Dog Behavior: Jealous Dog versus Possessive Dog

August 1, 2012

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.New Ad Sidebar - no bag 2

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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Comments

  1. Teresa Rowan says:

    My dog gizmo pees on me or my other dog taco every time hold him if I’m not holding him my dog gizmo is fine what could this be

  2. Julie says:

    My she has a dog he growls and tries to bite if he in a bedroom with anyone, it doesn’t mater who enters or if it day or night or who in the bedroom.
    But only in the bedroom.. Me I think he shouldn’t be in the bedroom at all… What do you think…

  3. My 5 dog bark when my boyfriend has walked in from work. Or if he’s in the kitchen and comes out they all bark and I have to scream everyday and it unpleasant. I want them to stop

  4. D. Peterson says:

    Okay, so my sweet Male /NewFoundland/Lab mix is almost 10 years old. The last three encounters he has had with my cousins 4 year old male lab have been bad. He starts out ok, but as my cousin’s dog follows him around, he becomes irritated and lunges at him teeth showing. He has never ever shown this before around any other animal. I know my cousin has abused his dog with his hands. And he is really needy and it is terribly sad. Can my dog sense he is been beaten? Is there some weird physiological thing going on here?

  5. Ashlyn says:

    I have a 7 year old teacup chihuahua. It’s been 6 years since I have had a “live in” significant other while I’ve had her, and she bites my current boyfriend at night. It doesn’t matter how close or far away he is and we even use separate blankets and she still bites. When I try to put her sleeping in her own bed she literally crys the whole time until we put her back in bed. If anyone knows tricks please help!

  6. Mark Wagner says:

    MY wife passed away 5 months ago and have 2 dogs the small one is trying to nip at my female friend who comes to see me, keep in mind e little dog has been in control of the house until, just recently what do I do to combat this bad behavior, both dogs have been only there with me and
    now there s someone new in picture.

  7. Alyssa says:

    I’m kinda confsued on this… I’ve have a 2 year old doverman and she is most dominant with me and she knows I’m her so say “master” .. well I went to the humain society and I was lookin at this dog and we did a meet . he is a rott mix with golden retriever. he is very playful and jumpy and they got along very well and the staff said one of the best meets they had and so I adopted and shortly after we got home when ever I tried petting him she would attack him but he didn’t mind cause he is a big dog I guess. and he hasn’t but her unless it’s a playful bite lol. and it’s even then simplest touch that makes her nuts or even if my kids touch him she will get “jealous” and steel his bones or whatever. also my kids where showing me only if they would touch her and not him , she would be calm and play with him but if we touched him she just attacked him . I don’t know what to do.. I want to try a shock collar agian on my doverman but I don’t know if they would help. could someone give me some ideas?

  8. Karson says:

    Hi! I have a very serious problem with my dog. I’m afraid he isn’t going to die of old age, rather, another owner is going to put him down. My 6 year old maltese terrier, Baxter, is very attached. I can’t even get up to go to the bathroom without him following and scratching on the door. I love him a lot, but his overattachment makes him get jealous very quickly, and he’s very protective. On this topic, everything said doesn’t match what my dog does. He doesn’t start barking, or whining, he flat out loses his mind and goes bolting another dog. Just a few days a go, one of our neighbours dog got out, and was sitting in our yard. I was not aware, so I let my dog out and I almost immediatley say the other dog and regretted it. My dog bolted at it, and started barking and scratching it. I don’t know how to stop him!

  9. Gail Giddings says:

    Wow! Great article, full of helpful information that really delineates the two behavior types. In my opinion, this will be especially helpful to not just the newer dog owners, but also for those that have had many dogs. In my day, there wasn’t a lot of information out there on dog behavior, and we made a lot of mistakes. I’m so happy this is changing, thanks to people like Linda Cole.

  10. Sarah says:

    I have no idea if any of these behaviors describe my dogs, but I’m really at a loss and figured I’d share in case you have any insight. My dogs are very habituated to my husband, who works mostly from home, so they’re almost always on his schedule. He walks them three times a day and they know all of his cues, plus he basically sticks to the same schedule with them every day. They certainly remind him if not! My problem is that when my husband is gone, even just for an evening, both our male and female dogs are fairly aggressive with me. They bark at me in a way that sounds aggressive. It’s not whining, and it’s not “hey feed me” it is definitely a very, very angry bark. Even if I try to mimic my husband’s schedule they can’t seem to just chill, or it takes us a few days (if he’s gone for awhile) for them to settle down. Our female dog constantly pushes me if she wants something (namely to go outside or for a walk). I mean, she literally comes up to me and pushes me with her paw. She has bruised my thigh with her nails, so it’s not like a gentle nudge. Even when I’m in the process of getting her ready to walk (putting on her harness) she does it. The other issue is that the dogs will fight, though I guess it’s more like playing, around me, and only me (another symptom of my husband’s absence). I can’t get them to stop. They bark and go at each other. My only recourse has been to try not to react, as I’m assuming yelling back at them only heightens whatever they’re trying to express. Any ideas why they treat me this way? We have two teenage sons in the house and they don’t do it to them, it’s only me. Help! Thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far 🙂

  11. krystal daniels says:

    My pup is 2 1/2 years old. She has been potty trained sence she was 6 months (her first owners had her as an out side only dog). I had my first baby 6 months ago. For tge past week she will ONLY go potty in the babys room or door way, and not just pee but poop. Its getting worse and worse! Also she has peed on my pillow and on my husbands clothes! But every day at least 3x she will poop or pee… im at wits end… please help

  12. Mimi Gill says:

    Help please we have a 9 month old pit bull we got her when she was almost 6 months. all has been well except a few weeks ago when my husband would get ready in the morning he would try to reach on the bed to grab keys wallet cigs a lighter he does this a few times as he always forgets something most of the time im laying in the bed i wake up with him but still lay in the bed. Anyway when my husband reaches for these things she tries to bite him now. We thought maybe its his hat so we took it off nope she still does it so i said maybe she is mad ur leaving i said lets not let her out of the crate till ur ready to walk out the door so we tried that all was well except now when he gets home from work shes doing it to him. Im usually sitting in bed doing paperwork or on phone n dog is there with me he takes his keys wallet etc out to lay on bed she tries to bite him. She is growling as well when she does this we have tried correcting her its not working. Im upset because she is awesome with our 6 yr old son and she is protective of us and the house. Im the one who actually got her im the one who feeds her and puts her in her crate at night and takes her out in the morning i walk her as well to and from bus stop and take her all over woth me for car rides. My husband takes her on a car ride every sat morning just them to n he walks her at least once a day she is fine any other time with him. This growling n trying to bite only happens when im on the bed with her n when my husband trys to reach for anything even bending down to kiss me n say bye she dont like it now if i walk out into another room to kiss him she comes out with us but she ignores what we do. Im at a loss because this came out of no where n its a huge problem for my husband he wants to get rid of her which im not ok with. My husband was bragging about how shes a great dog n blah blah blah n about 4 weeks ago this started. I would like to add im a stay at home mom im the only one there with her all day so i know she is bonded to me but what happened that my husband cant touch the bed anymore? If im not here she lays in bed woth my husband n climbs up in his lap on the bed when i come home n get in bed all is fine so its confusing n frustrating. Id also like to add the family we got her from was black and we r white she dies not like white people but shes ok with us and my side immediate family. Others not so much i have been socializing her tho with ither people its going so so. The people i got her from had her living in this little crate outside no shelter from rain cold nothing she was in it all winter till we got her in Jan 2016. She was also underfed. There was no pbysical abuse as the family lives 3 house up from us i saw her everyday. Besides forgetting about her they didnt really do anything to or with her. I had to lure her into our home once they told me i could take her and since than we love her. We do not have a lot of money we live paycheck to paycheck so i dont have money to get a behavior specialist. Any thoughts or help would b appreciated. Also any questions please ask. If we can stop this one thing my husband says we will keep her because she is a great family dog. One more thing we have cats who she loves n when she sees other animals she trys to play woth them as well 90 percent of the time she only becomes aggressive if the other animal does. I can stick my hand in her food bowl while shes eating n i can take the bowl she doesnt growl or anything but if one of our cats go near her while shes eating she gets aggressive for that second than goes back to eating any other time she plays with the cats. So anything that will help please email me or comment. Thanks 🙂 cute1incamo@gmail.com

    1. Molly Phillips says:

      Hi Mimi!

      It sounds like your dog has taken on the bed as a resource and is now guarding it from your husband. She may feel that when he is putting his things on the bed, they become her things, and now she is trying to take them back. Not all resource guarders guard food! The first thing you need to do IMMEDIATELY is do not let her sleep on the bed. You have to establish this as a firm boundary with her so the bed is a safe place for you and your husband. Try crating her at night or making her sleep outside of the bedroom. Do not let her on the bed during the day. To train my dog this way, I sprayed her with a water mist bottle when she would get on the bed, followed with a loud “nuh-uh” and “get down” command. This will take time, but be consistent. Don’t be alarm if she cries the first few weeks at night, too, if she is used to sleeping on the bed. Trust me, it will be worth it.

      Also, I highly recommend doing a training class at Petsmart. They often have classes as inexpensive as $100.

      Your dog sounds amazing, and remember–she needs you! If you give her to a shelter, her behavior may only worsen and she may be euthanized.

      Remember too she is just a puppy and still has much to learn. Don’t give up on her!

  13. Dawn says:

    I have a three year old Chihuahua and I really need help understanding why she does the things she does. She likes to lay on my chest and lay her face or head on my face. Munchkin also hates it when my soon to be wife loves on me, rubs or even touches me. She’ll get in the middle of us by getting on my chest and putting her face in my face, sniffing my eyes mouth and ears. Can someone plz explain why she does this to me and wat does it mean. Ik that it’s a sign of jealousy but wat can I do to stop it. Oh yea she stares in my eyes like she’s lost her bff….desperately seeking help. Ty

  14. Meghan Beebe says:

    I am also having this issue. I have a lab/pit mix (male) named clutch who is a little over a year. My husband rarely discipline’s him where as I do because I feel he is always doing something he shouldn’t be. My husband feels almost as if my dog should be allowed to perform all human behavior and i disagree. Also my husband has had the dog sleeping in the bed since he was a puppy. Now he is WAY to big and I want him OFF. I don’t know how to break this habit and when i kick him off the bed he barks and becomes aggressive like i shouldn’t be telling him what to do. My dog has NEVER bit me and knows biting is bad but when it comes to my husband I cannot even get a hug or kiss in when he walks in the door from work because my dog is so over possessive and jealous. I CANNOT touch my husband without my dog barking at us or trying to push his way in between us. My husband says the dog is just excited to see him and wants love but I feel like it is a constant battle between me and the dog. Almost sometimes like were both fighting over my husband and attention. It is almost like the dog feels he owns my husband therefore no one else can touch him because my husband is “his”. Has anyone ever had this problem? Does anyone have any advice for me. My husband is no longer supporting or calling my dog on the bed but in the middle of the night my dog constantly disobeys and tries to get on the bed. We have gotten him a bed and Ive been practicing telling him to go to his bed and telling him no when i boot his butt off the bed but every time I tell my dog something or he gets in trouble he barks and tests me to the point i toss him in his kennel. Its like he feels he does not have to listen to me whatsoever. someone please help me!!

  15. Megan says:

    I’m having quite an issue with a PitBull that keeps coming back to me. I keep trying to find her a home and in the past three times, she has attacked another dog, almost killing one. This is so new to me because she had never acted this way before. I just wanted to cry when I witnessed the last fight. Since the fight, she has become more aggressive towards people she lived with in my home. I seem to be the only person she never acts differently with. I cannot have a dog that continually wants to attack one of the dogs in my home repeatedly or send her to homes where other dogs live with such aggression. I’m terrified of her getting put down and if I was financially stable, I wouldn’t be searching to find her a new home as I do not own any of the other dogs myself. Just her. This switching from home to home can’t be helping her, but I can’t be okay with sending her somewhere when she is acting progressively more and more vicious. She seems to only get along with me or if children are around, she is happy. But not any other adults or animals. I need help. I can’t afford to have her trained, I can’t even afford a muzzle. The only reason she has food is because the people I live with buy it, anyway and she was already up to date on her shots. Ever since I lost my job, she has had to jump from home to home because no one will devote as much attention to her as she needs and it’s getting to the point where even when she ran away after a fight from another attempt of an owner, she was on her way to my house. I wish the sweet thing could stay. She acts like she only belongs to me, but I can’t have her. I don’t know what I can do with zero money to try to change her behavior. In all the situations, it involved another dog approaching her owners. This time, it was a dog belonging in the house walking to me and she attacked the dog. Someone please give me some advice. I’m not putting her down. She is so lovable towards me, just so weird or angry towards everyone else. She doesn’t want anyone near me.

  16. Dana B says:

    I really need some advice for a dog I’m fostering, Winston. I’m very very nervous for him, and any advice would be greatly appreciated. He is a pit mix, which is why I’m extra nervous about anything aggressive. Winston is one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever met, truly. He is 6y/o and I don’t believe ever mistreated, but his owners surrendered him to the shelter and it just seems like they had no clue how to train a dog whatsoever, he seems like a puppy. But for the most part, he is a great dog, just a handful. I’ve literally only heard Winston bark a handful of times, and it’s usually just playful or he can’t wait to get his food. But today we were walking and there was another really sweet dog, owner asked if he was friendly and I said yes, they played no problem everything was fine. Even when I was petting the other dog, not Winston, no problem. So this guy starts playing with Winston and as usual Winston is just hugging him and licking, just soaking up the attention. After a few minutes, as the two of us are talking and he’s still petting Winston, his dog comes over and he’s petting the two of them at the same time. Out of nowhere, Winston barks VICIOUSLY and snaps, luckily not biting the guy but he definitely could have! I had never ever witnessed anything like this before, and honestly I didn’t think he had an aggressive bone in his body. There have been plenty of times I’ve pet other dogs and he’s played with other dogs… I haven’t seen this. The guy was incredibly patient and knowledgeable and had Winston sniff his (incredibly calm and sweet) dog to reassure him and try to correct the behavior. Cautiously, he tried the same thing again, and the vicious barking and snapping happened again. the thought of Winston being put down terrifies me, especially because he is a pit. So my question is, once you identify the aggression, HOW do you train them otherwise?? Any articles, info, or suggestions would be very much appreciated.

  17. Sam says:

    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!

  18. 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

  19. surprisedkinda says:

    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.

  20. Mollie says:

    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?

  21. Lisa Mack says:

    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.

  22. Julie says:

    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?

  23. Marie Brown says:

    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?

  24. megan says:

    Great breakdown of the different behaviors. Reading this I guess it means my dog is a possessive dog.

  25. You guys have such excellent advice, we sure love visiting (even tho we don’t have a woofie here, it’s still good to know!)

  26. Marg says:

    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.

  27. Finn says:

    Great article and identification of the three behaviors!