We rescued a dog from South Carolina. He is about five to six years old. He looks like a German Shepard and yellow lab mix. We did his DNA, and he has twenty-one breeds in him — mostly, Pit Bull Terriers, Chow Chow, and Golden Retriever.
He is well-behaved in the house, but when we take him to the park, he gets very hyper and sometimes mounts other dogs and people. In the car, he jumps from the back to the front. When we restrain him, he pants and breaths heavily. He seems to have so much anxiety at times. How do we stop the mounting?
— Artie and Stella, Smithtown, New York
Dear Artie and Stella,
Mounting can be an embarrassing behavior for any dog’s owner. But rest assured, many dogs do it, and for various reasons. While the behavior is associated with mating, fixed dogs of either sex will mount dogs of the same and opposite sex when they want to display dominance over another dog, when they are super excited (i.e., like going to the dog park), or when they are playing.
People are also reading…
During play, you may see milder versions of this behavior in which all the dogs may be doing it to each other. If everyone is happy, there’s gently nothing to worry about. But even in play, if another dog doesn’t like being mounted, or if your dog is being obnoxious about it, there is a chance there could be a fight.
So, stop the behavior as soon as you see it, which means physically going over and pushing your dog off another dog or better yet, training him to get off the other dog with the “off” command. Use the “off” command when you want your dog to get off your couch, etc., and point in the direction you want him to go. When your dog understands this command, tell your dog “off” when he mounts another dog. Then ask him to “come” and “sit.” After the “sit” command, you may offer a treat. By interrupting your dog’s excitement, you are helping him to calm down and learn how to play better with his friends.
We have two kittens, a brother and sister, from the same litter. We got them from a rescue group at eight weeks old. They are well-socialized, but the female kitten nurses my arm during the night. I have put her out of the room, but she starts again every night at about 2 a.m. Our vet and everyone else say she was taken from her mother too soon. But no one offers any plan to stop the behavior. Is there really no way to help this adorable kitten? She was born on Easter and is named Bunny.
— Ruth, Pikesville, Maryland
It’s not uncommon for kittens to “nurse” someone if taken away from their mom too soon. It’s much like a child sucking their thumb; it’s their security blanket. Bunny will grow out of this behavior over time, but in the meantime, she is feeling a little stressed from the early separation and is finding comfort with you.
You can discourage her when she does this but in a gentle way. Putting her outside the room will stop the behavior but won’t curb it in the future. Instead, when she does this, cover your arm, and stroke her head or back to see if she will fall asleep with you. If she does this during the day, play with her, groom her, or offer her favorite toy to distract her from nursing you.
Finally, get a pheromone collar for her for the next month or two. These artificial pheromones mimic a mother’s pheromones after birth and may calm her. Be patient. She is still a baby and will not likely be doing this as an adult cat.
Regarding the letter from Tom, in Deer Park, New York, regarding the cost of vet care, I asked for a senior citizen discount when I first brought my cat to the veterinarian. My cat is not a senior; I am. The office gave me a 10% discount on the entire bill. Now, the office automatically applies the discount to my bill. Don’t be afraid to speak up, seniors. Every savings counts.
— Margarete, Port Jefferson Station, New York
Tom’s concerns over rising vet costs have generated a lot of letters in my inbox. I don’t think people think about asking their veterinarian for a senior discount. It’s a good tip and definitely worth asking your vet about it. Thanks, Margarete.
(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)