One of our team members at Under the Weather® reported that when she fed one of our bland diets to her sick dog, Max, her other dog, Fritz, got upset. To keep the peace, she started mixing Fritz’ kibble in with a little of the Chicken & Rice bland diet. We laughed about it, but it triggered our curiosity … do dogs get jealous?
Studies Performed on Jealousy in Dogs
Two studies we know of have supported that dogs do get jealous. The first researcher, Dr. Christine Harris at UC San Diego, developed a study in 2014 when she noticed her three border collies getting jealous of each other during play sessions. When she would pet one dog, another would nudge her hand away to become the object of her affection. Intrigued at the idea of dogs being jealous, she created a study to test the emotional reactions of dogs to their owners giving affection to a canine-like toy vs an inanimate object like a pail. 72 percent of the dogs expressed jealous behavior (snapping at the toy, barking/whining or touching the owner) when the fake canine was involved and only 42 percent did the same with the pail.
The other study was conducted by Friederike Range of the University of Vienna in 2017. His study involved an experiment where two dogs perform the same task but only one gets rewarded while the other does not. It was thought the unrewarded dog might become unresponsive to the command, which was exactly what happened. In fact, that dog showed clear signs of stress or annoyance when his partner got rewarded. But, interestingly, when the study continued and both dogs received a treat after performing the task – only one had a premium treat and the other a lesser treat – both dogs eagerly continued to work and seemed happy with the situation. This result was interpreted that dogs are sensitive to fairness (both being rewarded for their efforts) but not equity (that all treats were equal in value).
Possible Causes of Jealousy
The above studies are just two examples of jealous behavior, but as a pet parent in tune with your dog, I’m sure you can think of other times your dog has gotten possessive, pushy or even aggressive when they are jealous of your time, attention or another pet in the house.
What causes the jealousy in the first place? It could be for a variety of reasons, but here are just a few that might be triggering the behavior:
- New schedule
- New home and neighborhood
- New pets in the home
- New people living in the home
- New baby or child
How to Curb Jealous Behavior
Envy and jealousy could mushroom into aggressiveness, so it’s better to get this bad behavior under control. Here are some suggestions on how you can work with your dog to reduce his jealousy response:
- Reintroduce obedience training. Take 20 minutes each day to practice the basic commands including “leave it” and “go to your crate/rug.” This will reestablish you as leader of your pack and practice the skills you need to manage jealousy situations.
- Remove the reward. Think about it … have you accidentally been rewarding your dog with attention when jealousy looms? Just like kids, dogs can get a thrill from your negative attention as well as your positive attention. So, if the problem is you, decide which jealous behaviors to ignore and when to just walk out of the room.
- Involve the object of their jealousy. It it’s a new house guest, involve them when you go for walks, feed meals, in obedience training and during playtime. This will help your dog realize that calm, obedient behavior will also be rewarded by this object of his envy and soon this new housemate will become an accepted part of the household.
- Introduce the buddy system. When a new pet is introduced into the household, work on establishing their bond together. Take them on walks together every day. Involve them both in obedience training, letting your established teach the new kid his good behavior tricks. When they sit together, calmly and politely, be sure to treat them both. Eventually the dogs will bond and learn together that calm, compliant behavior gets them the most treats!
This blog is brought to you by Under the Weather®, provider of bland diet products for dogs. When your dog experiences occasional or temporary vomiting or diarrhea, be ready with our freeze-dried bland diets. No more cooking – just add boiling water! Made with 100% lean meats, vegetables and grains, all raised or grown in the U.S.A. Gluten free, no meat by-products, no artificial anything. Even picky pups love this product!
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