Dogs Have Human Feelings of Jealousy



Dogs, a favorite pet of many Americans, can have the human feelings of jealousy. There are many instances where a dog will cuddle closer or even nudge an owner while he’s interacting with another person or animal. There is much more to them than just a wagging tail and incessant barking.

A study recently published in Plos One shows that dogs exhibit jealousy. Psychologists from the University of California, San Diego, conducted a test using stuffed animals. Three-quarters of the dogs pushed their owners when they played with stuffed animals. The same dogs did not react when their owners interacted with a jack-o-lantern.

The study goes on to say that some dogs became aggressive and sniffed the stuffed animals under its tail. Clearly a sign of jealousy was being exhibited.

Dogs are pack animals and feel comfortable in a social environment. When that environment changes with the introduction of an outsider they react to ensure, they maintain their status in the social group. Some dogs may even react aggressively. There are many instances where the owner of two or more dogs elicits a jealous reaction from the dog while he is petting the other. Often the dog that is not being petted will try to push the other dog aside. It is especially true if the non-petting dog is the alpha.

The human feeling of jealousy that dogs have required complex cognitive abilities according to researchers. It is not thought to be a fundamental core emotion for animals.

While humans most often attribute jealousy to be a romantic reaction, the study examines the possibility that the jealousy in dogs has evolved through natural competition with siblings for food, attention, care and affection. This study cannot determine whether the dogs were jealous or were acting out of fear. It does suggest that dogs react negatively when they feel slighted.

Yale University has established a center studying canine cognition. Here an ongoing study of a dog’s psychology is helping us to understand canine behavior. By presenting dogs with simple games, they can learn what a dog understands and how it goes about problem solving. Social cues and choice measures are used to get an insight into the animal’s behavior.

By using pointing and looking cues, the researchers can see whether a dog understands the message being transmitted. Using a treat as a reward, researchers have learned that dogs often understand the cues more than we might think.

When using choice measures, researchers will place either treats or toys in different locations. In this case, the dog has a choice, and through the selection process examiners can determine whether a dog can distinguish between different objects and understand numbers.

While researchers are busy proving cognitive canine capabilities, to many dog lovers and owners they are really verifying what they already know. There can be no doubt that a dog likes to cuddle, played with and spoken to. Similarly, dog owners know that their pets, depending on the situation, can become aggressive and protective.

Determining that dogs have the human feelings of jealousy is another step forward in understanding dogs in general. A whole spectrum of emotional feelings appears to be present in humans as well as in dogs.

By Hans Benes


National Public Radio
The Los Angeles Times
Yale University