New Research Reveals Dogs Show Jealousy Of Rival Pets
Researchers at the University of California recent carried out a study on jealousy with dogs. Prior to this study hardly any research has been done into this emotion with dogs. This could be because people have assumed for a long time that jealousy is too complex an emotion for dogs. However this study suggests we could be wrong.
Although the study was done with only 36 dogs which is quite a small number in research terms, it still highlights that there could be more to jealous than we first thought where dogs are concerned. It is likely to spark further research into the subject.
Christine Harris and the researches from the University of California adapted this study from a jealousy study that was carried out on 6 month old babies. The study looked at 36 dogs including a range of different breeds. They videoed dogs in their own homes interacting with their owner.
She first got the idea for the study when she was spending time with her parent’s Border Collies, a highly intelligent breed. She noticed ‘One would push the other’s head out from underneath my hand so that both hands were on him. The other did the same. They each wanted exclusive affection.’ This made her realising the behaviour they were displaying could well be jealousy and she decide to investigate further by working on this study.
In the study owners were asked to completely ignore their dogs and interact with either a stuffed dog animal, a pop up book that they read aloud or a jack-o-lantern pail. The stuffed toy was a dog that wagged its tail, whined and barked.
78% of dogs pushed their owner when they were interacting with the stuffed toy. Christine Harris who was in charge of this project said ‘Our results show that animals besides ourselves display strong distress whenever a rival usurps a loved one’s affection.’
The dogs were twice as likely to try and get attention from their owner playing with a rival dog as they were with a bucket of sweets. Only 22% of dogs appeared to be affected when their owner was reading a book and almost a third of the dogs attempted to places their body between the owner and the stuffed toy. Some dogs even attempted to snap at the toy, showing extreme dislike for the situation they were in.
Not all dogs seem to be bothered when other dogs get their owner’s attention, it really does depend on their personality and how the owner behaves. This is why we have to be very careful when introducing a new dog into the home if you already have a dog.
Dogs may have learned the emotion of jealousy in the wild. Paired mates may display jealousy when others go near their mate and young pups often have to fight for their parents affections when they are young. However, pet dogs have been domesticated for a very long time and it is likely that we have had something to do with this.