Sometimes a veterinarian has to discuss issues that might be considered personal, sometimes they can be uncomfortable. But that is why we are here! Pets can display bizarre behaviors, our job is to help uncover why they are doing it and modify if possible.
Mounting behavior is one of these topics I do get asked about often. Most people assume (and rightly so when you view it) that mounting is a sexual behavior. And animals do mount to procreate. But they also can mount as a ‘displacement behavior’ in response to;
The context of the behavior is important. For example, Bubba gets humped at the dog park. Often. More than other dogs it seems. Maybe I just think that because I’m more focused on him.
Anyway. When puppies do it , its’ often that they don’t know how to interact with another dog and this is a ‘hardwired’ behavior. For some dogs it is attention seeking. They do it, hear their owners yell at them to stop, and repeat. Some dogs get carried away with play and slip into mounting. Some dogs might do it to control a relationship (specifically thinking about a child-dog interaction).
What to do about it?
While mounting is not a harmful behavior, it tends not be a desirable one either. The vet’s concern is that it could become a compulsive behavior or lead to overt aggression. I always take a good history from the pet owner and perform a thorough physical exam to see if there could be an underlying medical reason first. If that seems unlikely I usually approach it as I would any other undesirable behavior.
Behavioral modification includes redirecting the dog with a more appropriate behavior, avoiding the triggers that set the behavior off, and desensitization and counter conditioning. I won’t go into the details of each technique here, but can provide links or discuss further if requested. Like us, our pets have their quirks. We love them for it and in spite of it.