Dogs. They share our homes and seem to reciprocate our affections. Can this emotional bond extend into feelings of jealously? To help answer this question, a team of researchers studied the reactions of a group of dogs when their owners appeared to shower attention on a perceived rival.
A study by Christine R. Harris and Caroline Prouvost at the University of California found evidence that it is possible for man’s best friend to feel jealousy, particularly when their owners show affection toward other dogs.
To evaluate dogs’ jealous behaviors, researchers modified a test used to assess jealousy in 6-month old infants. Thirty-six dogs were individually tested and videotaped while their owners ignored them and interacted with a series of three different objects: a realistic looking stuffed dog, a jack-o-lantern, and a book. The three tests were set up to see whether dogs’ behaviors indicated signs of jealousy or a more general negative affect due to the loss of the owner’s attention. The dogs’ behavior was then analyzed for aggression, attention seeking, and/or interest in the owner or object.
The study authors found that dogs exhibited significantly more jealous behaviors, such as snapping, getting between the owner and object, and pushing or touching the object or owner, when their owners displayed affectionate behaviors towards what appeared to be another dog as compared to the jack-o-lantern and book.
While dogs may not get jealous in the same way as their humans, dogs do pay attention to their surroundings and experience jealousy in their own way. So next time Fido acts out in jealousy, get compassionate: your furry friend is only human!
Harris CR, Prouvost C. Jealousy in dogs. PloS One. 2014 Jul 23;9(7):e94597.