Habibi is very jealous.
We are all jealous. I am jealous that you have a fancier car, a better job, a higher salary, that your eyes are blue, that you are talented in music, and any number of other things, rational or not. Jealousy is a very human emotion, and it always has to do with possession – we want something that we don’t have but that you do.
We often talk about our dogs being jealous, but “jealousy” in dogs is something quite different. Dogs are not jealous of the neighbor dog having a better job and salary. Dogs are not jealous of the possessions of their friends, of them having an air conditioned dog house, a collar with diamond studs, or even a steak dinner. They are not jealous of the mates of their acquaintances or the achievements of their offspring. Their minds don’t work in that way; possessions and material things really do not make any difference. The idea of “you can’t take it with you” is definitely epitomized by dogs.
For dogs, it is all about status. The most important thing in life is being high up in the hierarchy of the pack, and the higher the better. I demonstrate my status by having control over “possessions” – that bone is mine because I can take it away from you and you will let me. Then if I don’t really want it, you can have it back.
Habibi definitely considers himself the pack leader around here – except for me, who he agrees to accept as someone who actually might have the right to have some authority. I do, after all, have the ability to open and close the gate, and to control the refrigerator. But he feels the need to keep things in order around here, and is very jealous of anyone that, from his point of view, is trying to usurp any portion of his position.
One of the main things that he is jealous of, is of me taking any of the other dogs with me if I go out, instead of him. How can I even consider doing such a thing? Unthinkable! But it does happen at times, and he always shows me very clearly that he disapproves. When I come back in, he gives me a quick “Wow, I’m happy to see you back again!” tail wag and dash around the house, (after all, it is important to keep the boss happy and in a good mood), and then he immediately goes straight over to the rack by the door where the leashes and collars are hanging and very carefully sniffs and inspects each one, to see just who they have been used on. If he finds one with the scent of one of the other dogs, I get a reproachful look (“How could you!”).
If I have been out on my own, without any of the other dogs, then I am thoroughly inspected to see if there is any scent on me of another dog – “Have you touched anyone else? Where have you been? What have you been doing with a strange dog?!!!!”
I find the thought, “Oh dear, Habibi will think I have been cheating on him!” running through my mind when I meet friends with their dogs.
He shows his jealousy in other ways. If another dog from our pack comes over to be petted or to get a treat, Habibi pushes his way in between me and the other, blocking access to me with his body. Since the other dogs here are members of the family, once he has demonstrated that he is the superior, with first access, he will then usually allow them to get some attention and treats. But it must be with his permission!
This also happens when I am grooming the other dogs. The grooming table is not big enough for him to get up on to insert himself between me and the groomee, though he has tried. The next best thing is to place himself against my legs, as close as possible to the table, which makes it almost impossible for me to move around while working. And he insists that I brush him also before I end the grooming session.
But it is not only other dogs that Habibi is jealous of. He is also jealous of other people – why on earth should I be interested in talking to them when he is there? When I have visitors, he will choose to sit pressed against my legs, between me and the “intruders”, shoving his nose under my hand or grabbing hold of my sleeve to gain my attention. But when the other dogs are also out and greeting the visitors, he has big problems – on the one hand, he needs to stay with me and keep them away, but it also annoys him for the visitors to be petting the other dogs. He is the one who needs all the attention! So the end result is him circling around me with mad dashes to head off the other dogs and push them away from the hands of the visitors, and then rushing back to me, often barking at the same time. It can be quite exhausting keeping order in the pack…
When he comes with me to my lectures, as he usually does, he sits on my feet, and tries the same attention drawing behavior, which can be quite distracting when I am trying to concentrate on what I am saying. Should anyone move while I am speaking, his stare and under the breath growl is enough to warn them to stay where they are and pay attention. And should someone stand up – well! This is not allowed! And results in warning barks.
My students learn to be very well disciplined…
Even talking on the phone is something that makes Habibi jealous. He finds it difficult to understand why I should be spending time talking to an inanimate object. But it is distracting my attention from him, so therefore cannot be good. His solution to this is to go running off to the door barking when I am carrying on a phone conversation. He has learned that this is something I can’t really ignore – maybe there really is someone there?
He has started to use this method when I am watching TV (“Why should anyone want to spend time watching colors moving around on a little screen, when anyone with the poorest sense of smell should know that there is nothing there!”) Hard to concentrate on the program when he periodically starts announcing, “Someone is coming! Something is happening! Come take a look!”
Luckily, he so far has not decided that the computer is a threat – but I certainly have no intentions of starting to talk on Skype.