Whole Dog Journal's Blog January 30, 2012

What Do You Do With Jealous Pets?

Posted at 12:32PM - Comments: (12)

A year ago, the only pets in my house were Otto and my ancient cat, Shadow; she passed away last summer, in the middle of an invasion of new pets. A niece’s dog, a Chihuahua we call Tito has come to live with us indefinitely, and we kept the last two kittens of a litter we rescued from abandonment by a former neighbor. So, now there are two adolescent cats and two dogs fighting for petting and lap time.

It started out slowly. It used to be that Otto was the only one who wanted much physical affection. Shadow never liked being picked up, and was one of those cats who liked being near people more than being touched by them. Tito was very withdrawn and handshy when he first came here; he was uncomfortable being picked up and ducked away from petting – but now he craves petting and likes curling up in my lap as I watch TV or read. The kittens used to be more interested in playing than being petted. But as they’ve matured, they now demand face rubs and time in my lap, too.

The effect all of this competition for my affection on Otto? He now responds avidly to my calls to ANY animal in the house, or even just the tone of voice I might be using to address an animal. If I say, “Tito, sit!” -- Otto comes running and plants himself between Tito and me, as if to say, “I know how to sit on cue!”  If I call “Kittens!” -- Otto comes running. And because he’s much bigger than the rest (who are all about 10 pounds) he stomps right up and puts his big head in my lap, wagging his tail in everyone else’s faces. It’s gotten extremely difficult to spend even a moment of time snuggling with any other animal without Otto asking for his share of attention and affection right then.

I try to give him plenty of “just us” time – and strive to frequently call his name and reinforce his quick response with lots of attention. I also try to spend some of my time petting the cats when they are inside and Otto is outside, or vice versa. And I try to not reinforce him with attention when he pushes in for attention that I’m trying to give another pet; I try to just ignore him at that moment, and later, give him individual attention. But frankly, I also find myself saying, “Otto, get back! Otto, off!” more than I should – like when I’m just trying to bend down to pick up a cat or snap the leash onto Tito’s collar.

I’m pretty sure it’s just a phase, and it will pass. But I’m curious: What do you do with a jealous pet?

Comments (12)

I have been thinking about this ever since I read it more than a week ago. I don't have jealousy problems, but I do have an attention seeking problem.

In a nut shell; how could you get a dog to NEVER and I do mean NEVER EVER go up to a person and ask for attention? I have 3 dogs and one husband. If I could somehow get the dogs to just ignore him, stay away from him; it would be wonderful. He is willing to give each dog a pat on the head when he comes home and that is it. He would like them to NEVER follow, lick, sniff or touch him in any way. And frankly so would I at this point. Its like have children in the back of a car on a VERY LONG trip.... "Rose is touching me!! Make her stop!"

Any suggestions (other than finding a replacement man or moving out) would be welcome. kate underscore sexton at yahoo dot come

Posted by: Kate S | February 11, 2012 8:31 PM    Report this comment

well i need some advice I have 4 dogs i have 3 chi's and they get along great. then i rescued a boston/min pin x she is 20lbs and has realized that she can bully. I have tried everything I even got her a thunder shirt and that has helped, but she cannot stay in that all the time. my one chi is so fearful that she eats so fast fast and jumps around like star is going to eat her food. So i stand between them so star cannot get to her the other 2 dogs are fine. but when daddy comes home jeffey and sadie get in his lap and knowone can come around.Jeffery starts to growl and sadie starts to bite star. I love star but. I feel the only option is to give her up to get some peace. Star the boston wants attention 24-7 and i cannot spend any time with my chi's. I go to my room with star and give the chi's a break. i am so upset i just do not know what to do. can you help me please I cannot give her up. Sincerly Judy

Posted by: B J R | February 2, 2012 4:37 PM    Report this comment

I have two dogs and also am a dog trainer and boarder so my dogs have to learn to "share". My first dog used to bark or try to get treats as I would be giving attention to or training other dogs. She now knows the command "back up" and also knows her name so that I can communicate which dog is getting the training or attention. This has helped a lot. She also can catch treats so I can reward her without her being right up next to me. I have used this extensively, first with her behind a gate and now without any restraint.

Posted by: Tracy | February 1, 2012 11:43 PM    Report this comment

I have taught our dogs "next" and "not your turn". When it is time to pet or play or get attention, they have learned that "not your turn" means they need to wait until they hear "next". If one of them does not honor "not your turn" I just ignore them or turn myself and whoever's turn it is so that our back is to the out of turn dog. They have learned to wait patiently in line until they hear "next".


Posted by: Furrykids | January 31, 2012 4:42 PM    Report this comment

Two dogs, two people. If both dogs are with me, one is told "go see Dad". Then one of the people says "switch" and turns it into a game.

Posted by: hil p | January 31, 2012 12:50 PM    Report this comment

I am a trainer with two dogs, a 6 year old lab and a 7 year old border collie. The lab is the problem as she knows that she can push the border collie out of the way (and away from me) without being challenged by the border collie. I have dealt with it by making sure the lab gets plenty of attention on her own and then moving my body to block her's if I am giving attention to my border collie. In the beginning I would sometimes have to remove the lab from the room when her demand for attention did not abate. Over time my lab has learned that butting in does not work and she now patiently waits her turn. The quiet waiting is the only way she gets special time with me. This has worked very well.
Susan Dalton

Posted by: Susan D | January 31, 2012 12:41 PM    Report this comment

My 2yr husky literally butts in whenever I am petting my 6yr lab. We have yet to train her out of it no matter how many times we ask her to wait her turn. Both dogs get plenty of one on one time as well. It is a tough one to deal with, at least neither of them reacts aggressively.

Posted by: mweidman | January 31, 2012 11:38 AM    Report this comment

In a multi-dog household, it is important to control access to all resources, and our attention is arguably the most valuable resource there is for most dogs. My dogs learn the cue "Go on" which means "Move away from me." The cue isn't said in an angry tone of voice- it is as neutral as "Sit." In this way I can control which dog I interact with when.

Posted by: Pat Engel, CPDT-KA | January 31, 2012 10:56 AM    Report this comment

Jealousy is real and also a sign of an unstable or insecure dog. I am a trainer with 2 dogs of my own and I bring in one dog in for training companion and service dogs. We are all one big pack with me as the leader and Rascal my adult 9 yr old Border Collie/Aussie cross. He is the leader of the dog pack and the best teacher. He loves his job helping me train the other dogs. He is a very secure and well balanced dog. Oscar, my 10 month old Labradoodle who I've had only 5 mos got jealous at first showing me by doing all the commands right away when i was working w/ the new puppy. I use that energy of willingness to show they know their stuff to help me teach the other dogs in training be it in my home or on a private training call. They can't wait to show their stuff. When we are not working/training they are all happy campers in play inside and out. When I call one for attention sure they all look or come over but they are not insecure and knwo their place in our pack so no one needs to be pushy for affection. A well trained dog who has a job and gets plenty of exercise is happy and well balanced so jealousy isn't part of the equation.

Posted by: Jill B | January 31, 2012 10:21 AM    Report this comment

I'd like to hear what others do too! My 6 yr old rescue cattle dog owns me and "guards" me from my other two dogs by pushing in-between or barking furiously when they want attention. My Golden Retriever tolerates him but my 16 yr old Border Collie/Lab shies away from him and lives in fear of him so it's almost impossible to give her attention. She has learned to go outside when he's inside and to stay in another room when inside. Is the possessiveness of the cattle dog inherent or is it possible to alter his behavior?

Posted by: Rusata | January 31, 2012 9:54 AM    Report this comment

Otto's demand for attention when you are attempting to give to others is a sign of insecurity. There are several things you can do. I use a layered approach: Animal Communication to hear from him how he feels about the situation.

The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) where you act as a surrogate and tap on his fear (his insecurity is a form of fear) of feeling replaced in your affections. This technique is wonderful in helping animals to release their fears, phobias, even helps with pain management.

I also make up a flower essence blend, for Otto you could use essences to address his insecurities of newcomers, his jealousy, and new situations.

And offer him Reiki, or massage therapy to help relax him and keep his chakras in alignment.

Once you can get him to realize he is not being replaced, that these newcomers can be a source of companionship and friendship for him and that he has nothing to fear, usually you will have a more peaceful household. It is also important to address behaviors of the other animals if they are not showing respect to Otto, or behaving in a manner that is irritating him. EFT can also assist with the dynamics of a multiple animal house.

There is a caveat, animals like humans have likes and dislikes and if they do not resonate with each other, you cannot force them to like each other, so you may get them to a place of tolerance and grudging respect.

Good luck ;>)
linda epstein

Posted by: linda e | January 31, 2012 9:49 AM    Report this comment

Well, I only have two dogs (and also, two hands). They each want attention and they get it until I have to say "oops" and cross my hands over my chest. They know that the petting is over for the time being and I can get back to what I was doing. My friends say I spoil my dogs, but what the heck, they also spoil me with their attention. If I'm reading, one dog will be on the love seat, next to me and I can pet her with my elbow, while holding my Nook, and petting the other one who is sitting on the floor, next to me. It is a riot!

Posted by: Rochelle | January 31, 2012 9:46 AM    Report this comment

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