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What are Jealous?

Jealousy is a common trait for our canine companions and may occur with any age, breed, or gender of dog. Indications that your dog is feeling jealousy may include whining or vocalizations when you show affection for another animal or a person, pushing another animal out of the way to get attention for themselves, refusal to obey, and sometimes even signs of depression and a loss of appetite.  Although jealousy can occur at any time and to any dog, there are certain circumstances which may be more likely to trigger an episode of jealous behavior. 

  • Change in environment
  • Changes in routine
  • New family members
  • New primary caregiver
  • Owner interacting with another dog
  • Pain or discomfort

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Why Jealous Occurs in Dogs

Change in Environment

Relocating can be traumatic for dogs, and they may become more jealous for a time during the relocation process. This can occur during the preparation for the move, during the move itself , or after the move as the family is settling into their new environment. The changes can also cause separation anxiety, which may be misread as jealousy, shown when the caregiver returns home from time away during the day.

Changes in Routine

Like changes in environment, changes in routine may cause your dog to feel insecure, and they may exhibit jealous behaviors as a consequence. 

New Family Members

New family members being introduced into the household is another very common trigger for canine jealousy. A new animal being introduced into the household always has the potential for jealousy to arise, but this can frequently be offset by choosing your new pet and making introductions with care. Jealousy and dog on dog violence are more likely to occur with dogs of the same sex, and finding a dog with either a similar or complementary temperament to your existing dog will go a long way in preventing squabbles. There are several common scenarios with this theme that apply to humans as well, for instance, a new baby is very likely to trigger jealousy if not handled with care and consideration for the established dog, and many single pet owners have experienced jealousy from their dogs when they invite a new boyfriend or girlfriend into their home. 

New Primary Caregiver 

Dogs who are rehomed can become depressed initially and may experience confusion and disorientation. The inherent insecurity that this situation creates may cause the dog to become overly clingy toward their new owner, or they may become possessive or jealous in regards to either new items or items brought with them from the previous home.  

Owner Interacting With Another Dog

This is the most common cause of canine jealousy. Studies indicate that a majority of dogs will show some form of jealous behavior when their primary caregiver lavishes attention on another dog or on a stuffed animal shaped like a dog, much more so than when the owner lavished the same attention on an inanimate and un-doglike substitute. 

Pain or Discomfort

A pet who is experiencing pain or emotional/physical discomfort may be exhibiting behavior that is perceived as jealousy when in fact, it is a medical condition contributing to the changes in personality. Pets can often tolerate pain and do not let the owner know just how uncomfortable it is. Arthritis, joint or ligament injury, and sprains or muscle strains are conditions that are not easily recognized.

What to do if your Dog is Jealous

If your dog is exhibiting signs of jealousy, it is important to correct the behavior as soon as possible, but it is equally important to correct the behavior without scolding or punishing the jealous animal. Obedience training can be extremely helpful in these situations, not only to curb existing behavior but also to deter the jealousy in the first place. Having your dog stay while you pay attention to the other person or other pet for a short time, then immediately rewarding the animal for their good behavior will help teach the animal that attention and rewards are forthcoming if they behave appropriately. Mild, non-aggressive indicators of jealousy should not be taken lightly as they can develop into more aggressive behaviors. 

Dogs that have exhibited any sort of aggressive jealousy towards babies or children such as growling or snapping should be watched carefully when around them or removed from the child’s presence or from the household. Although dogs should never be left unmonitored with infants and small children, with proper counterconditioning and desensitization training techniques designed to teach the animal that the infant or child is a source of good things, your dog may become a safer and more enjoyable companion for your child as they grow up together. Counterconditioning techniques are intended to counter the animal’s current reactions to the stimuli that create the jealousy. Pairing a high-value reward, usually, a favorite type of treat, with the jealousy inducing stimulus will often cause the behavior to diminish. Desensitization is achieved by slowly exposing the animal to the negative stimulus at extremely low levels until the dog is comfortable with the stimulus and showing no signs of jealousy or discomfort, then increasing the levels of negative stimuli until the dog becomes completely comfortable with the focus of the jealous behavior. These same training techniques can be employed to encourage your dog to accept a new adult, new situation, or a new canine companion as well. 

Concern over what may be jealousy should always be discussed with your veterinary caregiver who may suggest a wellness check. This can rule out health conditions that could contribute to a behavior change.

Prevention of Jealous

Treatment for this behavior takes patience and diligence on behalf of the owner or primary caregiver and may require a canine behaviorist or an experienced animal trainer to eliminate. A jealous dog can cause conflict and chaos in a household and preventing the behavior in the first place is often less complicated and avoids a great deal of stress for both you and your animal. Utilizing some of the desensitizing behaviors before any aggression develops and ensuring that your established animal is receiving appropriate levels of attention is typically helpful in keeping those behaviors from developing in the first place. Jealousy of other dogs is far more common that other types of jealousy, so if you are planning on bringing a new dog into the household, it should be done with care and consideration of the established animal. This can be done by ensuring that both animals are receiving adequate and equal levels of attention and rewards, and by ensuring that both dogs get enough exercise for their condition and energy levels.

Cost of Jealous

In some instances, jealousy may be exhibited in an aggressive form and treatment for this type of condition could range as high as $500. If your pet seems to be jealous of another member of the family, whether it be human or animal, but has pain due to joint injury, the expense to treat could be costly, averaging around $2000 depending on the severity of the injury.