Dogs communicate with others using a variety of behaviors, including territorial marking and, yes, mounting. And for the latter, the message need not be sexual in nature. Though these may be embarrassing for owners, to dogs, these behaviors are like leaving a note or shaking hands. Some may also be surprised to learn that female dogs are equally as likely to mark or to mount as males under certain circumstances.
Gaining Acceptance into the Pack
Mounting is sexual in nature only when a male is stimulated by the hormones of a female in heat. It can also be a way for dogs to establish social roles within the pack. These roles typically remain consistent as long as the group is consistent. However, as group members are added or subtracted or as group members pass through life stages, their social order changes. New members of a group may produce increased activity and noise with their presence, such as mounting, posturing, and other activities. New members' acceptance by the pack depends on their behavior when challenged by these behaviors. A change in reproductive status may also trigger a change in social role, so a recently spayed female may be attempting to re-establish her place in the group.
Training to Control Mounting Behavior
Because mounting in females is a social and not sexual behavior, dogs will mount humans, other dogs and even inanimate objects. A short "tab" leash attached to your dog's collar can be a useful tool when attempting to discourage inappropriate mounting behavior. Removing your dog from on top of another dog and placing her in a time-out can reinforce that you deem the behavior to be inappropriate, as can blocking the mounting behavior with your body if you see it beginning to take place.
By Jo Chester
PetEducation.com: Normal Behavior and Instinct in Dogs
PetEducation.com: Dog Parks: Fun and Games
Televets: Dominance Aggression in Dog
The Whole dog Journal: Dog Mounting and Dog Dominance Behavior
Association of Pet Dog Trainers: Dominance and Dog Training
Association of Animal Behavior Professionals: The Effects of Spaying and Neutering on Canine Behavior
About the Author
Jo Chester holds a certificate in pet dog training from Triple Crown Academy for Dog Trainers. She has trained dogs for competition in conformation, Rally and traditional obedience and agility. Chester has two goats, chickens, rabbits, a collie and a pet rat, in addition to several much-loved Toy Fox Terriers.