Is Your Dog Jealous?

//Is Your Dog Jealous?

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.

Another common manifestation of jealousy in dogs comes from the complex relationship between a mother dog, her puppies, and her owner, according to Psychology Today. Unlike humans, a canine mother does not maintain the maternal instinct for her children for the remainder of her life. It wanes as soon as the puppies are able to survive on their own.However, when the young puppies receive a lot of attention from humans in the household, this can make the mother dog jealous of that attention. “She may begin ignoring the pups and trying to exclude them from the maternal nest. This can escalate to the point where she might actually become aggressive toward the pups or even toward her owner.”

This is just the beginning of research into the emotional lives of dogs. Jealousy is a complex emotion, and in humans, can lead to several levels of speculation, anger, and fear. Researchers aren’t quite sure of the lengths at which a dog may feel jealousy and envy, but it can be said for sure: man’s best friend has complex feelings and we are anxious to hear more on the topic!