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Do Dogs Get Jealous?

Dogs are known for their rich emotional capabilities, it's no wonder humans often wonder - do dogs get jealous? 

Do Dogs Get Jealous?

Dogs are known for their rich emotional capabilities, it's no wonder humans often wonder - do dogs get jealous? 

By: Sara Ondrako, Certified Canine Behavior Professional

Dogs are known for their rich emotional capabilities, experiencing a range of feelings from sheer joy to debilitating anxiety. They can bond strongly and make significant connections that humans often think are possible only between other humans and wonder - do dogs get jealous? 

In short, the answer is yes: dogs are capable of experiencing emotions that mimic what humans would call jealousy. The difference is that these behaviors are labeled resource guarding or possessive aggression in the canine world. The same type of feelings and emotional consequences are generated, but terminology differs from one species to the other. 

Controversy Surrounding Jealousy in the Canine Space

The question of whether dogs experience jealousy has been a topic of debate and sometimes controversy. While many canine caregivers believe their dogs exhibit jealous behaviors, the scientific community has explored this concept with varying perspectives. Often, behavior professionals are cautious about labeling jealousy in dogs as we would in humans for various reasons. 

Envy versus Jealousy

Two main reasons for avoiding the label of "jealousy" in dogs include the frequent mislabeling of human envy for human jealousy and the fact that, once a dog is labeled, subsequent human behaviors tend to reinforce those canine behaviors subconsciously.

Envy is when someone else possesses something you want, and you experience negative emotions with that desire to possess what they have. Dogs may experience this when they feel stressed watching another dog get treats or enjoying a chewie when they have nothing to chew or enjoy. They can also experience this when, even though they have something to chew or enjoy, they want what the other dog has anyway.

Envy and jealousy produce similar negative emotional responses, but they are not the same. Envy involves wanting to possess something someone else has, and jealousy is a fear or concern of losing something of value. In dogs, while we label jealousy as resource guarding, the same term tends to be used in situations where the human emotion labeled envy exists. That can be troublesome with treatment, so labeling is often avoided. 

Limited Understanding of Canine Emotions

Another reason canine professionals are reluctant to use the term "jealousy" to describe a dog's behavior is that it is believed to be an overly anthropomorphic perspective, projecting human emotions onto animals without sufficient evidence.

Despite advancements in our understanding of canine cognition and emotions, much remains to learn. The complexity of canine emotions and the challenge of directly assessing them contribute to the controversy. Some researchers argue that labeling a behavior as "jealousy" oversimplifies the intricate emotional landscape of dogs.

Behavioral Indicators

The debate often revolves around identifying specific behaviors that may indicate dog jealousy. While some behaviors, such as resource guarding or attention-seeking, may resemble jealousy, skeptics argue that other factors, such as competition for resources or learned behaviors, could explain these actions.

Context is vital in understanding canine behavior. A behavior that seems like jealousy may have different motivations depending on the specific circumstances. The same behavior may have different meanings in various contexts, complicating the interpretation of canine emotions.

Additionally, recognizing individual variation in dog behavior is crucial. What may appear as jealousy in one dog could be a different emotional response or learned behavior in another. This variability makes it challenging to draw overarching conclusions about jealousy in dogs.

Scientific Studies on Canine Emotions and Social Behaviors

Jealousy in canines has been studied for the last decade, producing convincing arguments to support jealousy being an emotion dogs are capable of. Through brain scans, stress level indicators, and observing behaviors in studies, researchers have connected the behaviors humans exhibit when feeling jealous to the behaviors dogs exhibit when we believe they are experiencing jealousy.

Aside from simply displaying jealous behaviors, which have long been thought to be present only in animals with more complex cognition, studies have shown that dogs will exhibit these behaviors and try to separate an owner from a perceived rival.

According to the University of California, "findings support the view that there may be a more basic form of jealousy, which evolved to protect social bonds from interlopers." In experiments that attempted to elicit jealousy in dogs, researchers had owners show affection to animate and inanimate objects, eliciting jealousy-type behaviors in canines. 

Research dedicated to deciphering jealous behaviors in dogs is often a source of the two descriptors — envy and jealousy — being used interchangeably. When reviewing scientific studies about jealousy in dogs, remembering these two are used interchangeably can help separate human emotion and response from canine emotion and response. 

Signs of Jealousy in Dogs

Identifying behaviors in dogs that may represent emotions resembling jealousy can be valuable in preventing troublesome behavior problems. The following are reasons and examples that drive this feeling. Addressing them once identified promptly with positive reinforcement training can keep brewing behaviors from becoming troublesome. 

Resource Guarding

When resource guarding, dogs use aggressive communication, such as baring teeth, stiffening, a lowered body posture, etc., to protect their access to food, toys, or other valued possessions.

Learning the signs of discomfort in dogs can help you spot this sometimes subtle start to a growing defensiveness when someone approaches their belongings, sometimes even their perceived belongings. Review our article on Dog Body Language to learn more about these signs. 


Most of our furry friends really love our attention. When they see another person or animal getting the attention they want, a jealous-like behavior may lead to pushing between an owner and another person or pet to monopolize attention. Some dogs will sulk and withdraw with their favorite Eeyore impression when witnessing affection between others. 

To gain attention, dogs will also display demanding behaviors, such as whining or pawing repetitively. If your dog displays these behaviors, it's important not to correct or completely ignore them, as it can worsen the behavior. Giving your dog attention when they seek it is perfectly fine. The behaviors become unhealthy when a dog feels stressed about constantly demanding or competing for attention, especially when other animals or small children are home. This behavior often signifies an unmet need, such as adequate one-on-one time or physical and mental stimulation. 

Dogs are not vengeful. They will do what works to get what they seek, which can often resemble vengeance — especially when it involves the loss of a pair of boots you wore on a walk you didn't take them on. If they aren't getting enough attention, a stress response is involved, which can lead to inappropriate chewing or even soiling, like peeing or pooping on a carpet.

Competitive Behavior

There are a few similarities between how our pups respond to the world and how young children do. When a new family member enters the equation, it can lead to acting out and competing for resources or attention. Whether a new puppy or a new baby, your dog may also begin to guard new objects associated with the new family member and block others from accessing them.

These behaviors have different drivers, including perceiving new objects as high value and worth guarding. It can also stem from viewing the new person or pet as a threat and needing to defend space, people, or things. 

Introducing a new addition to the family when there's already another dog in the home can sometimes trigger these behaviors in the older dog. A new puppy is super exciting, and all the fuss can leave the older dog feeling left out or overwhelmed. Add extra one-on-one playtime with your older dog and increase enrichment to make them feel part of the family fun. 

It's important to remember that change can also be challenging for our four-legged friends. New pets, a new baby, or a new family member moving in can all elicit different emotions in dogs. Empathy and patience are required to get through these emotions successfully together.

Canine Social Dynamics

While dogs know the difference between other species, such as humans, cats, birds, and other dogs, they don't necessarily behave differently from species to species when feeling conflicted. For example, Harris the hound may exhibit the same behaviors toward a small child cuddling on the couch with her mom as with another dog in the same position.

Accepting that dogs do dog things is the first step in peaceful and mutually beneficial cohabitation with our furry friends. It's up to us as pet parents to provide for their needs and help shape their response to feeling conflicted through positive outlets. 

What We Learn From Wild Dogs

We've exhibited wild dogs and their wolf relatives operating like a family unit within their packs. This social dynamic reduces conflict often seen in domesticated dogs living in domestic situations. Understanding the family unit mentality regarding the relationship between parental figures and siblings helps us handle doggie behaviors that can become problematic in a productive way.

Unfortunately, some normal behaviors in the wild can be dangerous domestically, such as food aggression, when a child doesn't respond to communication the same way a wild dog would. Most conflicts are resolved with communication between wild dogs and wolves, but humans don't speak dog, which makes the peace-keeping a little trickier. The great news is that our little furballs are excellent learners eager to please and adapt well when taught with compassion. 

Training and Socialization

Training and socialization can mitigate jealousy-like behaviors before they ever begin. Some dogs are naturally more prone to these behaviors than others, but they can be reduced and sometimes even extinguished with behavior modification practices. 

Prevention of Jealousy-Type Behaviors

As with most behaviors that pet parents consider problematic, early socialization and puppy training can positively impact inter-household dynamics and ward off aggressive behavior

Puppies learn what works and what doesn't from other dogs when vying for attention and resources such as toys, cuddles, and food. Other dogs help them form those early responses during their first critical social period. This is one of the reasons why staying with the mother and siblings through at least nine weeks of age is beneficial. 

Once a new puppy comes home, continuing social exposure will help shape their feelings and reactions to other animals and people when food, toys, or other humans are involved. Interacting with others and, more so, simply observing others gives them the knowledge they can use to prevent or work through conflict as they grow and mature. 

Socialization alone is insufficient to prevent resource-guarding behaviors, including food aggression. For some dogs that may be more genetically prone to that behavior, practicing exercises around their food bowls and toys with other people and animals is a great way to help significantly reduce the likelihood of a problem.

Check out our article on preventing and treating food aggression for a step-by-step exercise you can implement at home to curb this behavior. Additionally, take advantage of dog training with a professional early on. Dog training is not just about teaching skills like heel and place but also about learning your new dog and setting your relationship up for success. 

Managing and Treating Resource Guarding

If your pup already displays signs of jealousy, it's time to take action. These behaviors can continue to escalate and present a significant safety concern. Chris Miller, CCPDT-KA, writes in an article about the rise of resource guarding in pandemic puppies through the American Animal Hospital Association: "If you lock your door when you leave home, you're resource guarding. It's not horrible behavior, but it's a challenge when you have dogs who aren't reacting appropriately. One dog says, 'It's my bone, and I don't want you to have it.' If the other says, 'Oops, sorry!' and goes away, then it's not a problem." 

The Concept

When treating any possessive, aggressive behavior, the goal is to help the dog feel more comfortable and feel less need to guard their space, person, or precious object. 

Humans can recognize when we are experiencing jealousy and choose what to do with that feeling. We deem our actions that follow that feeling "good" or "bad." Dogs will respond in the moment and don't possess the same conscious attribution to actions that follow. A jealous dog is not a bad dog. However, the "bad behavior" that we don't like or consider problematic, left untreated, can lead to serious conflict for us and other animals. 

Just as we parent young children to increase their confidence and decrease aggression, we also parent dogs to cultivate the same confidence and decrease aggression. This is why we address behavior based on the context of the situation rather than the individual. This shift in viewing their experience can help us better treat the underlying problem.

If your dog is already exhibiting troublesome signs of jealousy-type behaviors, consider working with a credentialed behavior professional or an accredited positive reinforcement-based dog trainer. Dog trainers and behavior professionals can speed up the training and behavior modification process and help you avoid critical mistakes that can worsen the problem. 

Treating jealousy-type behaviors in dogs is similar to the prevention exercises but with an added strategy based on the individual dog and the severity of the problem. 

Ethical Considerations

Being responsible dog owners involves more than providing the basic five freedoms; it's also about understanding that dogs are not people and do not behave as we do, especially when faced with conflict. 

Anthropomorphizing the behavior of dogs can be dangerous. Yes, your fur baby may be your "baby" and your whole world — which is wonderful! However, learning the root cause of your dog's behavior is the responsible and ethical way to treat problematic behaviors and strengthen your bond with your pup.


It's not always easy navigating the complexities of our dogs' emotions; it's hard enough to navigate our own sometimes! Yet responsible dog ownership begins by seeking to better understand the individual in front of us for who they are. Our responses to them play a significant role in our relationship. With that in mind, advocating for a nuanced perspective on jealousy-like behaviors and similar expressions from our canine counterparts helps us empathize.

Empathy and knowledge lead to us being the best pack leaders possible as we seek a mutually beneficial and loving relationship with our dogs. 

illustration of dog's tail & the dog is digging

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illustration of dog's tail & the dog is digging