Is your dog jealous?
Does your pet seek attention from you when you are on the telephone, computer or ipad? Or perhaps when you have guests over, they position themselves between you and your guest and pester you for pets?
How animals feel and/or react to various situations
Some dogs may react to seeing their owner/guardian putting their arm around someone else or hugging someone. Even when it is a family member. But is it jealousy or has the dog been conditioned to react?
Dogs certainly are social animals and bond very strongly
Dogs certainly are social animals and bond very strongly with their humans whom they display a wide range of emotions to. Dogs have the same hormone, oxytocin, which plays a role in social bonding stimulated through expressions of happiness and love. In addition, scientists have proven that friendly eye contact between a dog and his guardian causes a release of oxytocin. So depending on the situation it could very well be a mixture of both hormones and conditioned response.
Test and research on how animals feel
It is fascinating to read about the tests and research being collected by behaviorists and scientists. They look on how animals feel and/or react to various situations. Such case is Friederike Range of the University of Vienna who conducted a situational experiment to see how dogs would react if one was rewarded for an action while the other was not.
A special case study
I recently was called upon to train a dog who had started nipping at household members. He had nipped everyone in the house except for the youngest daughter. When we discussed how and why this had started I learned that it began as a funny game. Whenever the dog was with the daughter and anyone approached her the dog would bark. The family members found it quite amusing and would repeat the action to get the dog to bark. As a result, It escalated until he started nipping even when speaking to the young girl. This is a clear example of conditioned behavior. Unfortunately in this case it escalated to a serious behavioral problem.
They taught each dog the same trick, “shake hands” by offering their paw into a person’s hand when asked. They arranged the dogs, in sets of pairs, sitting side by side. Both dogs were asked to “shake hands”, but only one dog would receive a reward. The dog who was not receiving the reward displayed clear signs of stress and annoyance. It stopped offering his paw when they did not reward him, for his efforts while the other dog was receiving rewards. This experiment showed that the dogs certainly displayed emotion to unfair treatment and showed resentment.
A dog’s behavior
One could equate similar behavior when your dog feels you are paying attention to someone or something else and not on them.
You might find cute and endearing when a dog displays behaviors that mimic our concept of jealousy. However these behaviors can escalate and lead to serious problem behaviors such as anxiety and even aggression.
Living in multiple pet household
This is another example of when jealousy can be an issue if you do not control it. Hierarchical tensions can lead to bullying and even fights. You can avoid it, through short dog training sessions of down and/or sit stays before receiving attention, and only when they are calm.
I have seen my dogs sometimes try to squeeze in on another dog. While I am petting one of them, even when they know it is wrong to do so. Even dogs who are very obedient and wait their turn can show facial expressions and body language of discomfort and impatience. Through dog training they have been taught that each will receive affection but I decide on who comes first and when.
This is essential for many reasons, one to maintain order and be fair to the shyer dogs, as some are pushier than others. Additionally affection is a reward, they learn to understand they you will reward them, for patient and calm behavior in addition to any exercises.
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If your dog is an only pet they should still be taught the stay command and rewarded for calm behavior. Especially if they socialize with other dogs or go to a dog park. Because they can still display unwanted behaviors, if you give attention to another dog.