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Why Are Some Dogs Protective When Owners Get Intimate?

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author of the online dog training course "Brain Training for Dogs."

It's no secret that a dog jumping in between a kissing couple can kill the romantic mood. Learn what this behavior might mean and how to address it.

It's no secret that a dog jumping in between a kissing couple can kill the romantic mood. Learn what this behavior might mean and how to address it.

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?

Kissing, hugging, and other displays of human affection do not exist in the dog world, so it is unlikely that they would incite jealousy in a canine observer.

Kissing, hugging, and other displays of human affection do not exist in the dog world, so it is unlikely that they would incite jealousy in a canine observer.

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. Here 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 On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, reports that dogs tend to wedge themselves in between other dogs that appear to be in conflict in an effort to calm them down.

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.

Regardless of the reason for your dog's inconvenient behavior, there are steps you can take to try to condition it away.

Regardless of the reason for your dog's inconvenient behavior, there are steps you can take to try to condition it away.

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.

Differential Reinforcement

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 countercondition 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!

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


Julie Phillips on August 25, 2020:

Karma is my other half's dog, but he's more protective of me, than of him!

When my other half approaches me for a hug/kiss Karma growls at him. (He'd never do anything more aggressive to him)

He just does a short growl to protect me from the perceived threat.

I find it adorable.

It's like if he hears/sees something he thinks is a threat he'll sit or stand infront of me to protect me.

I always feel 100% safe with Karma...even when I'm outdoors...which is a rare thing for me due to my various mental illnesses. I mean i still have all that stuff in my head, but I know Karma wouldn't let anyone hurt me. I know he'd risk his life for me, which i find amazing. ♥

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 02, 2011:

Cresentmoon it could be protectiveness, anxiety or attention seeking from not understanding what may be going on (and for this reason she may be in conflict, thus displaying opposite and contradictory behaviors), I would redirect to another place and feed a stuffed Kong or bone so Tinkerbelle can relax, what breed is she? Some breeds with a history of herding can be the most obstructive!

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on October 02, 2011:

I do recall a dog we had some time ago that had this behavior and I did not know what her problems waas.Rated up and useful.

Cresentmoon2007 from Caledonia, MI on October 02, 2011:

We have two dogs in our house hold, while my own dogs won't really get too bad when it comes to this my mother's dog will. Her name is Tinkerbell. Now Tinkerbell will jump at us, she'll bark and growl and even a couple time snapped at my boyfriend but what gets me is that the entire time she has her tale wagging. What do you make out of this behavior?