Dog Behavior: Jealous Dog versus Possessive Dog

By Linda Cole

It’s not always easy to determine if your dog is acting out because he’s trying to protect you or is a jealous or possessive dog. Sometimes it could be all three, but there is a difference between the behaviors. Just because a dog is jealous doesn’t necessarily mean he’s possessive or protective. Your job is to figure out what’s bothering him before you can address his behavior.

A possessive dog is trying to dominate and control. He may claim his toys, food bowl, sleeping area or owner as his own. Other dogs, cats and humans can be as risk from a dog that feels he has to protect his things. An adult or child that accidentally gets too close to a toy may be bitten. Two dogs may get into a fight over food if a possessive dog thinks the other dog is too close. He may even growl at you if you approach his food bowl, whether it’s empty or full. The possessive dog sees a threat, but unlike a protective dog doing his job, possessive behavior keeps a dog on high alert and he won’t back down, even though there’s no real threat.

When a dog showing possessive behavior growls, snaps, whines or attacks another pet or person, he’s telling you he feels insecure, confused, and has a lack of confidence. He’s always on guard and stressed out. And when people tease a stressed out, insecure dog, he uses aggression to protect himself because in his mind, his owner isn’t protecting him. He’s afraid someone or another dog will take something he cherishes. Aggression is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with immediately. Anytime your dog is showing aggression, have your vet check him out to make sure there’s no medical issue bothering him. You may need the help of an animal behaviorist to deal with a possessive dog’s aggression.

The jealous dog sees other people or pets as a rival for your attention and love. He tries to force himself in between you and someone else or another pet. He may challenge a spouse when they try to snuggle next to you on the couch or in bed. A jealous dog may attack another pet that gets too close to you. He’ll try to push another pet away so he can get your attention. He’s afraid of losing your love and attention.

If you need to change an unwanted behavior, only reward your dog for acting in a way you expect him to act. When your dog tries to come between you and another person, simply ignore his behavior. If you’re sitting on the couch when he’s trying to get between you, stand up. Don’t say anything, don’t touch him, and don’t look at him – just stand up. Affection is something you give to your dog on your terms, not his. By ignoring his behavior, you’re teaching him his behavior is not acceptable and he won’t get your attention until he’s calm with all four feet on the floor. Using your body language is the best way to teach him because dogs are experts at reading even our body language.

A protective dog is showing a natural behavior when he reacts in an aggressive way if he feels you’re in danger. Some dog breeds were specifically bred to guard their family and home. Don’t interpret a dog being protective as jealous or possessive. He focuses in on another dog, person or situation that requires his full attention. When he determines there’s no threat, he relaxes and backs down from alert mode. Protecting his pack is one of his main duties.

Jealous or possessive behavior can be changed once you know why your dog is acting a certain way. Both behaviors can turn into aggression if they’re not addressed and corrected. Change is not in a dog’s vocabulary and they prefer nothing changes in their lives. Unfortunately, that’s not how life works, so we need to understand that a move to a new home, a new baby, a new roommate or new pets in a dog’s life may affect him.

It’s important to keep your dog socialized with new people, other dogs and cats, and give him an opportunity to experience new things. Make sure he has plenty of exercise and stimulation to keep his body and mind healthy. It’s important to be your dog’s leader and maintain a daily routine. The routine you establish with him gives your dog a sense of security when he knows what to expect throughout the day, e.g., when he will eat, go outside for potty breaks, walks and playtime. However, a spontaneous walk or playtime is always welcomed, and grabbing some CANIDAE dog treats for a training session helps him learn what you expect from him, teaches him good manners, and helps you keep him under control.

Photo by AnnieCatBlue

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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11 thoughts on “Dog Behavior: Jealous Dog versus Possessive Dog

  1. Great article! I have a year old cattle dog/retriever mix. She is sweet and non-aggressive around people, but when we bring her to the dog park she can be aggressive towards other dogs when a ball is involved. If she is playing rough with a bunch of dogs she will occasionally snap and start a real fight. Both of these behaviors happen sporadically, and its difficult to tell when good fun will head south. If anyone has any tips I would love to hear them!

  2. I have a dog thats completly disobediant ive tried to ignore him he wants his own way like walks or food and begs when me and partner eat even if he has had his own he picks up and eats other dogs feaces and now cause i ignore him he shakes when i go near him like im gonna hurt him and im not that kinda person dont know what to do vet cant advise me does anyone else have advice plz

  3. I don’t like to be touched but, my dog doesn’t know that. She invades my space all the time. I let it go cause she’s a dog. However, my parent forces affection such as kissing. I hate it but, I can’t say anything cause I won’t have a place to live.

    So, as usual I’m chilling in the bed and watching chapins inferno and my parent is leaving so they come in to force some affection. I make no effort to kiss or anything. I’m frozen and my dog is on the opposite side of my parent. Im very uncomfortable as usual. He/she leans in and oh boy. She snapped. I had to pick her up and slam her on some pillows to restrain her. She literally jumped over me (10 pound dog) and played defense.

    Maybe she could sense by body language? I love this but, I had to protect my parent. I mean if I didn’t grab her. Oh boy. Weird thing is that the dog always chills with the parent over me and I’m cool with that. I gotta make sure she never sees me angry with someone. Lol it was like jam defender or something.

  4. Great article. I have a dog, Samson, who is very jealous of our other dog. If Scout comes too close or is getting too much attention, Samson will jump all over him. However, he doesn’t act this way toward anyone else (we have another dog, Sadie, and two cats) except Scout. For some reason, Scout is a threat. Anyone have any idea why that would be?

  5. I have a 4 yr old greyhound/lab mix, female. She is jealous of everyone and I belong to her. She has snapped at my small grandchildren and I am unsure how to handle it. I feel she is insecure and needs to be reassured that she is my baby and we can love the grandkids together. Not working.

  6. My 2 year old cockapoo recently started attacking the cat when we are eating if she comes near us. I assume it’s because he thinks she is going to get something over him. Should we stand up when he does this? The last time he did it I put him in the bedroom and didn’t let him out until we were done eating. Also, this weekend he went after a golden retriever. My boyfriend was laying on the ground and the golden came over kind of standing over my boyfriend and my dog flipped starting fighting with it until the golden fought back and my 15 lb cockapoo realized he met his match. The rest of the weekend I was worried he was going to instigate another fight with the golden. How do I correct this behavior?

  7. I have a great very social dog, however it seems that he is a jealous dog. He plays fine with the other dogs at the dog park. Yet if a dog comes over to me and I do more than just pet his head and ignore him, or if that dog keeps standing to close to me, my dog gets jealous & starts barking at him & being aggressive toward him. I spend a lot of time withy dog everyday, & make sure that we have our own play time. I want to stop this behavior, what can I do?

  8. I guess I have been lucky and have never had these problems. My dogs have always been good, not jealousy and not aggressive. I guess one reason is that I have always had a lot of animals so they know it won’t do them any good to be possessive.

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