The Green-Eyed Monster - Jealousy Between Pets
One day you bring home another furry bundle of joy. The problem is, the dog currently in residence - the one you adore, who always came to you for pats and snuggles - suddenly decides he wants nothing to do with either you or the new family member. Jealousy between pets often occurs because they fear that a valued resource -- you, and attention from you -- is being taken away from them.
I remember when we brought home our first dog. He was a great puppy and we bonded well and did everything together. Thinking he would like a playmate, we then brought home a second dog. That's when everything changed. Suddenly, dog #1, our best buddy, decided that he wouldn't listen to us... and when we tried to pet him, he'd slink underneath our hands and avoid us. I was traumatized! Fortunately, it only lasted a couple of (interminably long) weeks.
What is Jealousy?
Dogs often guard the stuff that's important to them. One example is a food bowl; many dogs will resource guard their bowl from other pets. Another example of important 'stuff' is you!
Jealousy in pets can look like anything they do to take your attention away from the other pet and back to himself. Maybe it's something that feels benign, like worming their way into your lap or underneath your arm. Jealousy can also take a more aggressive tone; for example, one dog could make ugly-faces at the other, or even snap at them.
It might be tempting to let the behavior go if it looks 'cute' or funny, but it's best to address jealousy quickly. Pets don't have to be best friends but they do need to be able to live together peacefully and without hurting one another. Jealousy can be stressful to both humans and the pets.
Transitioning a New Pet Into the Household
Here are a few ways to make the introduction of a new pet easier:
- Keep your old pet's routine the same. Make sure he gets fed, walked, and played with at the same time he always does.
- Continue to lavish attention on your old pet. It's so easy to get caught up with the newcomer ... but your other pet may be feeling a bit put out, even depressed. Spend plenty of one-on-one time with him or her, reassuring him that he's still special to you.
- Take things slowly; don't force your pets together. Introduce them in controlled situations, and give them time to adjust at their own pace. Allow them to gain confidence and decide when they'd like to face their new housemates.
- Feed them away from each other. Use separate food and water bowls, and keep them physically separated when eating.
- Reward positive interactions generously. Any time the two dogs interact in a positive way -- even if it's tiny baby steps, like ignoring the other dog instead of making an ugly-face at him -- reward. Rewards can be in any form that the dogs enjoy, whether it's extra playtime, cuddles, walks, or treats.
- Don't tolerate aggressive behavior. Step in and put a stop to any sort of aggression before it escalates (but do not resort to aggression yourself! Dr. Sophia Yin's website has some great information on dealing with aggression) Remember to reward all positive behavior!
- Always supervise your pets until you are sure they get along. When you need to go out, you can put the dogs in separate rooms or leave one or both of them kenneled for their own safety. Some pets will adjust quickly; others may take weeks or even months before they're fully adjusted.
Jealousy between pets isn't uncommon. Address and manage it consistently so that your pets can live together in harmony. With time, they may even become buddies!
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