Jealousy may seem like an emotion that is unique to humans. But, feeling green with envy may also lend itself to our canine friends.
Research indicates that dogs can be quite possessive when it comes to being the focus of their owners’ attention.
A recent study from University of California, San Diego, studied the reactions of 36 dogs when their owners focused their attention elsewhere to determine if dogs were capable of being jealous. The study participants ignored their own dogs while speaking affectionately to a stuffed dog (that wagged its tail and barked), a plastic Jack O’Lantern, and a children’s book.
According to the study, the dogs did not react strongly to the non-social objects, i.e., the pumpkin and the book, but when the owner showered attention on the toy dog, they barked, touched the owner or the dog, or got between the owner and the object.
Psychologist Christine Harris, who led the study, says she’s been studying jealousy for many years — but in humans. “The motivation that you have when you’re jealous is to really break up the liaison between your loved one and your rival,” she said.
The fact that these dogs seemed like they were trying to draw their owners away from the stuffed animal indicates that they’re feeling something very similar to human jealousy, Harris says.