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When I used to dog sit regularly for a friend’s Golden Retriever, the dog and I became very bonded. However, I noticed my friend’s Golden Retriever would be very jealous if I stopped and petted another dog on walks.
Considering Golden Retrievers are so sociable, this surprised me and left me wondering if Golden Retrievers get jealous?
Golden Retrievers can get jealous if they have formed a particularly strong bond with someone who then shows affection towards another dog, pet, or another person. However, as a whole, Golden Retrievers are very sociable dogs that get along with most people, pets, and other animals with no issues.
Jealousy in Golden Retrievers can be surprising considering their pension for sharing affection with everyone. As a whole, Golden Retrievers are love sponges, which means that they enjoy giving and receiving affection and are well known as a breed for getting along with humans and animals alike.
But, jealousy can and does occur, so in this article, we’ll explore instances where Golden Retrievers can get jealous, the signs of jealousy, and suggestions on how to deal with jealousy in a positive way.
Why Do Golden Retrievers Get Jealous?
The exact reason Golden Retrievers get jealous is not known. After all, they can’t tell us. However, there are some theories on why Golden Retrievers get jealous.
Jealousy in Golden Retrievers may arise from forming strong emotional bonds with their owners, who provide resources such as food, attention, care, and affection. If the dog perceives another person or animal as competition for those resources, it may react with jealousy.
So, Golden Retrievers do get jealous. Any owner of a Golden Retriever can probably share an instance where their dog has become jealous. It is an emotion most of us have witnessed and are sure that it exists.
There is some research to back up what pet owners have known for some time. Dogs do get jealous.
In a 2014 study [source], researchers adapted a paradigm from human infant studies to examine jealousy in domestic dogs. Researchers concluded that dogs do exhibit jealousy.
According to the authors, jealousy may have evolved in species with multiple dependent young competing for food and affection.
However, the exact cause of jealousy in human-dog relationships is unknown. Researchers suggest that it may be due to dogs forming strong emotional bonds through a co-evolution of dogs and humans over thousands of years.
The researchers also note that humans, through that co-evolution, have been rich resource providers.
This theory suggests that the dog-human relationship is a complex one that has arisen from a mixed species relationship over centuries. Considering dogs have evolved to be so interdependent with humans, it stands to reason they would protect such a relationship and the resources that come with it.
“Our study suggests not only that dogs do engage in what appear to be jealous behaviors but also that they were seeking to break up the connection between the owner and a seeming rival.”
Keep in mind, however, that these are just theories or hypotheses. So, while it may be possible to prove dogs get jealous, explaining why they do is very difficult.
When Do Golden Retrievers Become Jealous?
Often Golden Retrievers will become jealous in very particular situations. For example, when watching my friend’s Golden Retriever, it always occurred when I showed attention to other strange dogs.
However, there are many situations when you may find your Golden Retriever is becoming jealous, including:
- Showing attention to another dog, cat, or any pet
- Showing affection to a partner such as a wife or a husband
- Spending time with and showing attention to children
- When there are new pets in the home
- Where there is a new baby in the home
Did you notice from that list that most jealous interactions are directed at attention and affection? It often seems that dogs get jealous when the person or persons they are bonded with direct their care, attention, and affection to others, be it animal or human.
Often when there is a reaction over food, toys, or objects, it is resource guarding, not jealousy. However, if a person is involved, then more often than not, it is jealousy and not resource guarding. Although there are overlaps between the two behaviors, it can be confusing to know which behavior is present.
To learn the difference between reactive, aggressive, and dangerous dogs, check out this post: Dangerous Dogs: Are Golden Retrievers One of Them?
While they are both responses to “triggers,” reactive behavior is typically driven by fear of losing a resource or “possession,” which triggers a flight or fight response. Jealousy, in turn, seems to be more emotion-driven, similar to small children.
How To Tell if Your Golden Retriever Is Jealous?
Fortunately, when a Golden Retriever gets jealous, it is typically not in an aggressive manner, although it can with other dogs. Instead, more often than not, it will take a milder form, such as barking or wedging itself in between you and the object of your attention.
If your Golden Retriever is jealous common signs might include the following behaviors:
Barking or Whining
Often this is a common reaction from a jealous Golden Retriever. Barking and whining is the dog vocalizing that it dislikes the behavior and wants you to refocus your attention and affection back on it.
Barking can be towards another pet when partners show affection or some other person it feels is stealing its thunder (love and attention), so to speak.
A jealous Golden Retriever may also try to push or “wedge” itself in between you and the competition for its affection.
For example, when I pet our cat, Bailey will come in and push himself between the cat and me to ensure he gets petted, not the cat. Occasionally, when the cat is around, he will sit in front of me against my legs, effectively acting as a barrier to prevent him from getting any of his pets.
However, he is never aggressive or angry. Instead, when Bailey exhibits wedging or pushy behavior, he is always in a full-body wag or wiggle and highly affectionate. He just wants in on the action.
Another typical example is when partners hug, and the dog will wedge between the two to break up the affectionate act and hoard in on the hugs and kisses.
Often if the dog is jealous and does not get attention, it will become mischievous. Golden Retrievers are exceptionally smart and are known to those smarts to work in naughty ways.
It is often when they have not been exercised or mentally stimulated enough. Still, it can also be when the dog is trying to solicit attention when jealous.
It is not unlike a small child who will act out to get attention if the mother focuses on the child’s sibling instead of on him or her.
A common reaction for Golden Retrievers is to steal objects that they understand they are not supposed to have, such as shoes or hand towels.
Or they may shred your toilet paper roll or chase the cat. The breed is intelligent and creative, so it could be almost anything. However, the purpose is the same. Give me the attention, not them!
To learn why Golden Retrievers steal things, check out this post: Canine Kleptomania: Why Golden Retrievers Steal Things.
Growling, Snapping, or Fighting
Golden Retrievers are not aggressive by nature, and it is rare for them to become aggressive if jealous. However, if they do, it is typically directed at another dog.
For example, my friend was a dog sitter, and on occasion, some dogs would be there when I visited. On one occasion, her Golden Retriever was sitting in front of me (wedging), and an Australian Shepherd came to be petted.
Her Golden growled and snapped at the dog. She sat with her back facing me and leaned against me, which was her way of saying, “he is mine.” But, on this occasion, I had failed to recognize the wedging / blocking behavior and should not have attempted to pet the other dog.
Recently, Bailey growled at a Havanese (a cute little guy) in the house who was getting all the attention from the house full of guests. Finally, after many attempts to push in and get some “attention,” he made his feelings very clear in an obvious way.
Being Clingy or Attention-Seeking
Golden Retrievers will often become very clingy if they are jealous and feel that they are not getting their share of attention. Often they will follow you around, sit on your feet, or stand pressed against you.
However, these actions overlap with other behaviors, and they can often be in response to fear or anxiety. For example, Golden Retrievers can also be clingy if scared or upset.
Typically if the behavior is jealousy-driven, the dog is more engaged in getting your attention. For example, while following you around the house, the dog may bonk you with its nose, lick your hands, put their heads on your lap, or jump on you.
Or, your Golden Retriever may try to get the attention directed away from the other dog by pawing at you, rolling over, or grabbing a ball or toy and running over to you.
In contrast, if they are more anxious or scared, they will typically be more passive and not actively be attention-seeking. For example, the dog might just shadow you and push up against you for security.
It is like a small child hugging your leg if they are scared or anxious in a situation.
Golden Retrievers will pout if they do not get their way, and often this can occur from jealousy. If the dog is jealous and has not been able to get affection by employing some of its attention-seeking behavior, it may pout.
Often you will find your Golden Retriever laying with its head on the floor, ears down and giving you that “pouty,” sad look.
Jumping or Pushy Behavior
The Golden Retriever may try to get your attention by jumping up on you or actively trying to get your attention by being pushy. Pushy behavior is similar to clingy but more assertive and in your face.
For example, suppose Bailey is jealous of another person or animal, and I’m on the couch or recliner. In that case, he will sit in front of me, then jump on me and finally climb on top of me and sit on my lap. So yes, my 90lb Golden Retriever will make sure it gets attention by becoming a lap dog.
This pushiness is done in response to feeling jealous or not getting attention, and it is a very overt way of saying, “you need to focus on me, not them.”
How Can I Stop Jealous Behavior in My Golden Retriever?
While it can be flattering or seem cute when your Golden Retriever becomes jealous, it is something that you do not want to promote. Promoting a sense of competition in your Golden Retriever can eventually lead to unwanted and undesirable behaviors.
So, dealing with a jealous Golden Retriever is similar to dealing with a dog with reactivity issues. While reactivity is more intense, both have triggers that lead to the behavior.
As a first step, you need to observe what triggers cause your dog to become jealous.
For example, is it when you hug your partner or pet a strange dog? Or does it occur when you give attention to a pet that lives with you?
Record the trigger and the specific time and circumstances that elicit the jealousy. Once you know the triggers, then you can often avoid them.
Avoid the Trigger
Consider my previous example with my friends Golden Retriever. Knowing that the dog gets jealous of other dogs, there would have been no issues if I had refrained from petting the Australian Shepherd.
In an article published in Dog Discoveries, dog trainer Adrienne Farricelli CPDT-KA suggests that this is a suitable protocol if the dogs are playmates. She advises refraining from giving attention to the dogs or waiting until the jealous dog is not present.
If the dog gets jealous of a stranger, whether that stranger is another person or a dog, then avoid engaging the other party.
For example, I met a friend and her dog (a blue heeler) on a dog while on a walk. I noticed the dog sat directly in front of my friend while I talked to her and watched intently.
Later, she mentioned that her dog gets jealous (and protective) of her, and I reminded her of the encounter. She wasn’t aware of it at the moment, but I was fortunate that I was and did not try to pet the dog or try to hug my friend.
The moral of the story is this. The best course of action is often just to avoid the trigger.
Do Not Promote Competitive Behavior
Often if the jealousy is not aggressive or we find it amusing, we may play with the dog and inadvertently promote the behavior. For example, while hugging your partner, you do not allow the dog to push in, and you say, “no, she’s mine,” while turning your back to the dog to get him more excited.
Or we may show attention to one of our pets over the other while giving it kisses.
So, it’s wise to avoid making your Golden Retriever jealous. Although the behavior is innocent and mild now, you don’t want it escalating into something undesirable.
Do Not Use Physical Punishment or Aversives
Using physical punishment or aversives can often make the behavior much worse. Or it causes other unwanted or undesirable behaviors.
Moreover, if aggression is involved, it may result in a redirection. That is, the dog becomes defensive and snaps back at you.
Adrienne Farricelli cautions pet owners to be careful when punishing jealousy in a dog. According to the renowned trainer, punishing a jealous dog may lead to aggression.
Diffuse and Redirect
Suppose the behavior is directed at another dog in the house. In that case, Adrienne Farricelli suggests teaching and using verbal cues such as “sit,” “lay down,” “go to your mat,” or “let’s go get a treat .”
Again, the goal is to diffuse any building tensions (which you should recognize if you observed the triggers) and then redirect that into some other alternate behavior.
Make sure you reward the alternate behavior. You want the dog to learn that being jealous is undesirable, but doing the other behavior is rewarding.
Ignore the Jealousy
While diffusing and redirecting the behavior is a good technique, it is still essential to ensure that the jealous behavior is not getting reinforced.
Adrienne Farricelli suggests removing attention from the jealous dog. Providing attention reinforces the behavior, so removing the attention might extinguish the jealous behavior.
So, when the dog shows the first sign of jealousy, you ignore the dog or leave the room. The intent is to teach the dog that it gets no attention for such behavior.
With no attention from the pet owner, the dogs are left with nothing to fight over. If done with perfect timing, the jealous dog may eventually learn that his behavior leads to the owner leaving, so he’ll reduce the jealousy episodes.
Another method Adrienne Farricelli suggests is to show the jealous dog a lot of attention and give it treats when the other dog approaches. Then, the jealous dog is not rewarded when the other dog is not around.
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The jealous dog learns only good things happen when another dog is around, so there is no reason to act out.
However, keep in mind that these techniques are directed at jealousy with NO aggression and very mild cases. If there were aggression, it would be wise and highly recommended to consult a qualified dog behavior professional specializing in force-free techniques.
Getting help is discussed next.
If your Golden Retriever is exhibiting jealous behavior that is reactive or over the top, then consider seeking out a professional dog trainer.
Often, what may seem like jealousy is reactive behavior. So, for example, behavior directed at other pets or people by snapping or lunging.
As discussed earlier, reactive behavior is typically fear-driven. Reactive behaviors, like jealousy, have triggers. For example, the dog might overreact to men or somebody wearing a hat. So, while it may seem like jealous behavior, it is, in fact, reactivity.
Regardless of the reason why the behavior happens, it can escalate to aggression if it is not dealt with quickly. Therefore, it is recommended to seek the guidance of a qualified dog behavior professional specializing in force-free techniques.
In these cases, it’s best not to try and handle it on your own.
Studies confirm what dog owners have known forever; dogs get jealous. However, it is unknown to what extent and why it happens, and one may never know precisely why. We cannot ask them why they do it.
Often jealous behaviors can quickly be addressed by observing and avoiding triggers, such as petting a strange dog, or by diffusing and redirecting the jealous behavior.
In other cases of in-home jealousy, Golden Retrievers are usually satisfied by getting some attention and affection. They don’t want to be left out and are happy when they’re included.