In humans, jealousy is described as ‘thoughts or feelings of insecurity, fear and concern over a relative lack of possessions or safety’. But, do dogs feel jealous? We know that they can feel insecure and, perhaps, changes like having a new baby in the home can make them feel insecure, rather than jealous.
Although research is in its infancy, one research paper by Amalia Bastos with the University of Auckland in New Zealand found that “dogs exhibit jealous behaviour when their human companion interacts with a potential rival”.
Many dogs experience anxiety or insecurity when their daily routine or lifestyle changes, so it’s important to be able to recognise signs of these and take action to reassure them that all is well – an ADAPTIL Calm Home Diffuser can help. Its dog appeasing pheromones provide a strong signal of comfort and security to dogs of all ages that helps dogs feel reassured and relaxed in all challenging situations.
Help your dog to accept change, and the arrival of a new baby by:
- Gradually introduce baby sounds and smells before your new baby arrives. Set up the baby's room well in advance with the new crib/bed, toys, as well as any products you may use, and allow your dog to sniff them and get used to the new smells. Even play any musical chimes and squeaky toys so that they will know what to expect. Try not to overwhelm your dog, but introduce each item slowly and always let it be your dog’s choice to interact or not.
- Make sure their own bed or safe place is away from the baby’s new bits and bobs, so they can retreat there if they want to; remember to reward them when they interact calmly and are accepting of the new situation.
- Before your baby arrives home, get them used to not being allowed into certain rooms or spaces. This way, they will not associate this lack of access with the new baby.
- It's also important that your pooch’s routine is maintained, as far as possible, throughout. This includes their mealtimes, going for a walk and any bonding time that you may have together. With the arrival of a new baby, there will inevitably be adjustments to be made; try to introduce these gradually to help your dog adjust, too.
- Keeping up with their training is also essential; you need to maintain their recall, and their response to any requests that they ‘sit’, ‘stay’, or ‘settle’ so that you can control any situation safely when there are new distractions.
- Prepare your dog for more visitors coming to your home (e.g. friends, family, healthcare workers) and try to keep them calm.
- If your baby is born away from home, share a piece of clothing or a blanket with your dog, that has been close to your baby before your return. Your dog will be able to investigate this new object and get used to its smell.
- Get them used to walking beside a pushchair/buggy so that this will not be a totally new experience when the baby arrives.
- If your dog walking schedule is likely to change, try and make these changes gradually in advance.
- Get them used to any new rules in the house, e.g. perhaps they won’t have access to all rooms in the house, like the baby’s room.
Signs of jealousy
In previous research, 80% of dog owners said their pets would seem to display behaviours that they interpreted as jealolusy such as barking and pulling on a leash, when they give attention to other dogs.
Look out for the following signs that your dog may be jealous of your new baby:
- Has your pooch started to toilet indoors?
- Are they showing signs of being conflicted, stressed or anxious?
- Are they looking for extra attention from you – more than they would normally?
- Are they growling or showing aggression towards other pets, or even when you are paying attention to the baby?
- Are they hiding away?
If you recognize changes in their body language, you can then take appropriate actions to reassure them.
9 Tips to help your dog accept your new baby
If you have prepared your dog for the upcoming changes to your home and lifestyle with the arrival of a new baby, it will be an ongoing process to make sure that your dog continues to accept these changes.
- Start at the very beginning and make a fuss of your dog when you arrive home with your new bundle.
- Try to make their first meeting a calm and positive one. Choose a quiet room, and have your dog on a loose lead with some treats to hand.
- Reward your dog for gently coming closer to your new baby to investigate. They do not need to get very close initially, and you can interrupt any interaction with a distraction, such as a favourite toy, if you are worried or feel uncomfortable.
- Make sure they can access their safe place (like their bed or crate) whenever they feel the need.
- When you are giving your baby the attention it needs, like feeding, give your pooch a favourite toy to play with while you are occupied. Always reward them for good behaviour.
- Include your baby when walking your dog but do not tie their lead to the buggy – this could be very dangerous if your dog suddenly decides to take off.
- Do not force your dog to interact with your baby – let your dog approach them in their own time.
- Do not leave your dog and baby together unsupervised.
- Try to maintain the bonding time you have already developed between you and your dog. This might be playing, training, grooming or just sitting quietly together.
Never punish your dog for unusual or bad behaviour. If you are at all worried about how your dog will react to your new baby (or once your new baby arrives home) contact a qualified behaviourist.