What do you do if one of your dogs growls at the others out of what appears to be jealousy?
I actually get this question about once a week. I’m writing this post so I have an article to share.
I’d also like this to be a place where people can ask questions or give advice.
The scenario is often like this:
You try to give affection to your small dog. She jumps onto your lap and you pet her. Then your big dog approaches and sticks her head on your lap for some attention too. This is when the small dog proceeds to bark and growl at the big dog.
It wouldn’t have to be small dog vs. big dog, but let’s face it – it often is! But it could also be two big dogs or two small dogs.
Maybe one dog tends to lie at the owner’s feet growling as the other dog approaches. Or maybe one is on the couch and growls as the other comes near.
See my post: How to stop a small dog from guarding me.
So what’s happening here?
Well, it’s always good to consult with a professional trainer if your’e worried about aggression. Every situation is different, and it’s impossible to give advice on a specific dog’s behavior over email or in a general blog post.
But here’s my GENERAL feedback:
This type of growling or “guarding” makes sense. The dog is resource guarding and YOU are the resource.
If the dog doing the growling is generally the “weaker” of the two dogs, this may be the only time you ever see her growling or standing up for herself because she’s protecting her power source (YOU). You make her feel more powerful and she may even feel like you’re backing her up or protecting her.
And sadly, if one dog is very pushy or bossy, the only time your more sensitive or “weaker” dog might get attention at all is when she sits on your lap or on the couch next to you. So you bet she’s going to guard you in those situations, it’s the only real affection she gets!
People might describe this as “jealousy” but it’s generally resource guarding, which is normal dog behavior but something we generally don’t want to encourage. See: How to break a dog’s possessiveness.
So here’s what to do:
How to stop my dog from getting jealous and growing at my other dog
1. Remember, you get to decide who approaches you.
You are the person in charge, right? So, YOU decide which dog sits with you and you decide which dog gets your attention and when. Your dogs don’t get to decide, not when it’s resulting in aggression or guarding. So that’s my first tip. Be AWARE of who you’re giving attention to and make sure you really are the one making that decision!
2. Enforce a no dogs on the furniture rule for now.
Do this especially if being on the furniture is part of what’s triggering the guarding/jealousy. I have a cat (Beamer!) who likes to sit on my bed. When my dog so much as walks by the bed, Beamer swipes and hisses at the dog. He’s being a bully and possessive of the bed!
So what do I do?
I promptly remove the cat from the bed and put him on the floor. It changes his state of mind and energy instantly.
See my post: How to stop my dog from growling on the bed.
3. Don’t allow the dog to sit at your feet guarding you.
Once you actually think about this you might realize, wow, my dog really does sit and guard me at my feet! If you catch either dog doing this, shoo her away, tether her across the room or put her in a down/stay on her dog bed. Or, simply get up and move somewhere else so she can’t guard you.
I run into this problem with my foster dogs quite often. The foster dog will lie at my feet guarding me from my dog Ace and I don’t even realize it because Ace doesn’t protest. The poor guy just goes and lies down across the room! So be aware is all I’m saying. (2019 update: Ace has passed away.)
4. Don’t allow your other dog to barge up and hog your attention.
Likewise, you shouldn’t allow your other dog to barge up and steal your attention away when you’re choosing to give affection to the first dog. Does that make sense? Don’t allow either dog to sit and guard you and don’t allow either dog to barge up when you choose to give affection to one or the other.
When a dog tries to barge in and hog the attention, block him with your body, tell him “no” or put him in a down/stay across the room.
5. Work on general obedience with both dogs.
Obviously, you want to work on general training with both your dogs. Every dog should learn to lie down and stay on command for up to 20 minutes or more with no distractions. If your dogs can’t do that, then start with 15 seconds.
All dogs should learn to obey “sit” and “come” and to wait patiently before eating or walking through doors. I have all sorts of posts about how to train these behaviors. Just choose one or two goals to start with but do train your dogs. Well-trained dogs are more respectful of their owners and they have a higher level of self-control.
Need help with a specific training issue? Email me – [email protected].
6. Reward calm behavior from both dogs.
Try to remember to reward/praise calm behavior from both dogs. When you’re handing out treats, reward calm behavior not frantic behavior. When you’re greeting your dogs after work, give affection to the dog who’s not jumping. If you see one of your dogs lying quietly on her dog bed, go over and praise her.
And it goes without saying, but also make sure both dogs are getting plenty of exercise! In general, dogs in the U.S. do not get nearly enough exercise.
See my post: Tips for exercising a dog indoors.
So those are my general tips!
Let me know your own experiences or suggestions in the comments!