Whether you’ve been a single pet parent for some time and have just met someone special, or a partner has moved in to your home, our canine companions can sometimes struggle with a new addition to their established group dynamic.
As highly social beings who thrive on regular interaction with their people, dogs can take time to adjust to their person spending time with someone else. Couple this with a remarkable memory for routine and the introduction of new people into the home can be challenging.
What are the signs of jealousy?
If you’ve suddenly noticed changes in behaviour, you may have wondered if your dog is exhibiting signs of jealousy. In order to help modify any form of unwanted behaviour, knowing the signs to look out for, is a crucial first step.
If your dog is showing signs of jealousy towards you partner, here’s what they might do.
Aggressive or Defensive Behaviour
If your dog barks in a defensive manner, growls, nips or shows their teeth to somebody visiting the home, it may be that they are either reacting due to their protective nature, or because of anxiety. A sensitive soul may find it far more difficult than the happy-go-lucky pup to deal with a new person in the home, particularly if your partner is here to stay. Growling or showing teeth is a defensive method dogs use to avoid conflict and is especially common around new people approaching a safe space.
Breed predisposition and past history can also impact how well a dog adapts to new caregivers, with some dogs being highly alert and perceptive to change.
Ignoring attention or performing tricks without being asked
Is your cuddle bug ignoring your love, or suddenly performing tricks without even being asked?
A typically affectionate dog that starts ignoring attention, may well be showing signs of jealousy. If your dog is used to being the centre of attention, suddenly seeing you offering attention to another being, can cause your pet to withdraw. It can also be a sign of insecurity and nerves.
Whilst a dog avoiding attention, may well be showing signs of jealousy, this can also be a sign something physical needs checking out. Book an appointment with your vet if your dog seems withdrawn, to rule out any underlying medical concerns.
In total contrast to a dog that avoids attention, some dogs will suddenly start offering behaviours to get a reaction. Tricks may pop up out of nowhere, and you may find your dog pushing in between you and your partner, demanding all the cuddles going.
Resource guarding and possessive behaviour
If your dog is feeling a little jealous, this could exhibit as possessive, guarding behaviour. Your dog may guard you from everyone else, or their prized possessions from your partner.
With a deeply ingrained guarding instinct, to protect their home and their people, our canine companions can struggle to let somebody new into their group. A protective dog can cause problems in the home, so it’s important to deal with introductions carefully from the outset.
When introducing someone to the home, allow your dog space and time to move away and seek interaction on their own terms. This offers a sense of control, which can be comforting to more nervous dogs. Build positive associations to new people, teaching your dog this person means good things.
A jealous dog is usually a dog that is feeling insecure. Even the most housetrained of dogs, when feeling extremely unsettled, may resort to toileting indoors. This behaviour signals your dog is feeling out of sorts and reprimanding them could make the problem worse. Focus instead, on helping your dog feel comfortable and happy around your partner.
Dogs can overgroom due to stress, so if your dog seems to be licking or scratching excessively, it may be a sign. As with all behaviours listed here, getting to the root cause is essential, and teaching your dog that the presence of your partner is a positive thing, should go a long way in reducing overgrooming.
If your dog is overgrooming, you may want to check for any matting or discomfort.
Destructive behaviour and vocalisation
Barking for attention and destructive behaviour around the home, can both be signs that your dog is feeling a little jealous. If your dog is used to being the centre of attention, they may crave all eyes on them, and barking is their way of communicating this to you.
Another sign of a jealous dog can be destructive behaviour, such as chewing on objects not meant for them or picking up items they know they shouldn’t. Your dog wants you to react, and -like with children – sometimes even negative attention is better than nothing at all.
What causes dog jealousy
The cause of dog jealousy, to this day, remains unknown. Where jealousy was thought of for years as human-specific, due to the cognitive complexity of the emotion, a study on jealousy in dogs, found that dogs did exhibit signs of it as well, by pushing and getting between their owner and another dog.
The reason behind this has yet to be fully understood. On the one hand, it could be that dogs feel an innate need to protect the established social group from a newcomer, as a deeply ingrained guarding instinct. On the other, it could be that your four-legged friend just needs all the love for themselves.
Why does my dog get jealous when I hug someone?
We’ve often seen those videos of two people hugging, with a little furry face poking out from the middle. It may look cute on camera, but once your dog starts jumping and pushing themselves in between every hug, the cute factor can fade pretty quickly.
Hugging is a difficult behaviour for dogs to relate to or feel comfortable around, because hugging is totally abnormal in the dog world. When was the last time you saw two dogs hugging? My bet is that it’s been a while. When your dog jumps up in the middle of a hug, they may actually be trying to appease the situation and help to resolve conflict.
Why does my dog get jealous of my boyfriend?
Dogs are masters of routine and of caring for their group. They love to know where they fit in at home, and any change in caregiver, resident pets, new visitors or home, can be unsettling. If they suddenly find themselves around a new member of the family, the likelihood is, your attention will be divided.
It’s important to put steps in place to reduce jealousy towards your partner.
How do I stop my dog from being jealous of my partner?
Successfully integrating your partner and your pets, can come with its own challenges. Here we look at how to redirect behaviour and reward positive interactions with new people at home.
Evaluate the jealousy triggers
Does your dog become stressed when your partner enters a room? Or when you talk to each other? Or perhaps they’re struggling with hugs and affection they aren’t a part of?
They say the first step to solving a problem is understand it, and this definitely applies here. Take the time to note down the triggers that result in your dog’s jealous behaviour. Doing so will give you a better insight into when and why your dog feels insecure.
Show your dog everything is alright
This may sound like an obvious solution, but sometimes the obvious really is the most effective. Taking the time to spend one-on-one moments bonding with your dog, can go a long way in reassuring them that even though a new person is around, their relationship with you is not going to change. Spend time each day training, showing affection and attention when your partner is not around.
Offer attention in your partner’s presence
With the above in mind, it’s equally as important to offer your dog praise and affection in the presence of your partner. This shows them that the attention they crave from you, doesn’t vanish when your partner walks back into the room, and helps build positive associations to their presence.
Get everyone involved in daily care and training
If the way to your dog’s heart is through their stomach, let your partner take over the feeding for a while. If your dog loves a game of tug of war, let your partner be the one playing the game. And if they love to explore the outdoors, make sure your partner comes along too. Getting everyone involved in daily caretaking and training can help strengthen the bond between your dog and your partner, and this will go a long way in reducing any jealous reactions.
Remove attention if your dog is being too demanding
If your dog is pushing and shoving their way into every interaction, it may be time to show them this doesn’t achieve the desired reaction. Quietly and calmly get up and move away. No fuss and no interaction in these moments – and then plenty of reward and praise when they wait their turn. This will help them understand that demanding attention is not the way forward!
Reinforce an incompatible behaviour
Whilst the name may sound complicated, the purpose of differential reinforcement of an incompatible behaviour, is actually fairly simple. With this training technique, we look to reduce the frequency of an unwanted behaviour (such as jumping up and pushing in to the middle of hug) without any punishment. This is done through reinforcing an incompatible response.
Here’s an example: Your dog goes to jump up and you ask them to go their bed and lie down. They go to their bed and get a reward. They’re calm, you can hug, and the best bit is, they can’t jump up and push in if they’re on their bed lying down. No punishment needed. They get rewarded for a behaviour you asked for - resulting in tasty treats and most importantly attention - which is exactly what they were after in the first place.
Successfully integrating a new partner with your beloved pets can take dedication and patience. It’s normal for your dog to feel a little put out at first but understanding the signs and following these six simple solutions will help build a positive bond for years to come.
Now, we are sure you have learned a lot of things about why your dog gets jealous of your partner and what you can do to stop it from happening, it's time to relax a bit. Check out this hilarious compilation of jealous pets: