The love between a pet and owner can be strong. When one gets a new best friend, the old one may not feel so happy about it — especially if that new addition seems to take up all his or her attention. Pet owners know this feeling well as “pet jealow”.
Pet jealous are quite different from human-to-human jealousy. With humans, there’s usually only one person involved. But with animals, they’re often more complicated. Even though they don’t have words for their feelings, many animal experts believe some pets might experience jealousy toward other animals (or people) who they consider competition. Some researchers even think that pet jealousies could be rooted in our ancient ancestors’ need for mates [Source: NPR]. While we don’t fully understand why certain animals exhibit these behaviors, scientists do know that some animals aren’t monogamous like us.
If you’ve got two dogs at home, then chances are good that your older pooch will probably show signs of jealousy toward your younger pup. So what exactly does happen during canine jealousy attacks? And how should you handle them? Read on to find out.
Jealousy among pets is common
Jealousy among pets is common because most dogs were originally bred to hunt prey. Their instincts tell them to compete against other members of their pack for food sources such as carcasses or live game animals. The instinctual desire to fight for resources also applies to mating partners. In fact, studies have shown that female dogs display behavior similar to male dogs when they see potential suitors.
But while the idea of an alpha male dog having trouble getting along with a beta male dog may seem farfetched, research has found that aggression levels rise between dogs after they become familiar friends. This occurs partly due to hormones released by both males upon meeting each other.
So, why would dogs act aggressive toward others of their own species? One possible cause is territorialism. Dogs tend to mark areas where they feel safe through urination, defecation and scent marking. If someone else comes onto a marked area without permission, dogs will bark and growl as a sign of distress, annoyance or fear. These responses increase according to the size of the intruder.
In addition to territorial issues, dogs may also experience jealousy over other creatures. For example, a woman walking her Chihuahua noticed that he was following her closely whenever she took him outside. She suspected that he wanted to chase squirrels. After observing this problem several times, she had the neighbor teach her dog basic commands so that he wouldn’t follow her everywhere. However, the next time she went on walks, the Chihuahua came right behind her instead of staying back. It seemed that the little guy couldn’t help himself. He became even more attached to her after learning tricks and began displaying behavioral changes consistent with jealousy.
Next, learn how jealousy affects your pet.
Dogs sometimes develop special relationships with objects or places. A border collie named Rin Tin Tin learned to open doors using keys he’d received from admirers. Another dog named Toto once brought a movie camera into a jail cell to film scenes starring its master, Frank Sinatra. Animals have been known to bond with items like shoes or gloves — leading trainers now use those types of toys to treat anxiety problems in dogs.
Possible causes of jealousy in dogs
Although it may sound strange, jealousy isn’t necessarily always bad. Jealousy can actually motivate people to work harder and complete tasks faster than they normally would. Think about athletes competing against each other. They train hard to try and beat their opponents, but they still want to win just as much as anyone else. Similarly, dogs may form bonds with things beyond their control. Owners must therefore reward positive interactions rather than negative ones. Otherwise, the dog may start questioning whether the relationship is really worth maintaining.
For instance, let’s say you go out every day with your German shepherd mix, Duke. You feed him treats when he behaves well and give him lots of affection when he follows you around obediently. Then one day, you meet up with your veterinarian and notice that he looks thinner than usual. Your vet tells you that Duke caught worms from another patient earlier that morning. Although you’re upset that he exposed yourself to disease, you decide not to punish him since he did nothing wrong. Instead, you make sure Duke feels loved and cared for throughout the rest of the day. Since he didn’t receive any punishment, Duke becomes accustomed to receiving less affection. As a result, he doesn’t mind going outdoors anymore.
Some pet owners choose to resolve situations involving jealousy by talking to veterinarians. Veterinarian Dr. Michael Stone says that although it may seem difficult to talk to your pet directly about feelings, doing so helps strengthen the bond between you and your animal.
Your pet won’t turn into a homicidal maniac anytime soon, but if you ever witness your pet attacking someone, contact local authorities immediately. Many states classify acts of animal violence as crimes, which means police officers could arrest the culprit.
How to prevent or manage your pet’s jealousy
As mentioned previously, animals may exhibit jealousy toward other animals or people. To determine the reason for your pet’s actions, ask yourself questions like: Did my pet behave aggressively before I added something new to the household? Does my pet typically demonstrate jealousy when we play together? Is my pet trying to protect me? Or does my pet appear afraid of or uncomfortable around the newcomer?
It’s important to remember that dogs are social beings. Like children, they crave companionship. Therefore, it’s essential to spend time with your pet regularly. Make sure that everyone plays together happily. Also, keep in mind that some breeds like Labradors and poodle mixes are naturally protective. Training sessions shouldn’t frighten your pet, so avoid punishing him or her for guarding you.
When your pet shows signs of jealousy, ignore the situation until it passes. Don’t engage in roughhousing with your dog, either. During stressful moments, your pet may lash out in anger and attack the other animal. Never hit or strike your pet, even in self defense. Once the conflict subsides, discuss ways to solve the issue calmly. Try teaching your pet skills that allow him or her to relax safely within sight of the rival creature. By doing so, you’ll encourage your pet to associate relaxing with being near you. This tactic works particularly well with fearful pets.
Finally, if your dog develops a habit of chasing cars or running away during car rides, seek professional assistance. There are medications available to reduce anxiety in dogs, including Prozac and Xanax. Talk to your vet about treatment options and strategies designed specifically to improve your dog’s mood.
While no one knows for sure exactly why dogs exhibit jealousy, certain factors contribute to the behavior. First, animals aren’t capable of forming close emotional attachments like humans. Second, dogs were originally bred to survive harsh environments. Third, domesticated dogs depend heavily on their owners for food and shelter. Finally, they view everything in terms of survival, meaning they may perceive threats based solely on physical characteristics.
However, despite these limitations, the love between a pet and owner is incredibly powerful. Pets provide comfort, happiness and unconditional love. We call them family members for a reason! Next, learn how your cat may be suffering silently from loneliness.
Cats have unique personalities and preferences. Certain cats refuse to eat catnip seeds while others adore them. Likewise, some prefer scratching posts while others like soft fur bedding. Find out what kind of environment your feline prefers and create a space suited to his or her needs. Be mindful of litter boxes, too. Cats that enjoy digging and climbing may require wider spaces. On the other hand, kitties that enjoy lounging may appreciate smaller spaces. Remember, however, that a single square foot equals 4 square feet for a larger housecat, but only 1/5th of a square foot per 12 inches for a small breed.