Tip 74 – Jealousy and dogs – Is my dog a jealous dog?
Despite the fact that jealousy is a human emotion, many dog owners can attest to the fact that their dogs seem to exhibit jealousy related behaviours. Usually this occurs when a new person enters a dog’s household and spends time with the dog’s owner. Classic examples are new boyfriends or girlfriends and of course the arrival of a new baby. These new ‘intruders’ take away the precious alone time that the dog had with its owner(s) and subsequently they can feel neglected. These intruders are also invading what the dog feels is the family’s territory.
Dogs that feel jealous can exhibit behaviours that were previously unseen by their owner. Depressive behaviours such as social withdrawal, inactivity and loss of appetite are common. Occasionally a jealous dog can exhibit previously unseen signs of aggression.
It is important to spend extra time with your dog during this period of transition. Give the dog some extra treats, extra petting and maybe some extra exercise.
ROUTINE is extremely important during these periods of transition. Walking, playing, and feeding your dog at the same time each day is a great stress reliever. If it is a boyfriend or girlfriend that is making your dog jealous then occasionally, under your supervision, have THEM give the dog a treat or play fetch. Include the dog in normal daily activities. If you’re watching TV for example, call the dog over and pet the dog while the new person is around. Don’t force the issue though, if the dog doesn’t want to, let the dog be. He/she should come around eventually.
A new baby is a more delicate matter. At the beginning don’t allow the baby to use the dog’s toys or sit where the dog usually sits. Get your dog a crate or kennel and allow the dog to have a safe space away from the baby that is accessible at all times. Once the baby starts crawling and moving in a jagged manner it may be seen as prey by the dog so be on the lookout for any aggressive behaviour. Most importantly NEVER leave the 2 of them alone. Even when it seems the dog has accepted the baby, all the baby has to do is take one of the dog’s toys or food, or pull its tail and the dog will use its body language to tell the baby to back off. Since the baby cannot understand ‘dog speak’ the dog can lash out.
You are the best judge of your dog’s behaviour so eventually under your direct supervision, allow the two to meet. Get on the floor with your dog and pet the dog in the baby’s presence. It goes without saying that you need to be extra aware of the dog’s body language. Any aggressive behaviour such as growling should be met with immediate withdrawal of attention. If you are in any doubt whatsoever, talk with your vet or ask for a referral with a trainer or canine behaviourist.