Communicating without mounting
Many dogs have a line that they have which should not be crossed. That line is being mounted. Luke has a clear line, when he was young it was even clearer. He would allow rough play, even rude behavior but don't set foot on him. If a dog attempted to mount him, he would take swift and immediate action. One of his best friends way back when he was a youngster was a very rambunctious Boxer. They played hard, leaping over one another and hitting as boys like to do. He loved to play rough as long as there was no mounting involved. Now his line is a bit blurry as a senior; he doesn't allow nonsense in any shape or form. He likes to be left alone unless he is interested in an interaction, he's earned that right.
But many dogs have the same line when it comes to being mounted. At two years of age Elsa has the line. Penny, my daughters young Bull Terrier is at our house for a visit; she has been brawling with Elsa since the moment she walked into the house. Yesterday, for a moment in the late afternoon Penny gave the mount option a try. Elsa had just lay down on the blanket set out for them in the kitchen. It was very hot out so they were both inside enjoying the A/C. As Penny approached Elsa, it was clear that Elsa immediately saw something she didn't like. Of course I was watching them like a hawk when I saw Elsa's reaction to Penny's approach. There was something different about it. Penny's ears were very upright; high on her head and close together. She put one foot on Elsa causing Elsa to growl and change her demeanor.
My attention was now undivided as I watched the interaction. Penny now had Elsa's undivided attention as well. She approached again and put one foot on Elsa's leg. At this point Elsa was still laying down on the blanket. But as Penny's foot dropped onto Elsa's leg; Elsa let out a short but meaningful growl. That was the line and Penny had crossed it. "That's enough" I said as Elsa got to her feet. As slow and methodical as it had started; it was extinguished in an instant. The moment was over; Elsa was on her feet and the two began to play again. Funny how dogs can have such harsh words and be over it instantly.
Once they started to play again, Elsa dropped to the floor and had Penny on top of her head. They are constantly on top of each other but play standing over and dominance standing over are two entirely different things. As an expert body language reader; Elsa reads with crazy precision. Elsa came to us with this skill and it has served her well. Now that she is entering into an age of maturity; communications have more meaning.
As an avid dog watcher and behavior specialist I see lots of crazy behavior. Mounting is one behavior that is often misplaced and typically undesirable. I see it a lot in puppy mill dogs or dogs who have not had the appropriate time with their siblings and Mother. Some pet store dogs are perpetual mounters which can get them into all sorts of trouble. Often seen as a "no big deal," behavior from novice or uneducated dog owners. A mount can quickly turn an interaction into a serious problem.
But a mount is not always read as a threat. It can be an obsessive issue; a behavior used for anything and everything with regard to excitement. If a mounting obsessive dog uses it on another dog; the other dog may see it as just sort of annoying. I have seen these obsessive mounters at the dog parks. Many of the recipients to the mounting just simply try to shake it off, literally. But there will always be the one dog who's line will be crossed making that obsessive behavior a dangerous one.
Mounting seen in our household dogs is an undesirable behavior. It is a very natural behavior that is seen in wolves. It is a behavior used to enforce or establish dominance. The act of mounting in itself is not all that dangerous but the meaning behind it is. The problem lies with dogs mounting strange dogs or dogs who do not live within their pack. Even dogs within a pack can run into trouble by mounting one another. The problem lies with the acceptance of a mount by the mountee (dog being mounted.) Hence the invisible line which is drawn in the sand as far as mounting is concerned.
Do not allow your dog to mount others. If you have several dogs in your home; watch for this behavior. Mounting may be accepted for a point; or may never cause an issue. My girl Jessie use to regularly mount the legs of my Poodles. They knew what she was doing and why she was doing it but never felt threatened by it due to her size. She was the clear boss in their minds and every so often just needed to remind them. There unresponsive reaction was probably due to the fact that I always removed her. But as long as you are the boss of your home, mounting is an unnecessary behavior. As far as mounting dogs in public, at parks, beach etc. Do not allow it. Nip it in the bud as they say; it can only lead to problems.