Monday, March 14, 2011

Canine Behavior: Living with a Jealous Dog

By Linda Cole

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.

A jealous dog will try to push his way in between you and another pet or person. He may become withdrawn, lose his appetite or show signs of depression or aggression, which may be more of a defensive behavior than outright aggression. Rule out health concerns that could be causing a loss of appetite or any of the other signs of jealousy by getting a thorough veterinary exam. With a clean bill of health, you're ready to tackle your dog's jealousy.

Because dogs are individuals, some will take longer to accept a new pet. It took my jealous dog Kelly six months to accept two new puppies we took in from a neighbor. Most pets will adjust in a lot shorter time, but you have to give your dog the time they need to accept a new member of the household, whether it's human or pet – and there isn’t a set time period for that adjustment.

Ignore a jealous pet trying to push in between you and another pet or person. Turn away from him and continue giving attention to the pet or person. Don't push a jealous dog away, yell at him or unfairly punish him. Tell him “No” and have him lie down or sit until you're finished giving attention to another pet or person. If necessary, remove him from the room, but don't forget him. As soon as you're finished, bring him back and give him attention. You don't want him to feel like he's being punished, but he needs to learn you are the one who decides when attention is given. When it's his turn, don't let the other pet or person come between you and your jealous dog. Give him extra time to let him know he's not being replaced. He just wants to be reassured you still love him. Always reward good behavior and address unacceptable behavior, especially if it's aggressive.

If a jealous dog intimidates a new dog and won't allow him access to the couch or bed, it's up to you to show both dogs what's acceptable. Treat them equally. My dog Kelly didn't like other pets on the couch with us. I stopped sitting on the couch and ignored her outbursts. If she became vocal, I left the room. Now when I sit on the couch with her and one of the other pets wants to sit with us, she's learned to share. She still has a jealous streak that probably won’t ever go away, but she knows I still love her and she accepts the other pets.

If a jealous dog tries to hog treats, toys or beds, or steals things from other pets, take it away from them and give it back to the one who had it. Feed them in separate bowls, and give them their own toys to play with. Teaching your dog basic commands allows you to have control of them. Walking is a great way for dogs to learn they're a family. Exercise and training stimulates their minds and puts them on equal ground. For more information on how to deal with a jealous dog, see “Jealousy and Possessive Behavior in Dogs.”

Photo: "Ketzel Gets Jealous" by Redjar

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. you always post the most interesting and informative topics. I think our Sheltie is jealous some of the time....he is mostly jealous of animals that he doesn't know. He becomes very territorial.

  2. Hi Linda

    Great post.

    I have a beagle/boston terrier mix who loves other dogs, is extremely affectionate, and very loving. She has a dark side though. When we are at the park or at a friends house and she sees me pet or give attention to another dog not in out "pack"' she gets very aggressive. She will bull rush or growl, or get mouthy. She has never attacked or bit any dog, but her discomfort is very noticeable and embarrassing, she also gets very toy possessive in similar situations.

    She is very dominant, especially with small dogs and those of a weaker demeanor.

    It is a shame because she is so loving and fun.

    Any advice on what I should do when petting another dog. I try to share attention but I am afraid of letting them close together when they are near me.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


  3. Hi Linda

    Me & my wife have got 4 dogs, 3 of them are her dogs and the 1 is mine. Mine is the Jack Russel male and he is a jealous, dominant & possessive dog.

    Whenever my wife or I give attention to one of the other dogs he tries to come between us and the other dog and starts showing teeth and growling. It gets so bad that he even starts shaking.

    The Jack Russel is not neutered and my wife insists that I have him neutered. From what I have read I don't think it will entirely solve the problems and I think it is more a training and socialising thing. What is your opinion on neutering and do you think it will help with this Jack Russel?

    Thank you so much,

    1. Hi Gerhard,

      Neutering might help some, but it won't solve any jealousy issues. Jack Russells tend to be dominant and possessive. They also need a fair amount of exercise, and making sure he is getting enough can help him release built up tension he might have. If you haven't tried the suggestions in the above article, give them a shot and see if it helps. Also, if he isn't getting a lot of exercise, try getting him out for more walks, or some jogging, if either of you run.

      One excellent dog sport most Jack Russells excel in is agility. Even if you don't do it to compete, it's a good sport to teach a dog that needs a lot of exercise. You don't have to do everything in an agility course. Things like the weave poles, running though tunnels, and jumps would be enough to give him some nice exercise time. Plus, learning new things is something this breed enjoys doing. He was born to hunt fox and go underground to flush them out.

      More activity gets rid of boredom, and a bored dog isn't happy, and that's when behavior issues begin. Even if you do nothing more than spend some extra time playing with him in the yard, that can help. He needs to run, and playing and training dogs is one of the best ways to form a bond.

      As far as the neutering goes, it's still a good idea to have him fixed because it reduces the chance of some cancers developing.



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