Dogs are sensitive creatures, and they can definitely feel jealousy. Whether you're showing affection to another pet or person, your dog is likely to notice, and the green eyed monster may turn up. Knowing what to look for, and what can trigger your dog's jealousy, is essential to understand and deal with this behavior. Sure, it can be cute, but it can also get out of control, so learning to manage your dog's emotions is an important part of keeping them happy and healthy.
1. There's a New Pet in Your Home
Dogs may feel threatened by the arrival of a new pet in the house, whether it's a puppy or another dog. It could even be a dog they have known their entire life. For example, if you take on a dog that a close friend or family member has brought over for years, your dog might show signs of jealousy. They might see the new arrival as a competitor for your attention and resources. Signs your dog is jealous of the new pet include:
- Aggressive behavior: Your dog may start growling, snapping, or baring their teeth at the new pet. In extreme cases, your dog might even try to bite the newcomer.
- Attention-seeking: Your dog may become overly clingy or demanding of your attention, often doing things they know will get your attention including barking, whining, or jumping on you.
- Marking in the house: If your dog suddenly starts marking territory inside the house, this could be a sign of jealousy and an attempt to assert dominance over the new pet.
- Guarding: Your dog might become overly protective of their toys, bed, or other personal belongings, often showing a reluctance to share space or possessions with the new pet.
What To Do About It
Adjusting to a new pet in the home can be a challenging transition for your existing dog, especially if they're feeling jealous. Here are some steps you can take to help smooth the process:
- Slow down introductions: When introducing the new pet, take it slow. Allow them to first smell each other's scent on a blanket or toy before meeting face-to-face. Initial meetings should be short and positive. Gradually increase the time they spend together over the next week or two.
- Positive association: Help your dog associate the presence of the new pet with positive experiences. Give them treats, praise, or play with them when the new pet is around.
- Set aside alone time: Make sure to spend individual quality time with each pet to ensure they both feel loved and secure. This can help reduce feelings of competition for your attention.
- Keep old routines: Try to maintain your dog's old routine as much as possible. Consistency in meal times, walks, and play times can provide a sense of security and normalcy.
- Enforce boundaries: Establish and enforce rules for both pets. This includes rules for feeding times, toy usage, bed spaces, etc. Setting clear boundaries can reduce conflict.
It's very important not to reward your dog if they are acting jealous. Don't give them attention if they are showing signs of being anxious; instead, wait until they are calm to acknowledge them.
2. There's a New Member of the Household
Dogs are social animals who require a lot of attention. They can become jealous when a new (human) family member enters the home, whether it's a new partner or even a relative coming to live with you. The signs of jealousy are often similar to those seen when a new pet is introduced, but may also manifest in unique ways, including:
- Always go slow: This bears repeating. Your dog might try to get between you and the new family member, constantly seeking your attention when you're interacting with the new person.
- Destructive behavior: Dogs can act out their stress by chewing furniture, shoes, or other household items. If your dog starts displaying destructive behavior, it might be a sign of jealousy.
- Avoidance: Some dogs react by withdrawing from family activities, hiding, or spending more time alone than usual.
- Depression: Decreased energy levels, less interest in play, and a reduced appetite can be signs of jealousy or depression in dogs.
What To Do About It
Introducing a new person into the household can be a big adjustment for your dog. If your dog exhibits signs of jealousy, it's essential to take steps to reassure them and help them adapt to the new situation. The steps are similar to those you would take with a new dog:
- Introduce the new person slowly: Start by allowing your dog to get used to the new person's scent before meeting face-to-face. Then, have short, positive interactions, gradually increasing the length of their time together.
- Make positive associations: Associate the new person's presence with positive experiences for your dog. This could involve having the new person give your dog treats, play with them, or take them for walks.
- Keep their routine intact: Try to keep your dog's daily routine as consistent as possible to give them a sense of stability and security. This includes regular feeding times, walks, and playtimes.
- Continue to offer attention: Ensure your dog is still getting plenty of attention and love from you. Spending quality one-on-one time with your dog can help prevent feelings of neglect. Make sure the new person gets alone-time with your dog, too!
- Give them space: Ensure your dog has a safe place they can retreat to when they need some alone time. The new person in the house should respect this space and not intrude on it.
3. A New Baby Just Came Into the House
Bringing a new baby home is a significant change for everyone in the family, including your pet. Dogs may feel threatened or neglected as they see their owners' attention shift to the new addition. Here are signs your dog might be jealous of a new baby:
- Being overprotective: Your dog might become overly protective of you or other family members, attempting to get in between you and the baby.
- Increased anxiety: A change in your dog's behavior, such as restlessness or constant pacing, could be a sign of jealousy.
- Going back in their training: House-trained dogs might start having accidents in the house, or dogs might forget commands they previously knew. This can be a sign of stress related to the new baby.
What To Do About It
The arrival of a new baby can be a joyous time for the family, but it can also bring significant changes that might make your dog anxious or jealous. Here are some tips on helping your dog adjust to a new baby in the house:
- Prepare early on: Before the baby arrives, gradually alter your routine to reflect what it will be like post-baby. Reduce the time you spend with your dog slightly to avoid a sudden drop in attention when the baby arrives.
- Let them smell ahead of time: Introduce items with the baby's scent (like blankets or clothing) so your dog can become familiar with the new smell.
- Teach boundaries: It's important to teach your dog boundaries around the baby. They should understand that they can't jump on the baby and that the baby's room is off-limits unless you're present.
- Encourage gentle behavior: Teach your dog to be gentle around the baby by encouraging calm behaviors. You can do this by rewarding your dog when they behave well around the baby.
Sharing Toys or Treats
If your dog perceives that another pet is getting more toys or treats, they might start feeling jealous. It's comparable to sibling rivalries in traditional human families. If one sibling thinks they're not getting as much as the other, they can easily become jealous.
Like siblings, dogs can become jealous when it comes to sharing toys or treats. This is especially true if your dog feels they're getting less than their fair share. Here are some signs that your dog might be jealous when it comes to sharing:
- Getting pushy: If your dog continuously pushes their way to the front when it's time for treats, or if they try to snatch toys from other pets, it could be a sign of jealousy.
- Anxiety: Increased restlessness or constant pacing around the toy box or treat cabinet can indicate that your dog is anxious about losing access to these resources.
- Hiding toys or treats: Some dogs show jealousy by hiding toys or treats around the house. This behavior stems from their instinct to protect their resources.
What To Do About It
If your dog shows signs of jealousy when sharing toys, it's important to manage this behavior effectively to maintain peace and prevent possible aggression. Here are some tips on how to help your dog share toys:
- Teach them to drop it: Training your dog to release toys on command can be highly effective in managing toy jealousy. Start by practicing with less favorite toys and gradually work up to the toys your dog is most possessive about.
- Offer plenty of toys: Make sure there are enough toys to go around if you have multiple pets. This can reduce the likelihood of conflict.
- Distract if necessary: If your dog becomes fixated on a particular toy, distract them with another activity or toy. This can help break the cycle of possessiveness.
- Remove problem toys: It's OK to take a toy away if it's causing conflict. Rotate through toys and keep everything fresh to prevent you dog from becoming too possessive of any one item.
Keeping Jealousy Under Control
As long as you help your dog through the process, helping them through the jealousy they're experiencing is completely possible. Remember to be consistent and avoid punishment. Punishment could make matters worse and result in your dog being afraid of you. Loving but firm training will help your dog understand they are not losing you and there's no reason for the jealousy to continue.