Do pets really get jealous?

April 02, 2020

Do pets really get jealous?

 

Recent psychological studies performed on dogs have shown that dogs do in fact experience jealousy. We’d like to think of our pets as the most perfect beings in the universe. But alas, our dogs are just like us and we are imperfect. Dogs too get jealous!



Signs that your dog is jealous

Dog asking for attention

Sometimes our dogs act in a way that implies they're jealous. When you pet another dog, your pup may shoulder his way in front of you, knocking your hand out of the way of its canine friend. Or your dog may irritatingly whine when another dog in the house receives a treat, and he doesn't. But are these jealous behaviors? Experts disagree. Regardless of how you identify it, this type of behavior is often undesired or unhealthy.

Here are some jealous-like actions that pet parents should be on the lookout for:

  1. Aggressive behavior towards humans or other pets. Aggressive behavior often comes in the form of nibbling or biting of the dog or person getting the attention they think they deserve.
  1. Taking bathroom breaks indoors. Dogs don't express their thoughts or feelings the way that we do. They don't use words to tell us what's going on inside, so they use actions to express their jealousy. If you notice your dog urinating or defecating in places they shouldn’t, it could be their way of telling you something.
  1. A little extra love. If you notice your dog coming off as extra cuddly or if they suddenly start to lick your face and palms, it's probably because they think the surplus of affection will garner them more attention. 
  1. Excessively Pushy behavior. This comes in the form of your dog stopping another animal or person from moving unobstructed on a regular basis or elbowing their way into the situation and demanding for the attention of their owners.
  1. Getting into fights with other pets. Households with multiple dogs may face this issue because they start to compete over their owner’s attention.
  1. Scaring off strangers. Your dogs may bark aggressively, or hiss, or even growl when visitors arrive. Sometimes this behavior spills over to their owners.
  1. Doing tricks. Humans like to show off when we're put in a place that makes them inferior. We want to show off our best qualities to mask the jealousy. It's a surefire sign when your dog starts doing tricks.
  1. A lack of respect for personal space. Dogs will try to sit on you or stand on their hind legs and start to beg.
  1. Walking out. Apparently this isn't just a human thing. Sometimes when our dogs are upset they have tendencies to withdraw.

 

Most of the time, dog jealousy is caused by changes in their new schedule, home and neighborhood, primary caregiver, pets at home, people in the house, and even a baby that just moved in.



Managing jealousy between dogs

Dogs welcoming their owner

Never reward a dog for inappropriate behavior. Though some of your dog's jealous actions come off as adorable, you need to address them to keep them in check and uphold the peace of the household. Monitor your responses to ensure you're not involuntarily bolstering your dog's jealousy with laughter or attention. Acknowledging this bad behavior keeps the habit afloat. Address the jealous behavior such as when one dog pushes another aside during cuddle time or tell them off if they exhibit food aggression. Overusing treats is also a bad idea because your jealous dogs may fight their siblings for the treat.

But if treats do work for you, toss the treat a few feet away to distract the jealous pup and give the others love. In the meantime, slide your non-pushy dog their own treat while your other dog fetches his goodies. Continue stroking your non-jealous dog and toss another piece of kibble to your jealous pup upon their return, before they get the chance to butt in on the petting. Toss the treat closer and closer to your non-jealous dog. The purpose of this activity is to match the cuddles you give your non-jealous dog with the treats your jealous dog is getting — this will lead your pushy dog to think that loving up his sibs equates to receiving treats.

Once your jealous dog looks at you with its adorable eyes for their next piece of kibble while you pet the other pup, make him work for it. Make your dog sit and praise him/her wholly while petting your other dog, then hand him the treat rather than throwing it a few feet away.

Continue to reward your jealous dog for sustaining his calm demeanor until you see that your pup isn't trying to push his jealous agenda. From there, program him down from kibble to a mix of oral praise with the sporadic treat. With practice, you'll manage to distribute your time between your pushy and non-pushy dogs without garnering a jealous response.



Managing jealousy with people

A jealous dog

Weird fun fact: dogs can be jealous of your significant other! People accustomed to living with dogs know that their pups might be jealous of a new member — animal or human that joins the family. A baby, another pet, and even your significant other are factors that can make your dog jealous. You need to learn to identify these indications of jealousy. Nip these behaviors in the bud and your two favorite things in the world will be best friends in no time.

Put yourself in your dog’s shoes — or paws, rather. Your dog is used to getting all your attention and suddenly it disappears upon the arrival of an intruder. It’s better to anticipate complications and look for ways to keep the peace between your beloved dog and your significant other. You will need your significant other’s cooperation for this and if they're dog lovers, they'd be happy to help!

Many methods can help; the critical concern is for both of you to confer that no one will take away your dog's love. You both need to give your dog extra attention. They mustn't feel like you're leaving them for your new relationship. Make your dog associate your significant other with positive acts such as cuddles, walks, nap times, and feeding.

Correct the jealous behavior with patience, affection, and plenty of positive reinforcement. And remember, never punish your dog for the way they react. It only makes the situation worse. If the jealous behavior mutates into aggression, you need to consult with a specialist on how to make the transition easier for your dog.



Managing jealousy with babies

Baby and a dog

Knowing a bit of dog psychology will help make things easier on your pooch. All dogs are territorial. If, for example, your dog likes to nap in a specific place in the house, choose another location to set the bean bag.

Dogs, like infants, thrive on routine and predictability. If you plan to build a nursery and switch things up around the house, do it before the baby even comes home, so your dog has time to adjust. Let your dog sniff around the nursery and look around. By the time you bring your baby home, your dog won't be that suspicious about your baby's things.

Another way to ease your dog into living with a new roommate is to have children over at your place, so they get a feel of what it's like to have tiny humans running alongside them. Host play dates with your friend's kids and let your dog socialize with them as it will give your pup an idea of how to respond to how children play. Additionally, they'll be a little bit more prepared for the chaos of a younger sister or brother. Executing this technique in advance is key to reversing behavior you don't like. It will also allow you to change any behavior you don't like. The less positive reinforcement an animal gets from behavior, the less likely he is to continue it.



What to do about a jealous pet

A Dalmatian being pet by its owner

When you recognize that your pet starts getting jealous, you need to make some changes that will reduce the problems in their behavior. In your dog's head, paying another breathing creature attention is blasphemous. If you dare touch or talk to another dog or person, your pup will be right there to scoot your hand back on his head. A little bit of training and a lot of rewards can help throw this jealous behavior aside.

Use basic obedience to deter jealousy. Telling your dog to sit, stay, or even lie down will prevent the commotion of jealousy when your significant other or another dog comes close to you. Instead of petting all the dogs at the same time or trying to cuddle with both your dog and partner at the same time, instruct your dog to sit and stay. Release your dog from the command after they've allowed the second person or dog to have a little bit of attention first.

If your dog doesn't listen to the commands and he fights for your attention, ignore your pup until they calm down. When he does, immediately pat him to reward him. The purpose is to send a message to your dog that he will receive attention, but only when he behaves.

Truly the best way to deal with a jealous pet is to teach them that affection can be divided. Just because someone else or another dog is receiving attention doesn’t mean that it’s being taken away from then. Show your dog that jealousy isn’t healthy behavior and they won’t be rewarded for lashing out. When disciplining your dog, create a safe space for them. Don’t reprimand them hours after the incident. The repercussion for their actions should come seconds after they’ve lashed out.

Hiring a dog trainer is the best way to discover how to cautiously handle your jealous dog, act around him, and keep others around him safe.

And of course, your pup needs some TLC. Jealousy could just be a lack of attention, so give your dog the attention that they need. Set aside time to cuddle up on the couch and watch TV together. You have no idea how much your dog will love it. 




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