Dealing with a jealous dog
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Dealing with a jealous dog

Most dog lovers will have witnessed a familiar scene, either with their own pet or with someone else’s: a dog that simply cannot deal with being anything but the centre of attention. If another dog is around, if people are having a conversation, or if anything happens to take the focus of the owner’s attention away from the dog itself, they will push between the owner and the other party (canine or human) and seek to return themselves to their perceived rightful position as the centre of their owner’s universe! While this can be annoying in itself, jealousy in dogs can manifest in many other ways as well, some of which are destructive and potentially even dangerous, and none of which are good for any of the parties involved- the dog, the owner or the cause of the jealousy.Understandably, owning a jealous dog can be a real pain if your dog sees other people or pets as a threat to their relationship with you, or acts out in the presence of their perceived competition. In order to be able to address the issue of jealousy in dogs, firstly it is important to be able to identify it in its various manifestations, as well as to understand what triggers it and how you can resolve the issue.

Preventing your dog from developing jealous or overly-clingy behaviour

As with every vice or issue pertaining to dogs, the best form of managing the problem is by preventing it from developing in the first place! This can of course be easier said than done, but if you manage to catch the warning signs of the problem before it gets out of hand, or develop and stick to a firm and sensible training and bonding regime with your dog, you can minimise the likelihood of future problems developing.In order to prevent jealousy and overly clingy behaviour from your dog, it is important that you spend enough time with them to keep them entertained, happy and feeling loved and secure. As well as this, it is also vital that you firmly establish with your dog that sometimes they (and you) need to be on their own, and that they cannot stay with you 24 hours a day. Crate training, general training such as ‘stay’ and ‘lie down’ and the general programmes that owners follow to get their dogs used to being left alone for a while or behaving well in company are all vital tools in the battle against inappropriate behaviour. Vices in dogs such as jealousy and over-clinginess to their owner can stem from separation anxiety and incorrect training, and also the blurring of the lines between pack leader (you) and subordinate (your dog) in terms of who calls the shots.

Identifying the signs of jealousy in your dog

If your dog simply will not put up with you petting another dog, talking to another person outside of the family, or touching anyone but them, you could have a problem on your hands.At the lowest levels of jealousy this can simply manifest as your dog pushing in between you and the other dog or person in question but backing away if firmly instructed to, which is annoying if manageable, to rather more serious behaviours. Aggression, growling or barking is of course, much more of an issue.Other ways in which your dog may make their displeasure known indirectly can include a wide range of other behaviours such as:

  • Apparent depression and general unhappiness.
  • Over-grooming.
  • Inappropriate toileting (sometimes, although by no means exclusively, on or near property belonging to the person or animal triggering their jealousy).
  • Under or over eating.
  • Extreme clinginess to you or other family members.

How to resolve the issue of a jealous dog

If you have established that your dog is jealous and acting out due to the presence of a particular other person (or persons) or dog, your first priority must be the safety of yourself and the other party involved. This is particularly true in the case of a new family member coming home, such as a new baby or a partner, something that can often make the resident dog feel pushed out or that they are no longer the centre of attention. Never leave a new baby or child unattended with your dog, nor any other new person who is not confident in their ability to put your dog in its place. If your dog growls, barks aggressively or even snaps at or bites the person or persons they are having problems with, its time to call in the experts. Where your safety and that of your family are concerned, this is not something that you can leave to chance or hope will resolve itself over time. A professional canine behaviourist can work closely with you, your dog and your family to identify the triggers causing jealousy and coach you on what you can do about it, safely and sensibly for all parties involved.If there is no immediate or developing safety issue between your dog and the other person or dog(s) involved, you may be able to work things out between yourselves.

  • Make sure that you spend enough time with your dog on a one to one basis and ensure that they still feel loved and important to you. Do not punish your dog’s behaviour by spending less time with them.
  • When another dog or person (or a specific dog or person that your own dog reacts to badly) is present, try to involve both of them together- touching both of them, talking to both of them, alternating between paying attention to each of them so that neither feels left out or forgotten.
  • Try to encourage your dog and the other dog or person to begin to interact with each other slowly and gradually, and to come to accept each other and build a relationship between them.
  • Reduce any avoidable causes of stress, for instance, make sure that the other dog or person involved allows your dog to have his personal space, does not tease him or take his toys, and does not dominate him or scare him.
  • Keep to your dog’s normal routine and avoid any other changes or external stresses.
  • Reprimand your dog once when they try to push between you, bark or otherwise draw attention to themselves at the expense of the other party, and then ignore them. When they eventually stop acting out, praise them warmly.
  • Go back to basics with training, leaving your dog for short periods of time until they learn to be patient, well behaved and calm when left or ignored for short periods.
  • Ensure that you firmly establish yourself as the alpha of your dog’s pack, and that what you say goes, even when your dog does not like it.
  • Never give into demanding behaviour or attention seeking just to keep the peace- this reinforces the bad behaviour and makes your job harder the next time.

Remember, dealing with a behavioural issue such as jealousy can take a significant amount of time, as the ultimate cause of the problem may be deeply routed in your dog’s psyche and may take some working out. As mentioned, if your dog is acting aggressively or in a potentially dangerous manner, do not hesitate to call in an expert. Don’t rule out calling in a canine behaviourist or ‘dog whisperer’ anyway if you need a little help or guidance along the way. Good luck!

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