I started noticing some interesting behavior from Molly when she was about a year old. Especially at times where I would hug or cuddle up with my kids on the couch. She always seemed to appear – even if we hadn’t seen her for awhile! It didn’t stop there, though. I noticed she would begin to try to insert herself into whatever it was we were doing. I asked my wife if she noticed this behavior before and she hadn’t. Suddenly, we noticed it was happening EVERY TIME. I started researching and found that this was not uncommon, and many characterized it as “jealousy.”
Jealousy? Do Labradors get jealous?
Yes, Labradors (and more importantly dogs in general) do in fact get jealous and exhibit jealous behavior at times. This was proven in a study conducted by University of California San Diego professors Christine Harris and Caroline Provoust in 2014.
Now, the study is a formal academic study and is not the easiest to understand. I spent quite a bit of time researching other sites and watching educational videos to learn what I could. I have listed out some of the questions that I had and what I discovered, below. You’ll also find some great suggestions on how to help your dog overcome these behaviors!
What are signs of a jealous dog?
Honestly, if you’ve ever been in a relationship with someone who has issues with jealousy you could probably guess the signs! I mentioned earlier one of the best tell-tale signs, but there are quite a few more. Here’s what I found:
This was what I experienced with Molly. Any time my wife or I would get close to one of our kids she would come and force her way in. If we were cuddling on the couch, she would try to jump up in between us. If we were standing up and hugging, she would jump up on my side and begin to shove her nose between us.
For us, this happened more when we were interacting with strangers than when it was within our own family. If we spent more than just about 30 seconds to one minute having a conversation with someone, she would begin whining and circling us. I believe she was too timid to try and come between us, so this was her alternative.
I personally never experienced this, but from what I found during my research this seems to be a popular one. It appeared to be more associated with reactions to other animals being given attention.
If your dog remains close and begins to growl lightly, this may be them exhibiting some jealousy over the shared attention. It was never suggested that the growling was aggressive, but more passive in nature.
This sounds to me as being more of a “warning shot” to remind everyone of their place.
Pushing or nudging
So this one I did see demonstrated quite often. It is very similar to the forced inclusion, except that it doesn’t involve another human or animal. This is more prevalent when the owner is distracted with a task or activity.
Most of the time, I saw this when we were eating dinner. Every time, we thought it had something to do with being hungry or needing to go outside.
It never did.
Eventually we realized that it was just a matter of our attention not being focused on her.
Performing tricks for no reason
Here’s another one that I found during my research, but never had to deal with myself. I also had friends confirm that their dogs (non-Labs) would do this. I actually find this one to be quite humorous!
Types of Labrador jealousy
There does seem to be two main types of jealousy exhibited by Labs (or any dog for that matter.)
Jealousy of another animal/object – This occurs when your Lab sees you giving another animal, or possibly an object in the home, attention.
For animals it could be another pet, or if you frequent a dog park you may see this behavior should you make any conversation with another dog there.
For objects, this can be things like the television, gaming systems, etc.
Jealousy of a human – This occurs when your Lab sees you interacting with someone else in your home.
It can come in the form of show affection to a family member, or when a guest arrives at your home and you are greeting them.
Why is my dog jealous?
It was totally puzzling to me why we were dealing with jealousy issues with Molly. When we got her, she was the only animal in the house, and immediately became the center of attention.
There was no logical reason that she should have been jealous.
Yet, here we were!
I ended up finding that there are a number of reasons why your dog may be experiencing jealousy. Some of the more popular ones were as follows:
- Change in environment – If there has been a significant change in the dog’s environment this can be the cause. Dog’s like routines and are very sensitive to change. Whether it be a change in physical location or a change in you or your family’s schedule, this can contribute to a feeling of uncertainty and a need for assurance.
- Too much attention! – I think it’s fair to say that this is where we were guilty! This is likely to be more common in situations where your dog is the only dog and you have small children. Your dog begins it’s time with you by being the center of attention, non-stop, across multiple humans! The moment they sense the attention shift they MUST regain it!
- Territorial reaction – This one is very closely related to the change in the environment. The main difference is it has more to do with the introduction of someone or something new into their existing space. If physical location and daily routine remain, but a new animal or human (baby, caregiver, dog walker) shows up, all bets are off!
Can jealousy lead to aggression in dogs?
There are a lot of mixed opinions on this. For some, there are no concerns at all that the jealous behavior will transition to aggression. However, others express great concern as they see the behavior becoming more frequent and forceful.
The biggest concern with any unwanted behavior is allowing it to go unaddressed. Owners who find the behavior to be amusing or “cute” are actually doing a disservice to themselves and the dog!
The best course of action is to begin correcting the behavior immediately before it has the chance to become a problem.
How do I get my dog to stop being jealous?
This will require making it a point to observe the behavior while performing intentional acts that you know to be provoking of the jealous behavior.
For situations that involve other animals, you will need the ability to have another animal in the house for a day of training.
Refusing to give your Lab attention when the unwanted behavior begins, but rewarding when she doesn’t react poorly will be the best method.
Dealing with the jealousy of other humans should be easier to address. Typically this behavior is in response to certain acts occurring between two people.
Things like hugging, sitting together, etc. Because of this, you’ll have the ability to perform them repeatedly within a short period of time.
Again, be sure to reward the positive responses.
I have found that with training, in general, positive reinforcement leads to the best results. It is critical to not punish the unwanted behavior.
One method is to completely leave the training area when the unwanted behavior occurs, leaving the dog behind. After doing this many times, many dogs will learn to not react the same way, and this provides the opportunity for the positive reinforcement.
Lastly, for situations that seem to be limited to a single individual, animal, or object – include them more in your day to day.
The more you can expose your dog to the catalyst and perform positive reinforcements, the better.
Labs are no different than any other dog. They desperately want to be the center of our attention. Like children, if we allow unwanted habits and behaviors to go on when they are young they will become the norm. The best way to curb this is to train through positive reinforcement. Doing so will make everyone’s life a whole lot easier!