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Training Jealous Dogs

Martha is joined by Animal Planet's dog-nanny, Victoria Stilwell ("It's Me or the Dog"), for a lesson in helping dogs overcome jealousy.

The Martha Stewart Show, October 2008

Though Martha's dogs, Francesca and Sharkey, really love each other, sometimes they have little altercations -- Francesca insists on being the top dog, and each dog gets very jealous when Martha gives attention to the other.

This can be a common problem for households with more than one dog. Dog nanny and trainer Victoria Stilwell, of Animal Planet's "It's Me or the Dog," has some training tips that can help.

Training Tips
You are the most valuable resource to your pets. You have to be the one to deal with the issues and subsequent training.

Correcting Jealousy Issues
In order to correct jealousy issues with your dogs, your attention cannot be freely given; your dogs will have to work for it. When you get your dog to work for your attention, its mind is refocused onto working for you rather than on the emotion. You must set the dog up for success and not trigger a fight. Love and affection needs to be on your terms.

If both dogs come up to you wanting your attention, walk away. Only give attention when one dog is around, or if they're both together, make them work (for example: sit, lie down) and then calmly praise them. Don't go over the top, as excitement can very quickly trigger a fight.

You can also use the "best friends" reward system when the dogs are together. The dogs only get their favorite treats when they are calmly together in your presence. As soon as one dog goes away, the food reward and your attention to the other stops. If there's a disagreement, walk away immediately and the food reward goes away, too. That shows both dogs that calmly receiving attention from you in each other's presence brings good things -- not just the reward of your attention but the added bonus of their favorite food.

Why do dogs head-butt? For some dogs, it could be caused by an earlier traumatic experience around the face or a lack of socialization and experience with people. It could also be that the dog's vibrissae, the whiskers around the muzzle, are ultra-sensitive. This isn't the case with all dogs, but just like people have different sensitive areas, so do dogs.

To de-sensitize your dog, try the touch command, a great technique for dogs that are hand shy. Have the dog approach your hand and touch it with his or her nose -- on the dog's own accord. Then, you give your dog a treat as a reward. When you make it the dog's decision to come to your hand, it takes pressure off the dog, and this builds confidence around hands. A hand near the face means the dog gets good things.

A Game to Challenge Your Dog
One game that's fun is to hide a treat under one of three pots or overturned cups, shuffle them around, and get the dog to sniff out the treat with his or her nose. You can teach the dog to indicate the right pot or cup with a paw.

Thanks to dog nanny Victoria Stilwell, of Animal Planet's "It's Me or the Dog," for sharing this information. For more of Victoria's animal advice, check out her book, "It's Me or the Dog: How to Have the Perfect Pet." For more information about Victoria, visit To learn more about pet training, care, and animal crafts, check out these Top Tips for Pet Owners from "The Martha Stewart Show."

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