A Look at Dog Jealousy (How to End This Behavior)
In his play Othello, Shakespeare famously referred to jealousy as a "green-eyed monster." While this allusion is thought to be about cats, the beastly tendencies of jealousy also run deep in the canine world. It's pretty easy to spot, too - but is it tough to stop?
The Evolutionary Process of Dog Jealousy
Scientific studies have demonstrated that most dogs do exhibit traits associated with jealousy when it comes to human interaction, particularly when there is a second dog involved. These studies have deduced that as dogs have evolved to be domesticated companions to humans, they have learned to vie for the attention of the hand that feeds, pets, and grooms them. When that hand is applied elsewhere, jealous tendencies can rise to the surface.
Dog Jealousy Can be Bad if Left Unchecked
On the surface, watching a dog exhibit jealous behavior may look a little endearing. After all, his clamoring for attention is a sign that he likes you, and he appreciates what you're doing for him. Yet prolonged fits of jealousy can get annoying very quickly - or even worse.
Sometimes, your dog’s jealousy can end up manifesting into serious signs of aggression, from guttural growling to biting. These traits can particularly amplify if you are welcoming someone new into your home, such as a newborn or another dog. In this instance, his feelings stem from a possessive nature, meaning that his innate need to guard his territory, items, or humans may become strong.
Canine jealousy can get particularly complex when you’re dealing with a mother dog and her puppies. Because a female dog does not carry the same maternal instincts that a human has, she may not understand why you are lavishing so much attention on her offspring at her expense. This could lead her to some jealousy-fueled behaviors that you may not be able to appreciate fully, like ignoring her pups or even becoming aggressive toward them or you.
My Dog’s Jealousy has Become Intolerable. How Can I Break Him of this Behavior?
You may be able to handle a little jealousy here and there, like the nudge of your hand or the occasional yelp that seems to say “love me, please.” However, a dog that crosses whatever jealousy threshold you have could make your life relentlessly miserable very easily. If you feel you’re in danger of reaching that point, training your dog to quell his jealous behaviors is essential.
A key component to breaking your dog of his jealous tendencies is to practice basic obedience techniques. Essential tactics such as teaching and telling your dog to sit or stay can put your pooch in his place before he has a chance to act on his jealous feelings. Giving him praise and/or treats after he obeys his command will give him the message that you appreciate him and his efforts.
If jealousy is directed toward a second dog, you may want to consider separating the two pooches throughout the day. Once they are split from each other, it’s important you give each pooch an equal amount of the special attention that they crave. If you go this route, you’ll want to ensure you keep the pooch not getting attention occupied with a bone or a toy.
Finally, keeping a routine can go a long way in helping your pooch remain on an even keel. Abrupt changes in things like walking or feeding time could disrupt their emotional stability, which in turn could cause them to lash out in jealous behavior. If you must change a dog’s routine, it is highly recommended that you do so in a gradual fashion.
He’s Jealous Because He Likes You!
As you go through the process of dealing with a jealous dog, it’s important to bear in mind that he’s exhibiting these behaviors because he likes you and wants you to like him back. It may be difficult at times to remember this, especially if his actions of jealousy start drifting into the realm of aggressiveness. But underscoring your training with this understanding will greatly help you to proceed with breaking your dog’s jealousy habit in a loving, gentle way - one that will ultimately strengthen you and your pooch’s relationship in the long run.