How To Stop Dog Jealousy Aggression: Is your dog jealous? How To Stop Dog Aggression And Jealousy In Dogs
Recently, we received a reader’s question about a dog’s jealousy. This raises questions such as, “Why is my dog suddenly aggressive towards me but not towards my husband?” Another says, “How do you deal with a jealous dog?”
I believe many dog owners can relate, so I’m posting the original question and my response here to stop you from preventing aggressive dog behaviors and jealousy issues before they become out of control!
Along with our 8-year-old Jack Russell x Kelpie, we recently welcomed a 7-year-old Cavoodle (Peppa) into our home (Jacob). We had not anticipated how difficult this procedure would be. Your website is an extremely useful tool.
Peppa is adjusting to her new home after spending time in a shelter (from which I have no home). I’m not sure if it’s adjustment/decompression or if this is a permanent thing, but she has separation anxiety, which we’re working on.
Possessiveness is the other behavior. of me. When I go to pat Jacob, she licks her lips, shuffles, barks occasionally, or gets in the way.
She recently attacked Jacob as a result of an incident (my fault – it involved a food-related toy). This is something I never want to happen again, and it has shattered my confidence. I don’t want to reinforce her behavior; instead, I want to make sure that we (my partner and I) are the “pack leader,” but I also want her to feel at ease.
Do you have any suggestions for how I can a) recognize her triggers and b) respond to them so that I can give both dogs my full attention? I appreciate your time and gratitude in advance.
Here’s my response to Lisa and others in similar circumstances:
Lisa may have asked her question after reading the tips for aggressive dogs I shared in this article from 2007.
What Should You Do If One Dog Attacks Another?
I understand how difficult it is to raise two dogs together, especially when one is jealous and/or aggressive. It can be quite frightening at times!
To be honest, I wish we had hired a dog trainer to help us through the process of raising those two dogs. As I wrote in my previous article, things got so bad that we were on pins and needles for months (any time they were in the same room together).
A professional dog trainer would have relieved our anxiety, calmed our minds, and solved the problem much faster than we could have done it ourselves. It seemed to take an eternity to get to the point where the older dog could tolerate the younger dog. There was a lot of trial and error involved.
They got along fine most of the time. Our older dog would then snap when you least expected it.
I am certain that one thing we did incorrectly was the manner in which we introduced the two dogs.
We decided to bring the new puppy into our house and let them get to know each other on our living room floor because the older dog was always so loving and playful with us and other dogs. WRONG! This should not be done.
New dogs should always be introduced to each other on neutral ground, preferably outside. Instead, we “forced” our older dog to meet the new puppy on his own turf (at home), where he had no say and didn’t want anyone invading his space.
We took the dogs outside to the backyard when things weren’t going well on our living room floor. That helped a little, but the older dog’s dominance traits were already in place. This change to “his world” did not sit well with him.
And thus began months of vehement sibling rivalry.
How Do Dogs Express Jealousy and Aggression?
Both of the dogs I mentioned in that article have since passed away. When we got the 8-week-old puppy, our jealous/aggressive dog was 5 years old, and both were Lab mixes.
The older dog’s backstory is that we found him as a tiny puppy under a dumpster, nursed him back to health, and he spent his first five years in our home with no issues. In fact, when we first adopted him, he got along swimmingly with our then-11-year-old American Eskimo, and they never had any issues.
Around the new puppy, I never quite figured out the dominant dog’s triggers. But it seemed like he snapped whenever the younger dog did something “weak” or disrespected the older dog’s pack status.
Because it happened so quickly, these were extremely difficult to snap in the milliseconds before the older dog snapped!
Before the older dog snapped at the younger ones, I noticed that he would:
- “Are you sure you want to do that?” he asks the younger dog, cocking his head sideways.
- Raise his tail to the sky and remain motionless, as if to get the younger dog to “check-up” and submit to his dominance.
Fortunately, that 13-year-old experience taught me a lot. And with my other dogs, I’ve learned a lot since then.
We now have two sibling puppies (from the same litter), and they, too, have had to deal with jealousy issues. But it was nothing compared to the sibling rivalry we had with the first two. We got them when they were 8 weeks old. They are now 2-and-a-half years old:
One has always had a dominant advantage over the other. No, we’re not talking about “rough play” between two dogs, which is perfectly normal and expected. If the two dogs remain together and interact, then rough play is consensual.
This video shows our two puppies roughhousing:
Yes, I was initially concerned about their rough play. However, after speaking with a few veterinarians, I was assured that rough play is not aggressive or cause for concern. Looking back two and a half years, I can laugh at myself for thinking it was aggressive dog behavior.
However, living with these two envious dogs has taught me even more valuable lessons about “pack behavior.”
For example, it is clear that the female dog is more dominant than the male dog because:
- Her nipping at his back legs on a regular basis
- The mounting behavior of the female dog
- Her bossy barking at him on a regular basis
- The female dog who is constantly “pushing” between him and me or between him and other dogs
At times, the submissive male dog displays jealousy. When he wants the female dog to do something, his most common sign is aggressive mounting.
- Pause playing with a specific toy
- I’m not going to give you any hugs or attention.
- Stop sleeping in the best bed in the house.
The following two photos depict what it was like for me to train my dogs to “get on the box” in order to receive a treat.
When someone knocked on the door or the doorbell rang, the goal was to send them “to the box” to keep them calm and from running out the door.
They soon wanted to be in the box because it came with a treat.
Each dog is taught the commands “wait,” “first,” and “share” to teach them patience:
(Please ignore the laundry piles on the floor; I was in between loads!)
How to Make Your Dog Respect and Listen to You.
NOTE: Alpha dog training methods are not my favorites. My dog training methods are primarily based on positive reinforcement. However, I believe in natural dog behavior. And it’s obvious: when my dogs recognize me as their “boss,” they respect and obey me more (because I’m the one who provides the treats during our positive reinforcement training sessions). So that’s what I’m talking about when I say “pack” behavior and “alpha dog” training in my own home.
My first piece of advice is to trust your dog when it comes to dog training. Be firm and consistent in your interactions with your dogs, both individually and together.
Fear and stress can be detected by dogs. Trust me! They’ll test you, especially if you have a dominant dog who has previously shown a tendency to snap at another dog (or at you).
Fear is not displayed by a pack leader (you, at home with your dogs). They are calm and collected. As a result, the pack leader will gain the respect of the other dogs in the pack over time. And eventually, you’ll have well-behaved dogs.
These perplexing dog behaviors (also known as “pack behaviors”) that result in aggression are frequently due to the dominant dog’s being jealous of the other dog. Isn’t that correct?
This advice was also extremely helpful to me:
Cutting out rewards for behaviors you don’t like in your puppy and making sure you reward the behaviors you want to see more of is the key to stopping bad behavior, not “asserting dominance.” Punishment, whether verbal or physical, will only teach your puppy that they should be afraid of people, making them much more aggressive as they grow older. So, when training your puppy, make sure to reward positive behavior and ignore negative behavior. Keep in mind that any kind of attention is a reward! even decline.
—Dog Trainer, Victoria Stilwell
So, what are your options?
These are the most effective methods I’ve discovered for reducing jealousy between two dogs:
- Congratulate both dogs whenever they play well together.
- Use “happy talk” to show that you play it when they get along.
- Occasionally reward both dogs with treats for their good play behavior.
- Reward the dominant dog whenever the submissive dog requests that they back off.
- Never compete with the dogs for your attention. If you’re petting one and the other jumps in, don’t pet them again. Ask them to sit and wait for their turn instead.
When your dogs see that nice playtime with you is rewarded, they will do it more often.
How To Stop Dog Aggression And Jealousy, Step By Step
When it comes to things they want, like hugs, going outside, getting to play with a toy, getting a treat first, etc., I’ve successfully taught my 2-1/2-year-old sibling pups to “wait their turn.”
It didn’t happen overnight, but I believe it has made a significant difference in their ongoing jealousy issues. (I wish I had done a better job with our previous dogs, but things with those two got out of control so quickly.)
How did I pull it off? Not by controlling them or scaring them or making them afraid of me, but by using three simple phrases with them over and over again.
I always use these three phrases with my dogs to make sure I’m in charge of the situation and not them:
- “Share” – which simply means that Dog A must take a step back and not receive whatever it is that Dog B is receiving at the moment.
- “First” – this indicates that I’m deliberately “favoring” one dog over the other by allowing Dog A to get something or do something before Dog B.
- “Wait” — which means take a seat and wait for me to signal that you can go get something fun or do something fun — I’m the one in charge here, not you.
Examples: Advice For Dealing With A Jealous Dog
#1 – “You share the ___, Dog A.”
TIP: Make it clear that you are physically giving Dog B the toy/hug/petting/food/treat and that you are only physically interacting with Dog B at this moment. (All the while, praise Dog A for his patience throughout the process.)
“No, Dog A… Dog B first,” says #2.
TIP: Have Dog A sit and patiently wait for their turn. (I was so consistent with this one that my dogs now sit and wait to see who gets to go outside first every time I change it up.)
#3 – “Dog A… hold on.”
TIP: Make it clear that Dog A is expected to put down their excitement about whatever it is they want right now and sit still cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval cheval (Dog A can only fully interact with you and/or Dog B after you say “ok.”
That’s how I’ve always used those three phrases with my puppy siblings. They also work!
Now all I have to do is look sternly at the dog who is acting aggressively, and they will usually stop what they’re doing immediately.
I still reward good dog behavior with treats on occasion (like when they stop doing a behavior when I look at them sternly). My belief is that this is part of the magic, because my dogs never know when they’ll get a “reward.” And they’ll go to great lengths for a treat… no matter how insignificant.
Do dogs experience jealousy? Yes.
Your dog may become jealous of another dog… or of your attention.
So, if you’re wondering, “Why is my dog suddenly being so aggressive?”, the tips above should help.
When a dog becomes increasingly jealous (and aggressive), it’s a sign that they’re unsure who is the “boss” — and when no other boss is present, a dominant dog will naturally step in to take over.
Don’t be too quick to give up. It takes a lot of time and patience, but two dogs can learn to get along!
If your dog is aggressive toward other dogs (or anyone or anything that gets in the way of you and that dog), encourage the following:
- Take control. At all times, try not to let either of your dogs sense your stress or overwhelm you.
- Spend separate time with each dog. Do this in front of each other (like behind a baby gate) and out of sight of each other at different times (behind a closed door).
- Do not allow one dog to push between you and another dog, or between you and another person. You, not they, are the ones who call the shots in your home (using one of the 3 phrases above).
Pushing the dominant dog away will only enrage them and cause them to become more excited or jealous. Instead, turn your back on that dog and completely ignore its behavior at that moment. When they’re being dominant, you shouldn’t give them any attention because they’re trying to get you to “cave”—to give in to their desire for attention. (It doesn’t matter if you have good or bad attention.) They simply want your attention.) And… if it works for them and draws your attention, they’ll keep doing it. On the other hand, the more times than same jealous or aggressive behavior fails to work for them, the less likely they are to repeat it.
Finally, everything happens in small steps.
For example, only make a dog “wait” for 5 seconds or something really short, then lavish praise on him for his patience. You can’t expect them to do anything for very long until they understand what a command like “wait” really means.