Mounting Behavior in Dogs and Cats

One of the ways that a dog asserts his or her dominance is to assume a physically superior position over a subordinate. The dog attempts to become “top dog”. Mounting is the most obviously dominant position. The mounting dog stands over or uses its front paws to clasp another dog. If the subordinate dog does not resist, the mounting dog may then arch its back and perform rhythmic pelvic thrusts. This is normal social behavior between dogs and allows them to establish rank between individuals. A dominant dog may even do this on a person’s arm or leg. Some owners find this entertaining but it should not be encouraged. Tolerance of this behavior is viewed by the mounting dog as confirmation of its dominant status and this is never desirable in a pet.

Cats mount each other as dominance displays, too. It is most common in male cats, but females mount for declaration of social rank as well. A neutered male cat may sometimes appear to masturbate on his owner’s arm; this may be sexually motivated but it has implication for social status as well.

Many people mistake mounting in both cats and dogs for sexual behavior. The best way to distinguish between dominance mounting and sexual mounting is to consider the circumstances and the participants. Unless the animal being mounted is a female in heat and/or the mounting dog is an intact male, the mounting is probably a display of dominance. If dominance mounting is observed between dogs it is inadvisable to intervene. If your dog is mounting you, command it to “sit” or “down” and “stay”. Avoid allowing your pet to assume a superior posture over you, such as standing over you when you are sitting on the floor. Don’t let your dog mistake your innocent indulgence of its social challenges for a sign of weakness and subordination! If your cat is mounting you, push him off and say ‘No!’; then turn his or her attention toward a more appropriate toy.

© Stefanie Schwartz 2011