Jealousy is one of the strongest human emotions, but do dogs experience it the same way we do? While researchers believe the feeling our dogs experience is more primitive than what we feel, they do indeed suffer pangs of envy when they see you with another pooch.
There’s no doubt that jealousy plays an important role in our society. Without it, we might not have some of Shakespeare’s greatest works, our favorite love songs, or the American treasure that is reality TV.
Everything seems to be wonderful, until a new pooch comes along, stealing attention, and walking around like…
The results of a new study conducted by psychology professor Christina Harris at the University of San Diego revealed that there may be a more “basic form of jealousy, which evolved to protect social bonds from interlopers.”
Dogs are extremely social animals, so it’s only natural that they will be biologically wired to protect their most important relationships.
The study worked with 36 dogs in their own homes whose owners ignored them while playing with a stuffed or animated dog, a jack-o-lantern pail, and a pop-up book that played melodies. The owners were told to treat the objects like the real dogs, petting them, talking to them, and showing them ruv.
“Our study suggests that dogs not only engage in what appears to be jealous behavior, but that they also seek to break-up the connection between the owner and a seeing rival,” Harris said.
The dogs were twice as likely (78%) to push or touch the owner when they were interacting with the fake dog than when they were interacting with the jack-o-lantern (42%). And only 22% did this with the pop-up book. In addition, 30% of the dogs tried to get between their owners and the stuffed dog, and 25% snapped at the fake dog. Only one dog snapped at the jack-o-lantern or the book.
And to no surprise, 86% of the dogs sniffed the toy’s rear-end. Because every pup knows, that’s where they can find the most answers. See? Butts and science CAN go together.
Harris points out that when we think about jealousy we often think about it in terms of human mates. But a great deal of jealousy arises in babies, young children, and as the study suggests, dogs. She argues that the emotion may have evolved with siblings competing for parental resources and that we are “wired up” for it.
It is slightly ironic that the emotion sparked by our desire to protect our relationships is the same emotion that can also tear them apart. The moral of the story is, whether it’s a stuffed toy:
Your laptop or cell phone:
Or another dog:
Ruv your pups equally, because they are both deserving of your attention.
And they should be best friends. Not enemies.