Do Dogs Get Jealous?
By Chyrle Bonk, DVM October 17, 2019
One of my dogs has been with me longer than my kids and husband have. She is a very loving dog, but needless to say there have been some rough adjustment periods every time I’ve brought someone new into our lives. All of these new people have been more than happy to love on her anytime she asks, so why the rough adjustments you may ask? In my dog’s case, I think that jealous rears its ugly head each time she feels that someone is encroaching on our time together.
Do Dogs Get Jealous?
There is much debate as to whether dogs experience jealousy or any of what’s called ‘secondary’ emotions. While most dogs will exhibit what may seem like jealous behaviors when faced with certain situations, it’s unknown if what they are actually experiencing is jealousy the way we know it. Most dog parents want to anthromorphize their pups, believing that what we feel is what they feel, but that may or may not be entirely true.
What Are The Signs of a Jealous Dog?
Jealousy isn’t a good color on anyone, especially our precious pups. You may find that your dog ‘acts out’ more when they’re feeling jealous of something or someone new in their lives. Here is a list of some signs of a jealous dog:
Your dog may not take kindly to someone taking the place of their attention and will greet them instead with nips, growls, and snarls. This is their way of saying, “Move on, there’s only room for one of us here!” This aggression may be directed at the newcomer, other pets, inanimate objects, or even you.
- Indoor accidents
Sometimes jealousy in our pups takes the form of indoor potty accidents. Since your pooch may feel like they need to make a grand gesture in order to get all of your attention back, defecating in the house seems like a great way of doing that. Try to determine jealousy type potty accidents from those with medical or other behavioral backing by the timing and placement of them. If a pup is trying his best to make it outside, accidents usually happen close to the door. If they’re having trouble holding it, in the case of urinary tract infections, accidents will happen on their bed or wherever they’ve been lying down. Accidents that happen out of jealousy are usually deliberately placed in an area where you are sure to notice - like your shoes for example.
- Becoming clingy
In an effort to become more noticeable, jealous dogs may try the Velcro approach to their owners. This means clinging to your side day or night, following you to the bathroom, and constantly being underfoot. In their mind, the closer that they are to you, the further that you will have to be from that new pet or person. Also, if you’re continuously tripping over them, then it will be a reminder for you to send a little attention their way.
- Scaring off strangers
One newcomer is enough in a jealous pup’s mind. So if you’re having multiple visitors, say after a new baby is born, your dog may try to scare them away in an effort to keep the newbies from multiplying and further shaking up their world. This goes along with the aggressive behavior as your dog may snarl, growl, bark, or even try to bite visitors or strangers where they never would have done anything like this before.
Instead of trying to nab more attention by a negative route, some dogs may try to butter you up with a little performance of all of their known tricks. This usually happens without you asking them to, and they may play dead or roll over anytime you turn your attention elsewhere.
- Leaving the room
Similar to the silent treatment, some dogs show their jealousy by avoiding the situation all together. They may choose to turn their back to you or others that are giving their attention elsewhere, or they may even leave the room. Think of it as a pouting toddler that chooses to face the corner when things aren’t quite going his way.
What Circumstances Would Make a Dog Jealous?
Most dogs are happy-go-lucky all of the time, that’s why we’re so drawn to have them as pets. For the most part, they go with the flow and are content with just being with you. Jealous feelings usually only transpire when something major changes in your dog’s life. Typically that major change involves the addition of a new family member. Here is a list of circumstances that would make your dog jealous:
- The significant other
Your dog would like you to think of them as your significant other, but unfortunately for them, that’s not always what we have mind. Our partner should be privileged to a lot of our time, something that your dog may take personally. Even though you may try your best to include your dog in all the activities that you can with your new significant other, it will never be the same as it was when it was just you and them.
- New baby
Bringing your new baby home from the hospital is one of those days that you will always want to remember and that your dog might just as soon forget. New babies can really rock a dog’s world! All of a sudden their quiet, clean home becomes cluttered, noisy, and sleep deprived. It’s easy for a pup to get lost in the shuffle. Even though your dog may appreciate the extra snacks that they find underneath the highchair, they might not take kindly to the shakeup. Be especially careful with dogs that are jealous of a new baby since they may try to nip or bite the little one.
- New pet
It may not matter if you bring home an energetic puppy or a fluffy little kitten, some dogs are single pet critters only. Growing your fur family may come at the cost of some jealous feelings from your original best friend. A new pet is going to require some additional time while they learn the ropes of the household and they may try to oust your old dog out of their spot on the bed.
- New job
Dogs not only get jealous of living changes, they can also have issues with your new line of work, especially if that new job takes up more of your time. Maybe you have to leave earlier in the morning than you are used to and your pup no longer gets that early morning game of fetch. Or maybe you end up working later and they miss the lazy lounging before bedtime. Changes to a dog’s life that may cause jealousy don’t always have to be people or critters.
- Mother and puppies
Here’s one that may or may not include you. Sometimes mother dogs become jealous of their puppies and may actually wean them early. Think about it, there’s nothing cuter than a litter of playful, fuzzy puppies and sometimes the mom of those puppies gets left out of the affection circle. If severe enough, she may try to distance herself from the puppies in an effort to gain back some attention.
What Is Dog Jealousy Aggression?
We hit on this a bit earlier, but jealousy aggression warrants further discussion. This is when dogs display their jealous feelings in the form of nipping, biting, growling, or snarling. Usually this aggression is directed at the new change in their life; ie. a new pet, a new baby, or a new significant other. But sometimes dogs may misdirect that aggression back at you or even at inanimate objects, like shredding the couch or your carpet. Jealousy aggression can become a very serious problem that could endanger the safety of you or others, let alone your living room furniture. With jealousy aggression, your pup may act normal when it’s just you and them, but then behave very differently when your significant other/new baby/new pet is around.
How Can I Get My Dog To Stop Being Jealous?
It’s inevitable that there are going to be some changes in your dog’s life. If they happen to develop jealousy as a result, it’s best to try to squash those feelings as soon as possible.
- Allow for short introductions
This is especially important for introducing new pets. Don’t just move a new pet in without letting your dog get used to them first. Allow your dog to meet your new pet for short sessions several times a day. You may have to keep the new pet at a friend’s house or in another room until your dog has accepted them. This works for significant others and babies, too.
- Make it equal
Try to spread your attention around as evenly as possible. This won’t be easy with a new baby as they tend to be pretty demanding! However, just make sure to leave some one-on-one time with your pooch everyday. For multiple pets, don’t pet one without petting them all. You might find it easier to ignore the whole crew when you first get home in order to let the excitement die down and give everyone equal opportunity for loves.
- Safe spot
Create a safe spot for your pup to go if they’re getting too aggressive or excited with jealousy. A dog crate, quiet corner, or their own spot behind the couch is a great place for your pup to go to calm down and just get away. A safe spot may also give them a little sense of possession when it feels like everything else is being taken away.
- Sharing isn’t caring
If your dog is jealous of a new pet, then you might be better off to not encourage sharing for a while. Even though this may mean having two of the same rope toy and more things that squeak than you would have ever imagined, not asking your dog to share with the new pet may help cut down the jealousy.
Give your pup time to come around to the big change that is happening in their life. Anytime your dog behaves without jealousy, reward like crazy. This could simply be staying in the same room as the baby or not growling at the new puppy while they eat their dinner, whatever the case reward good behavior with treats, pets, and hugs!
I know from experience that when you’re friends with a dog for a long time, your relationship can get set in its ways. Sometimes changes in your life can bring about feelings of jealousy in your dog. Moreover, you never want your dog to feel like they’re in danger of being replaced or become a safety hazard in your house by acting out their feelings of jealousy. So when it comes to bringing about big changes that may cause jealousy, be sure to make it gradual, don’t force it, and let them know that they are still your best friend.