I have an 11 month old lab that I have had since 2 months old and we have been joined at the hip since then. My 19 year old daughter recently adopted a 4 month old puppy that we have had about a month or so. The two dogs get along perfectly and have been a joy. My lab, however, woke up one day and started to avoid me-to the point of slinking out of the room like I have beaten her. She doesn't give me eye contact and doesn't greet me when I come home anymore. She is a very loving dog and has now latched herself to my daughter. Any thoughts or suggestions as to why this is happening and what I need to do to help the situation?
Dogs are very playful animals and kids make lots of fun noises and gestures that can easily excite dogs. I would suggest adding more playtime with the dog into your daily routine (15-30 minutes, one-on-one). This would include you getting down on the floor and using the dog's favorite toys with her.
You might also try more training time with the dog that would include positive reinforcement and activities that reinforce the idea that when the dog comes to you, it will be a positive and fun experience. Use praise, play, and treats when the dog comes to you and when she is in your presence. Even if you are busy, acknowledge your dog's presence when they enter the room by saying hello (happy tone) and giving her a quick pet or the occasional treat. If you don't already, take on more responsibilities for caring for the dog (walks, feeding times, etc.). This will also help you bond.
I've seen indications of my dog responding with jealousy when I've paid extra attention to other dogs [though it appears it was long questioned as to whether dogs are capable of the full depth of human jealousy, recent information appear to show they are].
I'm absolutely no psychologist, and often don't pay much attention to the field. But if dogs are indeed capable of jealousy, it would seem quite reasonable that they would have similar reactions to people. This book appears to summarize some attempts to categorize such human responses in the 70s and 80s, generally laying out a loose breakdown of:
- Communication (showing dissatisfaction?)
- Emphasizing dependency (fawning attention to you?)
- Retribution (spiteful reactions?)
- Emotional withdrawal (depression?)
(It sounds like they've since maybe decided jealousy is more complex. Isn't everything?!)
The way you describe her latching onto your daughter might suggest she's trying to emphatically show her spite to you. After all, we've all certainly seen/experienced someone (perhaps as a child) responding jealously to a friend's new attention by going out and urgently trying to one up them. Whether it's getting a new powerful friend to outdo their new friend, or a new expensive item to outdo their new purchase.
The book suggests a retribution response might indicate that the motivation behind that is self esteem... so I suppose that would suggest you'd do best by fawning over her.
That said, I really don't put a ton of stock in such things. I've only had one dog, but found the relationship to be complex and varying, especially at the puppy stage. Not too different from having a child I suppose.
And that rather than responding impulsively to each of the many turns, you would need to stay strong, keep making clear your love for her, and that your consistent unwavering stance will win her over, and with more respect in the longrun.
I can understand it must be hard, there have been a lot of relationships with humans and with dogs that have been tough on both sides in my life, and it's probably the same for most of us. You only have so long with your doggy, and much like a parent with a child, there promise to be bigger fears one day with your doggy companion. Life is short. Stay the course, don't give in to temporary fears, and just keep on loving!