One child (dog) syndrome

Bowie is my only pet dog and as first-time parent, I admit I’m over-protective at times and often spoil him.

Bowie is such a social dog, to both humans and other dogs. We often take him to the parks and he’s made a lot of furry and non-furry friends. Though I’ve also been made aware of his ‘one child (dog) syndrome’. 

He gets jealous whenever we pat other dogs and will go in between us and the other dogs. He’ll either try to push the other dogs away or start barking at them.

I’m very certain it’s not aggression but enough to prompt me to do something about it. My main concern is his ‘harmless’ behaviour might antagonise other dogs and things could get ugly, which we don’t want! I also don’t want him to feel stressed, anxious or insecure whenever we interact with other dogs.

He used to do the same thing to our human friends, jumping on them when we exchanged greetings or barking when we didn’t pay him attention. We ignored his behaviour and told our friends to do the same, and only rewarded him with attention when he’s calm. This worked like a charm! A short training session of ‘sit’ or ‘drop’ then ‘release’ with lavish treat/attention helped as well.

So, my plan of action will be applying similar training exercises and only rewarding him when he’s calm towards other dogs. It’s going to be challenging because I have no control of the other dogs and I know for sure that they’re very high distraction for Bowie. So, I need to make sure that I’ve got ‘higher’ reward for him and work with Bowie slowly – start with a safe distance where he feels secure and stays calm, and gradually decrease distance and increase distraction.

I also asked my mum how she would approach this situation as if Bowie were a kid. She said, ‘If Bowie gets jealous when she carries another kid, she will carry both kids and talk lovingly to Bowie that it’s ok to share.’ What a sound advice!

I’ve started implementing her advice in our outings. When I pat another dog and Bowie gets jealous, I don’t stop patting the other dog, but make sure I also pat Bowie and not getting mad at him or making a big deal of it. The other thing I’ve been doing as well is I told Bowie to sit, when he does, I’ll give him a treat first, then the other dog, then back to him because he’s been calm and such a good boy. I’ll do that for a few minutes and it seems to work wonders.

So, our today’s mantras are ‘Reward calmness’ and ‘Sharing is cool’.

Lots of love and patience (definitely!)

PS: I posted Bowie’s ‘one child (dog) syndrome’ on a Labrador forum and got a few great training tips. Check it out here.