Do you have two or more dogs in the house? Have you ever petted one of your dogs and the other started acting up? This leaves you wondering: do dogs get jealous?
Researchers at the University of California San Diego found that the answer is yes.
UC San Diego psychology professor Christine Harris said she was visiting her parents who live with 3 dogs when she realized something about the pooches.
“I’d pet two of them at a time and it wouldn’t have been surprising if that had made the third wants my attention, too,” she said.
Aside from that, the two Border Collies she was petting showed aggression at each other.
Some psychology experts say that jealousy is a complex feeling only seen in people. But Harris and co-researcher Caroline Prouvost found otherwise.
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In 2014, Harris and Prouvost conducted the study with 36 dog volunteers of various breeds. In the experiment, each dog’s owner had to interact with three different objects in front of their dogs:
- A plastic Jack-o-Lantern,
- A children’s book,
- And moving and barking a stuffed toy that looks like a dog.
Signs a dog is jealous
The study’s results showed that when each dog’s owner was paying attention to the fake dog, the dogs showed the following reactions:
- Tail up,
- Trying to get between their owner and the fake dog,
- Pawing or nudging their owner,
- And whining.
However, these behaviors and reactions were not as prominent as when their owners interacted with the other items.
- 78% of the dogs pawed their owners when they were interacting with the fake dog;
- 42% did the same when their owners were interacting with the pail;
- And 22% of the dogs appeared to be jealous of the children’s book.
Figure: C. Harris and C. Provoust/PLOS ONE
Aside from showing signs of jealousy, the study revealed that the dogs were hoping to break the connection between his owner and his rival. It was also fascinating that 86% of the dogs tried to sniff the fake dog’s behind – suggesting that the majority of the dogs saw the fake dog as a real rival.
Yes, dogs feel jealous
Contrary to what most psychologists say, jealousy isn’t unique to humans and dogs feel it too – but in a more basic form. According to Harris and Prouvost, jealousy may have evolved in different species that have multiple dependent youngsters because they have to compete for food and affection.
“Many people have assumed that jealousy is a social construction of human beings – or that it’s an emotion specifically tied to sexual and romantic relationships,” said Harris. “Our results challenge these ideas, showing that animals besides ourselves display strong distress whenever a rival usurps a loved one’s affection.”