Yes, dogs can get jealous, but dog trainers say gentle training can help you manage the behavior (2024)

A jealous dog wants all of your attention and affection, so they'll intervene when they sense a rival for your love. For example, if you try to pet another dog, your pup may shove their rival out of the way so your hand touches their head instead.

Jealousy is fairly common in dogs, but you can usually train them out of possessive or needy behaviors — and it's always better to nip problem behaviors in the bud before your dog's jealousy turns into anger or resentment.

Here are some tell-tale signs your pup is feeling jealous and how to handle it.


Signs of jealousy

When dogs get jealous, they often communicate their feelings openly — sometimes to the point of being obnoxious.

Your pup may tell you they're jealous by:

  • Barking or whining for your attention
  • Growling or snapping at the interloper
  • Getting between you and other people or pets or pushing them away
  • Pawing at you
  • Climbing into your lap

Your pup's rival doesn't need to be another canine, either. Dogs can also show jealousy toward other animals, humans, and even dog-shaped toys.

One 2021 study found dogs can experience jealousy toward toy rivals they can't directly see. Researchers had dog owners sit with two different objects: a fleece cylinder and a realistic fake dog. They then put up a barrier and the owner pretended to pet and talk to the fleece or the fake dog while their leashed dogs watched.

The dogs pulled much harder toward their owners during the interaction with the fake dog, even though they couldn't actually see the interaction through the barrier.

In short, your dog can work themselves up just by imagining you're bonding with someone — or something — else.


Why do dogs get jealous?

Dog jealousy isn't as complex as human jealousy. For example, your pup won't lie sleepless at night after losing the doggy talent show. They don't understand the deeper meaning of a trophy. All your pup knows is that every competing dog did a trick, and they all got a treat afterwards. That's fair in their book.

But say you give another dog a scratch behind the ears. Your dog may see this as a gross injustice, because the rival dog is getting pets and they aren't. It doesn't matter if you've scratched your dog's ears countless times in the past. At this moment, the rival is usurping your dog's rightful place in the pack and stealing scritches that belong to them and them alone.

This emotion is called primordial jealousy, because it focuses on what your dog is experiencing right now and doesn't require high levels of social awareness.

Human infants also show primordial jealousy toward their caregivers to claim their attention. This basic but powerful emotion pushes dogs and infants to protect their bonds with their caregivers from outside interference. That way, they continue getting your love, food, and protection.


Are some dogs more likely to be jealous than others?

Becky Simmonds, a dog trainer from Breed Advisor, says dogs may be more prone to jealousy depending on a few different factors, including:

  • Breed: After a substantial amount of time working with dogs, she's noticed French bulldogs and Labrador retrievers tend to display high levels of jealousy.
  • Age: Dogs tend to become more anxious and compulsive as they age, driving them to act clingy toward their owner.
  • Environment: Pets in multi-dog households may become territorial over their owner as they compete for attention.


How to handle it

You can't control your dog's feelings. However, you can teach them how to react to said feelings. For example, if your dog tends to jump on you when they want attention, you can train them to perform a sit-and-shake trick to replace the jumping behavior.

Depending on the situation, you may need to try a few different strategies for dealing with your dog's jealousy:


1. Dog and stranger

Say you're having a friend over, or you encounter another dog during your afternoon walk, and your dog starts acting up. Simmonds offers some tips to handle your dog's jealousy in the moment:

  • Preliminary petting: If you know you're about to give the other person or dog a lot of attention, you can pre-empt your dog's jealousy by giving them a little affection first. Once they get their kisses or scritches, they may be willing to watch you spread the love.
  • Ignoring the behavior: If your dog continues to act jealous, avoid the temptation to comfort them or make a fuss. Extra attention will teach your dog that misbehavior gets them what they want.
  • Praising politeness: Don't give your dog attention until they do what you want, whether that's sitting by your side or lying down quietly. If you're still too busy to deal with your dog, a treat could serve as both a distraction and reward.

Keep in mind, too, that dogs often give a warning, like a growl or snarl, before they resort to physical violence, like a nip or bite.

Generally, you shouldn't punish dogs for communicating distress. Instead, quietly remove them from the situation so they can calm down. If you scold your dog for telling strangers they're upset, the next time they may act on their jealousy without warning — which could be dangerous for everyone involved.


2. Dog and puppy

If you're introducing a puppy to the home, your older dog may feel threatened. You'll need to work on addressing jealousy long-term so that your pets get along.

It may help to:

  • Offer each dog one-on-one time: Your first dog may be more independent than the puppy, but they still need attention. Make sure to give them personal playtime or training sessions so they know the puppy hasn't replaced them in your heart.
  • Promote the pack mindset: Try taking both dogs on a walk together or forming a big cuddle pile. Group activities can convince your older dog that the puppy is a new family member, not an intruder.
  • Respect rituals: Dogs often find change stressful, and they may blame the puppy if you switch up their routine too much. For example, if you always greet your older dog when coming home, do that before fussing over the puppy — rather than making your older dog wait.


3. Dog and baby

Dogs may show the same jealous behaviors with infants that they do with puppies. But some behaviors that would be harmless for a puppy, like nudging them out of your lap, could be dangerous for an infant.

That's what makes it especially important to be proactive in handling jealousy toward an infant. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Practice with a doll: You can pretend to feed or rock the doll to get your dog used to seeing you with baby-shaped objects. A doll can also be helpful when teaching your dog manners. For example, if your pup nearly suffocates the doll with kisses, you can train them to lick the doll's feet alone, so when they finally meet the real baby, they'll approach your child gently.
  • Set a new routine early: Anticipate how the baby's needs will affect your dog's daily schedule, such as shifting their walk time from 6 am to 6 pm. Start making those adjustments one or two months before the baby arrives so that your dog doesn't blame the changes on the baby.
  • Make the baby's presence rewarding: Consider feeding your dog at the same time you feed or nurse the baby, for example. Or, try carrying your baby in a sling as you walk your dog around the block. This will help your dog associate the baby with affection and fun.


When to get professional help

It's always a good idea to seek out professional help when your dog's jealousy prompts aggressive behavior, such as:

  • Snapping
  • Snarling (growling and showing teeth)
  • Biting, especially if it draws blood
  • Charging or lunging

An expert can look at your dog's emotional, behavioral, and medical history to find and address the root of their behavior. They can also help you decide whether it's safe for the rest of your family to keep your dog at home.


Is it jealousy or something else?

Aggressive behaviors could be signs of jealousy, or they could be related to resource guarding or predation, says Russell Hartstein, certified pet behaviorist and trainer and founder of Fun Paw Care.


Resource guarding


What is it?

When a dog tries to regain a person's attention or affection from a perceived rival.

When a dog tries to defend their food, toys, or bedding from a "thief."

When a dog attacks small, fast-moving things due to their hunter's instincts.


Your dog may rush to "claim" your lap when your new roommate sits on the couch.

Your dog may snap at a puppy who rudely grabs their favorite squeaky toy.

Your dog tries to bite a toddler they see racing across the yard.

According to Hartstein, behavioral training can do a lot to change jealous behaviors or resource guarding. However, predation may be harder to modify, since it's often rooted in your dog's genetics. In short, it's not necessarily something you can — or should — try to "fix."

You may also find it helpful to take your dog to the vet. Sometimes, extreme jealousy and aggression can stem from medical issues, including malfunctioning adrenal glands. Treating the underlying health condition may reduce your dog's problematic behaviors.


Insider's takeaway

Many dogs show jealousy on occasion. They might whine when you greet another dog or physically insert themselves between you and someone you're trying to hug. Your dog isn't trying to be obnoxious with these behaviors — they're just worried about losing you to someone else.

You can help your pup feel less insecure by spending lots of one-on-one time with them and praising them when they "share" you with another dog or person. With patience and understanding, you can show your dog that you have more than enough love to go around.

Emily Swaim

Emily Swaim is a freelance health writer and editor who specializes in psychology. She has a BA in English from Kenyon College and an MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts. In 2021, she received her Board of Editors in Life Sciences (BELS) certification. You can find her work on GoodTherapy, Verywell, Investopedia, Vox, and Insider, and find Emily on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Yes, dogs can get jealous, but dog trainers say gentle training can help you manage the behavior (2024)


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