The photos from this shoot are some of my all time favorite. This big boy was a street dog and one of the most calmly, confident dogs I've ever met. Watching his behavior was fascinating. Here a simple touch connects human and dog.
Jealousy is a common human emotion, we see it often and it can get very ugly. But, is it the same with dogs? Do they get jealous in the same way that we do? No. Although the term 'jealous' is the best way to describe the behavior that they display in certain situations. Let's say I just got home from the mall; I go into the house and start petting Luke. Elsa is there immediately pushing her way between Luke and I. Is she jealous that I am petting Luke? Does she want me to stop petting Luke?
Anthropomorphise; to place human attributes onto animals, plants or material.
Scientists hate when humans place our own emotions onto animals. But it is the easiest way to describe and understand what is going on. To fully explain the act that we see as jealousy in dogs takes a long time. There are many aspects that go into it, different levels and intricate sequences of behavior. Status has a great deal to do with dogs and their day to day. As pack animals it is all about where they fit in and not crossing lines. Status does not always mean that they are trying to obtain more, it simply means where they are accepted and their acceptable state in a pack.
Your family is your dog's pack. Where they fit in has much to do with your own behavior, the other dogs in the pack and that specific dogs temperament. As we humans fulfill our role as leader or head of the household we obtain status through our behavior. Our day to day guidance shows that we are the ones to follow, we make the rules so to speak. We are their leader and they lay claim to us as such. If you notice that your dog gets 'jealous' when other dogs approach, it is this "hey this is my leader," influence that plays in this specific behavior.
Dogs are also very social creatures, even amongst themselves they share touching as a special privilege between pack members. This is why we can kiss our dog in the face but a stranger should never do this. We can hug our dog but a stranger should not hug our dog. It is that close and intimate bond that we share. So when someone, be it a human or another dog tries to have a piece of this pack bond, your dog will most likely object.
Three dogs and one human make up this pack. They perfectly intune, a well defined oneness.
If you have more than one dog in your home you more than likely will have seen the jealous type behavior often. They want their share, that's it. Dogs learn that the delivery of affection is a most pleasurable event. It is a bond ratification and important within a pack. The sharing of affection is a constant assurance that you are a part of a big family. So yes, each member will want their share. A dog shunned and not given an allotment of affection will be an unsettled and unsure dog. They will be constantly seeking approval from the other members of the pack.
Possession and guarding is commonly seen as jealousy. When a dog bares it's teeth as another dog approaches it's owner, this is guarding of a possession. This is a form of jealousy as we understand it but fully explained it is possession. "My owner, don't touch." Dogs can form very bad behaviors from our misunderstanding of situations. Small dogs are notorious for guarding their owners. Humans see it as a jealous type behavior and coddle the dog. This only reinforces the growling and snapping behaviors as the dog tries to keep everyone away from their prize possession, you.
It is very important when you have a pack of dogs that you ration your attention appropriately. Anyone getting snarky about their share needs to be reprimanded so as to nip a bad behavior in the bud. They must wait their turn and understand that you control the day to day. More insecure type dogs will be the more jealous type. Watching a pack of dogs is huge enlightening. Although if you do not fully understand dog behavior much of it will be seen incorrectly through our human eyes.
Temperament plays a huge part in the whole 'jealous' thing. Many dogs may seem to be the non jealous type; but this is because they are very confident in their placement and do not seek the constant reassurance from attention. As dogs age and mature the insecurities that can cause a jealous type behaviors often weaken. A dog's personality can make it seem worse or less as well. Elsa is a very exuberant girl and being that she is young she is constantly seeking approval. So she does seem like a very jealous girl at this point in her life. Is she actually jealous? No. She seeks approval, reassurance and constant touch to know that she is one of our pack.
There is a great deal of behaviors from dogs that go into the term that we understand as jealousy. It is far different and much less damaging than jealousy in humans.