a potential fight. Dogs must learn from each other, especially in social situations, the cues and signals about what will be tolerated and what will not.
Human interference prevents the receiver from learning these cues and that can have unfortunate consequences in future engagements.
The only exception to human interference, in my opinion, is when the dog being mounted is unable to get the other dog to stop. The dog may not know what signals to give, or may be so submissive that it just lays there.
At that point, it is important for the person whose dog is mounting, to step in and, calmly, take the dog away.
If the dog continues to go back and “bully” the same dog, then the mounter should calmly be taken out of the park. Keep in mind that your dog hasn’t done anything wrong; it’s just being a dog.
Good Dogma has been helping dogs and their people for over 20 years. Listen to the Good Dogma radio show on 97.3/107.9 The Rock on Saturdays from 2-2:30. For more information contact Good Dogma at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or see her website at: www.gooddogma.net.