How to Help Your Dog Become Less Jealous
I had to leave home early the other day, and when I came back, my dog was excited to see me. Normal dog reaction, right? Joy—then happiness—at your return!
After she had calmed down, I went over to the neighbor's house. (I had asked the neighbor to watch her during the day, but as soon as my dog realized she had been over there too long she climbed over the neighbor's six-foot wall and jumped over my wall to wait in my front yard. Was that a display of anxiety?) His dog came up to me to say hello, but my dog thrust herself between us and would not let the dog near me. This was definitely jealousy.
My dog's behavior that afternoon was really not much of an issue because I was able to separate the dogs; I took my dog home and the problem had gone away by the next day.
Had she not been well socialized, not been well trained, or if the situation was permanent, this could have been a much more serious problem.
For some dog owners, jealousy can become a serious issue. A dog jealous of a new dog, especially a puppy, might bite. A dog jealous of a new baby is a dangerous member of the family.
Some scientists believe that dogs are not able to have such a delicate emotion. They think of jealousy as an emotion exclusive to humans. Patricia McConnell, in her book For the Love of a Dog, makes a strong case of jealousy in dogs. Marc Hauser, in his book Wild Minds, argues that dogs don’t feel that type of emotion because they are not aware of self.
I disagree. My dog is self aware, and she definitely can get jealous. Even without human language skills, I can understand her feelings. I am sure that every perceptive dog owner knows what I am talking about.
How to Make Your Dog Less Jealous
Learn to read your dog's facial expressions. To reduce jealousy before it becomes serious, try some of these techniques:
- Walk your dog enough so that she is tired: I know I emphasize this a lot but it really is the answer to a lot of behavioral problems like digging, escape attempts, and excessive barking. If your dog is jealous, but tired, she will be less likely to display jealousy. It is good for your health too!
- Make her more submissive by reinforcing your role as leader of the pack. If your dog is displaying jealousy because of feeling she is in charge, this will help. (If your dog is already submissive, this step is not necessary.)
- Use counterconditioning techniques to make your dog associate the new object (new puppy, new baby) with a pleasant experience. You can read my article about keeping your dog calm during fireworks to understand conditioning techniques.
- Have your male dog neutered if he is displaying aggression while jealous. Neutering is not always a solution for aggression but this is a possible solution you might want to try.
- If none of the other solutions work, have a good physical exam conducted by your vet to rule out a medical cause. if there are any abnormalities, the vet might need to perform some blood work.
- If everything else is normal, and the dog is still displaying jealousy, consult a behaviorist.
This is the first time I have seen my dog acting jealous, but I see it all too often in multiple dog households, and also in households where the dog becomes fixated on only one of the owners. It is a serious problem, and one that is not always easy (or even possible) to solve. Try a few of the tips I have listed above and see if they work for you.
If you have any other suggestions that may be of help in jealousy cases, leave a comment and I will add it to the article.
Learning all of the facial expressions helps a lot with training. There is no constant face of jealousy, but here is a great video of some facial expressions you are going to see with your dog, and what they mean. Not just Boxers, either.
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.