Understanding and Dealing with a Jealous Dog
Do you have a jealous dog? Do you come home from a long day at work, give your spouse a hug, then hear the barks of jealousy from your dog as he nudges his way between you and your loved one? Have you ever sat down to pet your cat only to have your dog begin whining relentlessly, or even seek attention by chewing a shoe or digging through the trash? When you’re not directly spending time with your pooch, does his behavior turn sour?
Signs of Jealousy in Dogs
Dogs become jealous when they fear their place in the “family pack” or in your heart is being threatened. A new boyfriend or girlfriend, a new pet, or a new baby can turn your dog green. Your canine companion may also become jealous if you give him less attention for other reasons, such as you’re away at work more often or you’ve found a more time-consuming hobby.
Jealousy can lead to annoying and even destructive behaviors. Your dog may chew on household items, he may begin urinating in the house and marking his territory, or he might vocalize incessantly. Other jealous behaviors include aggression, acting unusual to seek attention, “pouting”, hiding, and decreased appetite. Some dogs may even display self-destruction, chewing or constantly licking themselves.
Should You Be Concerned About Dog Jealousy?
If your dog has changes in behavior and you suspect it may be due to jealousy, it is important to take your canine friend to a veterinarian before you hang your hat on a case of envy. It may be that your dog is acting differently because of health problem. It is also possible that the stress caused by jealousy can worsen existing health conditions, lead to new health problems, and cause depression. Therefore, it is important to closely monitor a jealous dog and actively seek a solution.
Solutions to Dog Jealousy
A break in routine is a very common cause for a dog’s emotional upset. Look back to the time when your dog’s behavior changed and determine if there is a correlation with some other event. Did your work hours change and you no longer could take your pooch for his morning walk? Has it become too cold out for your nightly game of fetch? Dogs like routine; doing the same things at the same time every day brings them comfort and makes them feel stable.
If your pooch is jealous of a person (other than a baby) with whom you are spending a lot of time, encourage that person to get to know your dog and do fun things with him. You and your friend can play a game of fetch with your dog, snuggle on the couch for a movie, or take a walk together. Be sure your dog feels included and not replaced.
If it’s the new baby that is making your dog jealous, it is again important to reassure the dog that he is not being replaced. Give him lots of extra attention during the transition. Try to maintain his regular routine (walk, feed, playtime, etc.) as much as possible. You can begin helping your dog with the upcoming change BEFORE the baby is born. Gradually make any predicted, necessary changes in his routine. It is also helpful to play recordings of baby noises to help your furry child adjust to the soon-to-arrive bundle of joy. Any items that have the scent of your little one can be brought home from the hospital before the baby and introduced to the dog to ease the transition. Read PetPlace’s How to Introduce Your Dog to Your New Baby to learn more.
If bringing home a new pet, anticipate jealousy from the old dog and work to minimize it. The new pet should be introduced on a neutral turf, such as at a friend’s house or at a park. Allow the existing dog to keep his own food bowls, toys, bed, etc. Giving his favorite things to the other pet will increase jealousy. Also, be sure to continue to give your dog adequate attention, try to maintain his old schedule, and give him plenty of one-on-one time to remind him he is still special to you. For more information, read PetPlace’s articles on introducing a new puppy and a new older dog.
In any situation that might make a dog jealous, watch for appropriate, desirable behavior and reward it when it happens. If your dog politely sniffs the new baby, patiently sits while you hug your spouse, or avoids barging in on an interaction between you and another pet, give him positive reinforcement – a treat, a pat, or a “good boy”.
Above all, to prevent a green dog, show him that he is loved and wanted, give him plenty of attention and playtime, and always treat him as a valued member of your family.