Are Dogs Jealous? Yes, Especially When Owners Pay Attention to Others (Dogs, That Is)

Anyone who has a dog already knows this.  But now scientists are copping to the fact.

Dogs get jealous.

Sadly, I've never had a dog (hope to get one soon).  But from knowing friends' dogs, it's obvious that they get sad, and depressed and excited, just like we do (only, we don't wag our tails!).

"Emotion researchers" have been arguing for years whether jealousy requires complex cognition, reports. And some scientists have even said that jealousy is an entirely social construct – not seen in all human cultures and not fundamental or hard-wired in the same ways that fear and anger are.

But the new findings support the view that there may be a more basic form of jealousy, which evolved to protect social bonds from interlopers, according to the Web site.

They show that dogs exhibit more jealous behaviors, like snapping and pushing at their owner or the rival, when the owner showed affection to what appeared to be another dog (actually a stuffed dog that barked, whined and wagged its tail). Dogs exhibited these behaviors more than if the same affection was showered on a novel object and much more than when the owner’s attention was simply diverted by reading a book.

“Our study suggests not only that dogs do engage in what appear to be jealous behaviors but also that they were seeking to break up the connection between the owner and a seeming rival,” said UC San Diego psychology professor Christine Harris. “We can’t really speak to the dogs’ subjective experiences, of course, but it looks as though they were motivated to protect an important social relationship.”

 Dogs were about twice as likely to push or touch the owner when the owner was interacting with the faux dog (78 percent) as when the owner was attending to an object (42 percent). About 30 percent of the dogs also tried to get between their owner and the stuffed animal. And while 25 percent snapped at the “other dog,” only one did so at the two other objects paid attention to by owners -- a pail and a book -- also used in the study.

 “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,” Harris said. “Our results challenge these ideas, showing that animals besides ourselves display strong distress whenever a rival usurps a loved one's affection.”


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