Jealousy. We’ve all experienced it. The “green-eyed monster” is petty, unpleasant, and something that most of us would prefer to avoid. But what about when the ones feeling jealous are our dogs? Some scientists still believe that dogs don’t experience emotions such as jealousy, but any dog owner could tell you different. When we first brought Bodhi home from the shelter, there were most definitely jealousy issues between he and Sierra over our affections. When Sierra was on her back having her tummy rubbed, Bodhi would clumsily stomp over and actually walk on the poor girl, trying to get in on the action. As you might imagine, this did not go over well. I had to come up with a solution.
I came up with different solutions to the jealousy issue depending on the situation. I’ll share the one that allows Sierra to have her tummy rubbed and Bodhi to jump on the affection train without derailing it. I’ve described it in my new book Keeping the Peace: A Guide to Solving Dog-Dog Aggression in the Home. Here’s an excerpt:
My solution was to train Bodhi to perform an alternate behavior. I taught him that if I was petting Sierra and he wanted affection too, his job was to approach and, instead of steamrolling over her, to lie down on the other side of me and wait. This effectively positioned me between the dogs and kept them from interacting with each other. It allowed Sierra to feel assured that Bodhi would not be stepping on her, and that she would not lose my attention. Nowadays, whenever I’m giving Sierra a tummy rub and Bodhi wants in on the action, he comes running over and immediately lies down next to me. He has, on his own, added the follow-up of rolling over on his back to make getting to his tummy that much easier. (He’s such a thoughtful boy.) I can then give both dogs affection at the same time or, if I choose, I can finish rubbing Sierra’s tummy and then turn my attention to Bodhi. And if Bodhi forgets his manners every now and then and Sierra snarks at him, I let her. There is nothing wrong with allowing her to remind Bodhi that pushiness is impolite.
Of course, I realize that sounds simpler on paper than it might be in practice. Assuming your dog understands the cues to lie down and to stay, it’s pretty simple to teach. The reward, by the way, is not a treat, but affection. In case you might find it helpful, here’s another excerpt that describes how to teach it:
Now, maybe this technique sounds promising but you can’t imagine your dogs having the self-discipline to carry it out. Perhaps one of your dogs is even more Bodhi-like in his pushiness, or the situation is more intense in your home. In that case, begin by tethering the pushy dog to a furniture leg or other sturdy object. Have treats on hand. Ask the non-tethered dog to lie down nearby. Then ask the pushy dog to lie down. Pet the non-tethered dog. As you are petting, periodically toss treats to the pushy dog so long as he remains in a lying position. You are accomplishing two things at once: teaching the pushy dog that lying down nearby while you pet the other dog is not only okay but results in being rewarded, and showing the dog who is being petted that it is okay for the other dog to be nearby. Over time, as your pushy dog learns to lie calmly as you pet the other dog, switch the reward from treats to petting. When you feel that it is safe, do the exercise without the tether.
So, there you have it. This particular technique is easy, and just takes a bit of time and practice until the behavior becomes habitual. Try it and let me know how it goes in your home!
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