He's at it again -- trying to mate with the neighbor girl even though she's not in heat. Your pooch isn't being naughty, he's just exercising the fairly common dog behavior known as mounting. Male and female dogs alike may mount a variety of things for a variety of reasons.
The Objects of Affection
Of course a female dog in heat will attract suitors, but male dogs -- neutered or intact -- may attempt to mate with a female who's not in heat. And female dogs aren't the only potential targets of an interested dog. People, other animals and inanimate objects such as toys, pillows and stuffed animals may be on the receiving end a dog's mounting behavior. Mounting isn't just boys being boys; female dogs engage in mounting behavior as well.
Why So Excited?
There are a variety of explanations for this sometimes-embarrassing behavior. Mating, or sexual behavior, isn't limited to intact dogs. Dogs mount, and masturbate, because it feels good. If your pup is engaging in play bows, has his tail up and seems particularly playful before he mounts, his behavior is probably sexually motivated. Some dogs mount when they get overly excited during play, while others mount because they are stressed. Mounting can be social behavior, as a dog tries to show dominance, or it may become a compulsive disorder, done out of habit. Medical conditions can impact a dog's mounting behavior. Urinary tract infections, skin allergies, persistent erections and incontinence are among some of the factors that can perpetuate your pup's actions. He should visit the vet if you notice him rubbing his body against things or excessive licking, chewing or mounting.
Spaying or neutering your pup will decrease the motivation to mount; however, it won't stop the behavior since it's more than just mating for your dog. Redirecting his attention can be effective: try distracting your dog when he starts to exhibit his mounting warning signs: licking, whining or rubbing against his target. Instigate a game of fetch or ask him to perform a trick to occupy him. Coming between him and the other dog -- or pillow, or person -- will force him to change his plans. If he sets his sights on your leg, simply walk away from him. Teaching your dog the Leave It command is especially helpful, whether he's interested in another dog or one of his toys. Time-outs can be effective, as well; send your dog to his bed in an area without toys for a few minutes, until he's calmed down. If possible, avoid the trigger situations that bring out the mounting behavior.
Sometimes it's necessary to call in a pro to help deal with mounting behavior. If his behavior becomes compulsive or interferes with normal life, or if you feel he may have an aggressive reaction to your intervention, a certified applied animal behaviorist may help. If a dog growls or snaps when you try to come between him and his object, stay safe and don't interfere.
By Betty Lewis
ASPCA: Mounting and Masturbation
WebMD: Humping: Why Do Dogs Do It
Whole Dog Journal: Dog Mounting and Dog Dominance Behavior
Psychology Today: Canine Corner: Why Does My Neutered Dog Mount Other Dogs?
About the Author
Betty Lewis has been writing professionally since 2000, specializing in animal care and issues, business analysis and homeland security. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from West Virginia University as well as master's degrees from Old Dominion University and Tulane University.