How to Help Your Dog Become Less Jealous

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

I had to leave home early the other day, and when I came back, my dog was excited to see me. Normal dog reaction, right? Joy—then happiness—at your return!

After she had calmed down, I went over to the neighbor's house. (I had asked the neighbor to watch her during the day, but as soon as my dog realized she had been over there too long she climbed over the neighbor's six-foot wall and jumped over my wall to wait in my front yard. Was that a display of anxiety?) His dog came up to me to say hello, but my dog thrust herself between us and would not let the dog near me. This was definitely jealousy.

My dog's behavior that afternoon was really not much of an issue because I was able to separate the dogs; I took my dog home and the problem had gone away by the next day.

Had she not been well socialized, not been well trained, or if the situation was permanent, this could have been a much more serious problem.

For some dog owners, jealousy can become a serious issue. A dog jealous of a new dog, especially a puppy, might bite. A dog jealous of a new baby is a dangerous member of the family.

Some scientists believe that dogs are not able to have such a delicate emotion. They think of jealousy as an emotion exclusive to humans. Patricia McConnell, in her book For the Love of a Dog, makes a strong case of jealousy in dogs. Marc Hauser, in his book Wild Minds, argues that dogs don’t feel that type of emotion because they are not aware of self.

I disagree. My dog is self aware, and she definitely can get jealous. Even without human language skills, I can understand her feelings. I am sure that every perceptive dog owner knows what I am talking about.

How to Make Your Dog Less Jealous

Learn to read your dog's facial expressions. To reduce jealousy before it becomes serious, try some of these techniques:

  1. Walk your dog enough so that she is tired: I know I emphasize this a lot but it really is the answer to a lot of behavioral problems like digging, escape attempts, and excessive barking. If your dog is jealous, but tired, she will be less likely to display jealousy. It is good for your health too!
  2. Make her more submissive by reinforcing your role as leader of the pack. If your dog is displaying jealousy because of feeling she is in charge, this will help. (If your dog is already submissive, this step is not necessary.)
  3. Use counterconditioning techniques to make your dog associate the new object (new puppy, new baby) with a pleasant experience. You can read my article about keeping your dog calm during fireworks to understand conditioning techniques.
  4. Have your male dog neutered if he is displaying aggression while jealous. Neutering is not always a solution for aggression but this is a possible solution you might want to try.
  5. If none of the other solutions work, have a good physical exam conducted by your vet to rule out a medical cause. if there are any abnormalities, the vet might need to perform some blood work.
  6. If everything else is normal, and the dog is still displaying jealousy, consult a behaviorist.

This is the first time I have seen my dog acting jealous, but I see it all too often in multiple dog households, and also in households where the dog becomes fixated on only one of the owners. It is a serious problem, and one that is not always easy (or even possible) to solve. Try a few of the tips I have listed above and see if they work for you.

If you have any other suggestions that may be of help in jealousy cases, leave a comment and I will add it to the article.

Learning all of the facial expressions helps a lot with training. There is no constant face of jealousy, but here is a great video of some facial expressions you are going to see with your dog, and what they mean. Not just Boxers, either.

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Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 25, 2014:

Sorry your ACD is chasing the horses! I worry one of my neighbors Husky/Malamute crosses is going to come in and chase down and kill my geese.

Is it too cold for geese now where you live? I noticed in your article about sheep breeds that you commented on people keeping them for lawn mowers, and was curious as to whether you still kept any.

As far as the urinating in the house goes, can you not take her out and tie her up or put her in a pen while you are outside caring for your sheep? It would certainly make her a lot happier if she could be outside watching things instead of being stuck in the house! I know tying a dog out is frowned on in the US now, but for a couple of hours I think she would not mind.

Rachel Koski Nielsen from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on July 25, 2014:

Hi DrMark! I love this hub, especially the personal tidbits about your dog being jealous of your interaction with the neighbor's dog. Now that I have a two-dog household (I think I mentioned I inherited my late father's pit mix) I see jealousy all the time. Am I anthropomorphizing? Maybe, but I don't think so. If I'm trying to pet my ACD, my pit will drop whatever he is doing and come over to squeeze between us. The ACD does the same.

Also, lately, I think my ACD has been peeing on the floor in the house because when we go outside to tend the sheep and goats, she doesn't get to come. She is completely housebroken and never displayed this behavior before! I really believe it's because back at the farm in Pennsylvania she was always able to go outside and be with us when we did chores. We had more acreage and no neighbors for miles. Here at the new farm, we have less acreage, and there is a horse farm across the road. The first day I let her out, she ran across the road, through the electric fence, and chased the horses. I can't let her run free anymore because the horse farmer will shoot her if he catches her doing that (rightfully so). Long story short, I think she is punishing me for keeping her in the house instead of letting her chase our sheep and goats!

What do you think?

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 08, 2012:

Thanks for your comment. I see some terrified animals here on there way to slaughter; I am sure they are emotional and aware.

I really enjoy your title and avatar!

Highland Terrier from Dublin, Ireland on September 08, 2012:

I have to agree with you on this point. Dogs have emotions. all animals have emotions. It is our fear of this fact that makes us deny it .

We would have to accept that the animals in slaughter houses and labs were terrified and we really don't want to do that.

Sasha Kim on August 09, 2012:

I'm sure I'll do a hub of some sort about my doggies sometime. I have a husky samoyed mix that is just the sweetest, think Nana from Peter Pan ^_^

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 09, 2012:

Thanks Mama Kim. I´m sure my dog gets tired of me following her aroound with the camera, but I really enjoy seeing her face display all her feelings. A lot of the time I do not even know what I have until I download the photo. I am sure you are bust with that little one in your arms, but try getting photos of the dogs, too. They can be amazing.

Sasha Kim on August 09, 2012:

Your pictures are just adorable! All 3 of my dogs get jealous easily (never aggressively though) so this hub helps a lot ^_^ thank you.

Bob Bamberg on August 08, 2012:

Interesting concept, that concept once known as dominance. But, old concepts die hard so I'll remain unconvinced but open minded.

I'd write more but I just can't wait to start reading the hub you linked to...sounds very interesting. Thanks! and Best Regards, Bob

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 08, 2012:

I really disagree. I think it is a display of jealousy; besides that, according to the Animal Behaviorists it is now known as "the concept once known as domininance" (like the artist formerly known as Prince).

I do have a really important question for you. If this discussion goes on for one year, will that be equal to seven years for a dog? Curious aunts everywhere want to know? You can read this article for the answer:

Bob Bamberg on August 08, 2012:

I'm assuming you mean that the bone on the other side of the room is tended by another dog. In that case my knee-jerk reaction is that it would be a dominance issue. The bone isn't the objective; taking the other dog's possession is. That's one way dogs elevate their status and, I think, is the basis for guarding behavior.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 07, 2012:

Do you feel that dogs display jealousy of objects? (The bone is always tastier on the other side of the room?) If you accept that they do, do you see any sort of pack behavior in that display?

Bob Bamberg on August 07, 2012:

I still question whether jealousy was the motivating factor in the video. Is it possible that the dog, being incapable of distinguishing between aggression and affection when two beings have contact, was just trying to protect the pack leader or just trying to be the peacekeeper and stop what it interpreted to be a confrontation?

I'm not trying to bust your chops, but inquiring minds are often a pain in the butt and, being agnostic (PC speak for WTF) on the subject, I'm just not convinced either way, but I have my leanings.

If I wasn't so old, I'd hold out hope that researchers would develop something to greatly slow down aging, and they may indeed, but too late for me. Politically, I'm glad I'm coming to the end of my life, but science and technology-wise, I'd love to be around in 2072.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 07, 2012:

Yes, she could have been intervening to protect a pack member, but I don't think she ever feels the need with the dog I mentioned (her sister, who is much weaker than her when they wrestle). Sometimes people, like the couple in the video, tend to reinforce a dog´s jealousy by making a game out of it. If only we could communicate. Wouldn't that be great? But 2072? No thanks.

Bob Bamberg on August 07, 2012:

Hi DrMark,

Interesting and thought provoking hub; voted up and interesting.

Personally, I'm agnostic on the issue of dog emotions. Most of the science says "no" but it's hard to dispute some facial expressions and behaviors. And those, of course, are subject to interpretation.

If I may offer a couple of different views: could your dog have questioned the other dog's intentions and felt the need to protect a pack member? And on the video: couple tries to kiss, dog intervenes, kiss stops, dog wins. The dog was never seriously admonished, in fact the couple's body language tended to reinforce the behavior, almost making a game of it. It sure is interesting stuff to ponder, though.

The way technology is going, I truly believe that my 2 1/2 year old grandson will live to see the day when we can actually communicate with other species. Could that happen in another 50 or 60 years?

Sixty years ago we had to get off the sofa to change the channel on our black and white 18" TV, which was state-of-the-art. Sixty years ago, my hometown just outside of Boston was 5 years away from having its phone system upgraded to dial technology, and look what smartphones do now! Wouldn't you love to be around in 2072?

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 06, 2012:

Can dogs smirk? I think that is what she is doing at the moment. On our walk this evening she found a fresh pile of horse manure and rolled in it before I even realized what was happening. Back at my house, she has taken up her usual position at my feet and the aroma of fresh manure is filling up my room. Definitely a smirk!!!

wetnosedogs from Alabama on August 06, 2012:

I love when you show pictures of your dog. A real working mind and not afraid to show it. I even love the angry face.

Do Dogs Get Jealous?

A recent study done at the University of California San Diego claims to show that dogs feel jealousy. The study was performed by having humans engage with three different objects in front of their dogs: a book, a plastic jack-o-lantern, and a realistic looking stuffed dog that moved and made sound.

The results show that, when the human was paying attention to the fake dog, their dogs were much more engaged and more likely to show behaviors like trying to touch their owner or the stuffed dog, trying to get in between them, barking, biting, and whining. These behaviors were not as prominent with the other objects.

You can read more about the study and conclusions at the BBC.

The researchers took these behaviors to mean that dogs do experience jealousy, but is that what’s really going on? In fact, this study may have revealed more about human behavior and how it effects dogs.

Remember: by definition, a jealous person will not share affection. Keep that in mind as you watch Cesar’s response to the question: Do dogs get jealous?

Tell us in the comments the funniest thing your dog has done to get your attention.

My first baby was a 5-pound French bulldog puppy named Napoleon. For three glorious years, he led the life of a pampered New York City pooch. Then, in October 2003, his perfect world was shattered by the high-decibel cries of a strange, tiny creature who couldn't even walk to her own water dish -- our newborn daughter, Sasha. Napoleon spent a considerable amount of time sulking. However, after some lavish affection from our next-door neighbors, a few new treats, and a bit of obedience training for both child and dog, Napoleon and Sasha have become fast friends, proving that even the most spoiled pet can learn to love his new sibling. Here's how to make it happen.

Pet Preparations

Understanding a little animal psychology can help make things easier on felines and canines alike. All pets are concerned with territory. If, for example, your cat likes to sleep in a particular spot in your family room, pick another spot to park the bouncy seat.

And animals, like babies, thrive on predictability and routine. If you're planning on moving your furniture around or turning your office into a nursery, do it long before the baby comes so your pet can get used to one world-rocking change at a time. "Let your cat or dog sniff around the baby's room and look at her things," says Janis Driscoll, PhD, an animal behaviorist at Animal Behavior Associates, a company that troubleshoots animal behavior problems, in Denver, Colorado. "By the time baby comes home, your pet won't be quite so curious about her belongings."

Of course, it also helps to give your pet a preview of what life will be like with his new sibling. Host a few children and their parents for an hour or two. This will give you some idea as to how your pet will respond to the chaos a new child can bring. It will also give you the opportunity to change any behavior you don't like. "If your dog tends to jump up, say no firmly," says Robert DeFranco, an animal behaviorist with the Animal Behavior Society, in Rego Park, New York. The less positive reinforcement an animal gets from a behavior, the less likely he is to continue it.

Reasons for Fear

There are several reasons why your dog may be scared of people it doesn't know.

  • One possibility is its genetics. A shy or timid dog is more likely to produce skittish offspring. A dog that has a general fear of all strangers—rather than a specific fear of men or children, for example—may be genetically predisposed to being fearful.
  • A lack of proper socialization as a puppy is another reason some dogs fear strangers. Puppies that don't have a chance to meet a wide variety of people are more likely to develop a fear of people they don't know.
  • Dogs with a history of abuse may also be afraid of strangers. If you're aware of a history of abuse, then you can better understand why your dog fears strangers.

Watch the video: A Lesson in Aggression. Dog Whisperer

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