Pets can and do show signs of being jealous of another family member, including other pets in the home. I have wondered, at times, if my pets understand the concept of having a favorite one among them. I love and treat them all equally, but will admit, I do have my favorites. I think that’s just human nature. However, our pets do have emotions, and there may be times when we have to contend with a dog or cat that may feel left out.
A jealous pet can make life difficult in a home with multiple pets, if you don’t establish yourself as the leader. Even cats need to know who makes the rules in the home. Dogs and cats in households with more than one pet do compete with each other for their owner’s attention. Being a multi pet home, I understand the need to make sure each pet receives attention throughout the day. And as individuals, some require more than others, which has nothing to do with jealousy.
Cats, by nature, are more reserved than most dogs. Some of my cats are more loving, and ask for more attention than others. Each one has their own personality and preference when it comes to whether or not they want to sit on my lap and cuddle. Some decide when I’m allowed to hold them, and for how long. Jabbers is a huge black cat who loves to sit and talk with me, but he’s not one that wants to be held or cuddled, unless he makes that decision. Still, he is one of my favorites because of his personality.
Because I’ve brought many cats into my home over the years after rescuing them off the street, my four legged family members takes newcomers in stride, and treat them like they’ve always been part of their family. This makes socializing easier for a new arrival who is just waiting for their forever home. None of my cats are jealous because they know I love them, and understand what I expect from them.
Jealousy becomes a problem when a pet feels he’s lost your love. The bond we share with a pet is as special and sacred as it gets, in their eyes. A strong bond requires trust, and when both are established, the pet will never break his end of the bargain. It’s our job to nurture that bond every day by making sure we are the ones who set rules we expect pets to follow, and be fair and positive when disciplining, if it’s needed.
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’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I am a cat lady through and through. What you may not know is that I’ve also thought about getting a dog. I know cats better because I’ve shared my home with them for decades but have only had one dog. I “get” cats, but dogs remain largely a mystery to me. Perhaps it is precisely this unknown territory that intrigues me. I adore my cats more than anything, yet as an animal lover I want to experience the unique joy of having a dog. Actually, I could say the same thing about horses, rabbits, hamsters and birds – I’ve wanted to have all of these as a pet at one time or another.
The desire to adopt a dog is more intense, though. I think it’s because there are so many fun things you can do with a dog that you can’t do with a cat. You can go places with them, and there are umpteen dog sports you can enjoy together. My cats loathe the car, and the only sport that interests them is competitive eating….as in, let’s see who can finish their food first to “help” the others with theirs. I don’t think having a dog would be better than having cats, just different.
So why don’t I get a dog then? Oh, I’ve asked myself that question a thousand times, and there are so many reasons. The biggest is fear. Not fear of the unknown, but fear of being a bad dog owner. Dogs are complex creatures, and there is a lot involved in raising a happy, social, well mannered dog. I’m afraid that I would screw it up, and end up with a problem dog I didn’t know what to do with. I’m afraid that I don’t know enough about dogs to do it right. And if I’m going to adopt a dog, I want – no, need – to do it right.
I know that a lot of my fear comes from the painful memory of the time I did it wrong. When I was 18, I succumbed to those “sad puppy eyes” and adopted a dog from the shelter where I’d been volunteering. Never mind that I knew nothing about dogs, how to raise one, or how to deal with little problem behaviors before they became gigantic, insurmountable issues. I didn’t stop to consider what breed of dog might be best suited for me, or what they required beyond food and water. I was young and dumb, but that’s really no excuse for doing it wrong. I’ve never forgotten, and probably never forgiven myself, for being a bad dog owner.
Personal experience drove me to research the topic of jealousy and dogs. There was a time when I had three rescue dogs. A black Labrador was the first to come along. She needed extra care due to her very young age and the neglect she had suffered. Once I got her healthy and housetrained, a yellow Lab mix needed a home urgently and I stepped up. Even though both dogs were female, they worked the hierarchy out with no problems. Casual observers had a hard time identifying which was the alpha dog. The black Lab was, but she was a kind and benevolent alpha so it was hard to determine. Nonetheless, we enjoyed complete harmony. A year later, a female German Shepherd was in a dire situation and I agreed that I could add another dog to our pack. This may have been naive, but someone needed to act fast so I did. That’s when things started to unravel.
Searching for a solution to the chaos of a three dog household, I consulted dog behaviorists, veterinarians, trainers and anybody that would listen to me. I read books and more books. Turns out, there are a variety of opinions about jealousy in dogs.
Some animal experts say that jealousy is a human emotion and dogs are not capable of such complex feelings. Still, many of us have dogs that seem to exhibit jealousy-related behavior. If a new dog, roommate, girlfriend or boyfriend, baby, cat, toy, etc. joins the household, a dog may react to the change in circumstances, perhaps feel neglected, and show signs of jealousy. The most important thing I learned was that understanding your dog’s behavior and responding appropriately to the specific situation is the key to restoring harmony. These three books helped me do that: Read More »
It can be hard to understand why dogs do the things they do. Their actions are related to how we treat them and what their personality is like. A dog with a jealous streak is being possessive and domineering. Whether there are other pets in the home or not, a dog showing jealousy can affect an entire household.
Living with a jealous dog can be a challenge, especially if he’s also protective of the one he loves. A jealous dog is most likely one with a dominant personality, but not all dominant dogs are jealous. A dog who is jealous is trying to tell you he’s concerned about his place in your heart. Adding a new pet to your family is upsetting to any pet already in the home, but a dog with a jealous streak may need more time to get used to the idea of sharing you and his home. Any change to a household, whether it’s another pet, roommate or variation in routine, can cause a dog to react in a way you’ve never seen before.
Routine is one of the most important and stabilizing factors in a dog’s life. They eat from the same bowl at the same time and in the same place every day. Dogs know when it’s time to go outside or go for a walk. Changes to their schedule, even small changes we may not notice, are observed by dogs. A jealous dog may see a change in routine as a threat to his position in the home and in your eyes. A new pet or person changes the routine.
Possessive behavior in dogs is actually quite common. We often see them guarding their favorite toy or sleeping spot, or making sure other pets in the house stay away from their feeding bowl or treat “cookie jar.” In a way, it’s hard to blame them for protecting what they believe belongs to them, and that includes their human. After all, we display the same tendencies toward other people. Being possessive of a toy or favorite resting area is one thing, but if your dog is jealous, that’s another ballgame that can quickly get out of control.
Jealousy in dogs is not cute, and we unknowingly encourage bad behavior each time the dog is allowed to display this emotion with no correction from us. Jealousy can occur when you bring in a new pet, start a new relationship, have a baby or when there is any other change in your life which takes your attention away from your dog. In his mind, he has stood by you through thick and thin, and given unconditional love— and now you are giving your attention to someone else. How rude.
Kelly is my alpha female. She’s an adorable 14 year old terrier/mix who has eyes only for me. As far as she is concerned, I belong to her and it’s her duty to protect me. I didn’t realize she had taken on the role as my protector until the day she actually nipped at a friend who took one step too close to me. With my eyes opened, I began to notice it wasn’t just my friend. Kelly was also protecting me from the other dogs and cats in my pack. The change in our household was a job that required a lot of overtime. I also was caring for my father who had fallen and was recovering from a broken hip. They did not get along; his walker scared her, and he was afraid of her. I had to confine Kelly when I was at work, and her little heart was broken.
Jealousy and possessive behavior in dogs can be a serious behavior problem. Some dogs will exhibit signs of depression or a loss of appetite. They may be withdrawn or show signs of aggression that you’ve never seen before. Kelly would lie beside me on the couch, and if another dog or cat came too close, she would leap at them with a high pitched warning bark. She was like a rattlesnake lashing out. This stressed out not only her, but the other pets and me as well.
So how do you deal with jealousy and possessive behavior in dogs? The solution isn’t as difficult as it may seem, but it requires consistent dedication and a calm steady hand. Whether you know it or not, before your dog became jealous, the two of you had a daily routine. Perhaps it was a morning walk before going to work, playing ball after work, or a relaxing ear scratching session while watching TV. To a dog, routine is important because he sees any change as him losing his place by your side and in your heart.
Reassure him with extra attention and maintain a daily schedule of walking, feeding, talking to and playing with him. Encourage positive interaction between him and any new member of the pack, whether it is human or another pet.
Reestablish basic training ground rules. Your dog may need to be reminded who the boss is. A jealous or possessive dog needs to be watched and as the pack leader, you need to step in and control any signs of aggression or negative behavior before they get out of control. Make sure to reward desired behavior with a yummy treat (like CANIDAE® Snap-Bits™) or extra back scratching time. Your dog is just looking for reassurance that you still value him.
Kelly is still jealous of the other pets, but she has realized her role in the pack has not changed. I started a new routine: walks with other members of the pack, special time set aside just for her which included head scratching and girl talk, along with appropriate pack leader discipline from me when needed.
Dealing with jealousy and possessive behavior in dogs is ongoing. It’s worth the effort to maintain peace in the family for their well being as well as our own. Besides, our dogs think we are the most wonderful creatures around and want to please us. The least we can do is be responsible pack leaders and set rules that are consistent and clear. In doing so, our dogs will understand their place in the pack and know what we expect from them.
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.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.