Dogs are extremely loyal members of the family and just like humans they can experience a variety of different emotions - including jealousy. This can especially be the case when someone new becomes a member of the family, such as a newborn baby and seems to get all the attention and affection. Considering that dogs are social animals that need interaction, going from being the center of attention to feeling left out can be pretty tough for a dog. A new baby changes the pack dynamic as well as the family schedule and our canine family members need a lot of attention and time for that readjustment. But why do dogs get jealous and what steps can be taken so that the new baby isn’t considered an intruder but instead a new member of the pack?
The Root of the Behavior
Recent studies by animal psychologists have confirmed that dogs do in fact experience jealousy when their owners display affection toward other animals, new partners, kids, or even inanimate objects. Just like an older sibling might experience jealousy with the arrival of a new baby in the house - dogs can experience that same emotion of envy as well, especially if they feel like they have to compete for your attention. Although dogs have been domesticated thousands of years ago, we mustn’t forget the behavior of dogs’ distant relatives or ancestors as that information is extremely valuable and can be used to help us better understand our four-legged friends. For example, there have been cases that documented wild dogs attempting to kill or killing their siblings to ensure they get enough resources and food from their mother, as well as attention. It is most definitely an instinctive trait that is there to help them survive the tough conditions that they might experience in the wild. Dogs are pack animals and a new addition to the pack can threaten the other dog's resources and can make them compete for potential mates.
Even domesticated dog siblings get territorial and occasionally fight over food, dog toys, or their owners' attention. This is why it is incredibly important to be well informed about dog jealousy and take the necessary steps to ensure that the new baby and your family dog can coexist together safely and happily. Another reason dogs get jealous is that they don’t really know how to act around a new baby and thus can end up feeling confused and left out, even if they would otherwise maybe even mirror the happy emotions of the other family members. Though the jealous behavior is pretty common with families that have owned a dog for some time prior to having a baby, it is also concerning and should be resolved before it even becomes a problem.
Encouraging the Behavior
Needless to say, the jealous behavior should not be encouraged and instead should be tackled to ensure everyone's safety and happiness. Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that regardless of breed or the size of your dog he can get jealous if you bring a new baby into the family. Your furry family member is even more likely to get jealous if he is male, and the chances also increase even more if your dog has not been neutered or spayed. Secondly, if you are already aware of any jealous traits or habits (such as growling when other dogs approach you or get your attention) your dog has that could negatively impact the baby, consult a dog trainer and start the training even before the baby is born. If you plan to rearrange any furniture, it should also be done months in advance so that your dog has enough time to adjust to the change. Next, take all the precautions necessary before the baby arrives home to avoid possible future conflict. This includes bringing a few of the baby’s items home (such as a blanket) for your dog to be able to familiarize itself with its scent. If your dog has a favorite place to sleep or play in the house, make sure not to put any baby things there to ensure your dog still feels like he has his own spot in the house. When you introduce your baby to your dog make sure to remain calm as your dog can sense and mirror your emotions. Make sure to establish boundaries and never leave your dog with your baby unsupervised.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Most importantly, follow your dog trainer’s advice and pay lots of attention to your dog, especially in the first few months, to make sure he knows he is still a valuable member of the family. When you go for a walk with the baby in the stroller, take your dog for a walk as well. Include your dog in baby-related activities. When you feed your baby, make sure your dog’s bowl is full too. When you play with your baby, try to simultaneously throw your dog a toy too, so he doesn’t feel left out. Use dog treats, petting and praising to help your dog associate the baby with positive things. Lastly, make sure you still have one on one time with your dog so that he knows he can still get your undivided attention from time to time. If you have any concerns about your dog’s behavior towards your baby, make sure to restrict his access and to consult your dog trainer for professional support.
Whether you have a new partner, a new dog or a new baby in the house, your dog can experience jealousy and even get depressed about it. To ensure a safe and happy coexistence between everyone involved it is crucial to be well informed and well prepared for the new arrival, as well as to take all the required precautions to avoid problematic situations.