Why Are Some Dogs Protective When Owners Get Intimate?
Why Is Rover Interfering in My Love Life?
You are on the couch with your new significant other, and things are starting to get romantic. Suddenly, the movie you were watching together is no longer relevant, and the bowl of popcorn you've been snacking from has been put aside. Suddenly, everything disappears and it's just about you and your partner. You start hugging and kissing, and one thing leads to another . . . suddenly Rover barks, jumps up, and wedges himself in between the two of you. ''Oh, Rover! Go back to your place!'' you exclaim. ''Now, where were we?''
Soon after, the scene repeats, and you end up shutting Rover in his crate or in another room. Your significant other asks you what's wrong with Rover, and you both naturally assume he is jealous. But do dogs really feel jealousy toward humans, or could there be a simpler explanation for this behavior?
4 Reasons Why Dogs Interrupt or Get Between Kissing Couples
Anthropomorphism is a term used to describe human qualities being bestowed on non-human animals. While dogs may appear to be jealous when they get in between two lovers, there are usually other motives at play behind such behaviors. The following are a few more likely explanations.
1. They Are ''Splitting'' a Perceived Conflict
Some dogs may not feel comfortable watching their human being hugged and kissed and may feel the need to intervene by wedging their way in between the two parties in an attempt to deescalate what they perceive as a conflict. Turid Rugass, a Norwegian dog expert and author of a great book called , reports that dogs tend to wedge themselves in between other dogs that appear to be in conflict in an effort to calm them down. On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals
In the dog world, kissing and hugging do not exist, so your pet may have a hard time clearly understanding what is going on, particularly when the romantic behavior they observe is on the more passionate side. Dogs may interpret intense intimacy as something confrontational going on between you and your partner. Rover wedging his way in between you may be his way to calm you down and deescalate what he perceives to be a fight.
2. They Are Seeking Attention
Some dogs are attention seekers—plain and simple. They notice that something interesting is going on, and they want to be part of it. If this is the case, your dog might try to join in by licking you and wagging their tail or barking. Rover may simply be looking to get his dose of attention. Some attention-seeking dogs become pushy when their owners are on the phone or simply ignoring them, and others become pushy when their owners are getting intimate with a partner. They just want to be part of the fun!
3. They Are Curious
If the house has been quiet for a while, and you and your partner suddenly start kissing and making smacking noises, you will certainly attract your dog's attention. Rover's ears may perk up and alert him out of a relaxing snooze. His next logical step is to rush to you to see what's going on. It is also possible that he interprets your smacking noises as you calling him, especially if you often use similar types of noises to get his attention.
4. They Have a Protective or Anxious Nature
It is typical for some dogs to act protective and be wary when somebody approaches their owner. Generally, this results in barking, growling, and perhaps even some snarling. Oftentimes, however, dogs that are perceived as protective are simply insecure and anxious. Dogs who have not been fully socialized may be aloof, suspicious, and wary of strangers. Dogs like these are more likely to be vocal or engage in aggressive behavior when their human is interacting intimately with someone they don't know well.
How to Stop Intrusive Behavior With Training
I once worked on a case where an owner's dog became anxious whenever they hugged—or were hugged by—another person. In this case, as with most, the dog did best when given an alternate behavior to engage in instead of a punishment. Depending on your specific situation, you may have some success with one of the following training methods.
One way to attempt to curb your dog's intrusive vocalizations or behaviors is to use differential reinforcement of incompatible behaviors. Let's say you want Rover to stop putting himself in between you and your partner or barking when you kiss or touch—you should teach him the ''go to your place'' cue. Place a rug at a distance from you and prepare a stuffed Kong. Say ''go to your mat" and toss the Kong on the rug. When Rover goes to the rug and gets the Kong, say ''good boy.'' After several repetitions, he will learn what ''go to your place" means. If you stuff the Kong very well, chances are he'll be distracted by it, allowing you to finally share some alone time with your partner. If you do this every time you want some time alone, your dog should eventually learn to enjoy their own "alone time," too!
Another option is to desensitize and counter-condition your dog to hugs, kisses, etc. This technique works best if your dog seems worried or anxious about your intimate behavior. If Rover has hugging issues, for instance, start by having your partner place their arm lightly on your shoulder while you toss Rover a treat. Progress gradually in small steps to a real hug, and continue giving him treats. If your dog reacts at any time, it means you're moving too fast with the process. If this happens, stop and restart a few steps back. With time, your dog should look forward to hugs and smooches because great things seem to happen every time they take place!
A Note About Safety
This article should not be used as a substitute for professional dog behavior advice. If your dog is displaying any aggressive or violent behavior, contact a dog behavior professional for an assessment and appropriate behavior modification program.
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.
© 2011 Adrienne Farricelli