My dog Lily is generally pretty social, but acted slightly jealous while I was babysitting my friend’s dog for the weekend. She never got aggressive, but she began to snarl and curl her lips when my friend’s dog tried to get on my bed with us. A few minutes later, they would run around and play without any issues. I want Lily to continue being social. Any ideas on how I can correct her “jealousy?”
I’m glad you recognize this as an issue that needs to be worked on. We all become jealous in certain situations, our dogs included. And while this “territorial” behavior is understandable, it’s certainly not acceptable. Jealousy can lead to more severe behavior issues like aggression, and is an issue that should be taken very seriously.
First things first. If Lily is on your bed and becomes territorial, make her get off of the bed. She needs to understand that her behavior is unacceptable, and comes with the ultimate consequence—no bed time. Every time she attempts to jump up, make her get off.
Once she is no longer trying to jump up, invite the other dog onto your bed. Again, if Lily tries to come up, keep her off. It will be good for her to watch the other dog spend time with you. If she growls or acts territorial, correct her. I like using a shakey can for a correction. A shakey can is just an empty soda can with 13 pennies in it. When Lily misbehaves, give her a command like “that’s enough,” and give the can one, hard shake. The pennies make a shrill sound that will startle her out of her behavior, and she will learn “that’s enough” means to stop.
The moment she stops her unwanted behavior, praise her.
When Lily has finally stopped her jealous behavior, remove yourself from the bed, and invite her back up with the other dog. Have your shakey can ready, and be prepared to make her get off if the jealousy starts up again. Every moment she tolerates the other dog, really praise her. If Lily keeps up the good behavior, continue to praise her, and try sitting on the edge of the bed. If Lily acts up again, remove yourself, correct her, and make her get off of the bed. If she doesn’t act up, praise her, and slowly keep moving yourself further onto the bed with both dogs. Every time Lily acts up, repeat the correction process.
Make sure this entire process takes place over several days. Don’t try to push Lily too far in a 24 hour period. Behavior modification like this should be gradual, and should always end on a positive note. Try working on Lily’s behavior for no more than 15-20 minutes at a time, and end the practice session when she’s doing well. If you notice her behavior gets worse or does not change, contact a professional dog trainer or behavior specialist for help.
Hope this helps. WOOF!
Alexandra (Alex) Macias has been a certified Dog Trainer and Behavior Specialist since 2008, and is the owner of Alex Macias Dog training, a Long Beach-based dog training company. To ask Alexandra questions for a future article, leave them in the comments below, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.