Do dogs get jealous? | Dr. Justine Lee, DACVECC, DABT, Board-certified Veterinary Specialist
Do dogs get jealous?
Most animal behaviorists say that dogs don’t get jealous, but rather, that we’re anthropomorphizing feelings of jealousy onto our dog. However, if you’ve ever owned a dog, you likely know: they do indeed seem to get jealous! Well, a new study performed at University of California, San Diego finally gives us some proof.
This study looked at 36 dogs and their owners. The researchers had the dog owners do three things:
1) Demonstrate acts of affection to a fake animatronic dog
2) Demonstrate acts of affection to a plastic jack-o-lantern Halloween pail
3) Read a children’s book aloud ignoring their dog
So, what’d they find?
They found that approximately 80% of the dogs physically pushed their owners when they were demonstrating affection to the animatronic dog. Only 40% of the dogs did this when the owners faked affection to the Halloween pail, and only 20% of dogs wanted attention when their owners read out loud while ignoring their dog. In addition, approximately 25% of the dogs acted aggressively towards the fake competing pup, barking at it and even trying to bite it. Only one assumedly needy dog acted aggressively towards the plastic Halloween pail or book.
So what did the researchers say about this? They believed that “dogs do engage in what appear to be jealous behaviors” while also being smart enough to try to “break up the connection between the owner and a seeming rival,” said UCSD psychology professor Christine Harris. Researchers thought that dogs may be motivated to “protect an important social relationship” with their pet owner.
These researchers suggested that these behaviors likely evolved from dogs having to compete with their siblings for paternal resources (e.g., a mammary gland, food, etc.). As we domesticated dogs over time, we two-legged humans likely began to fill this “paternal role” for animals.
More importantly, don’t tolerate or positively reward inappropriate behavior – whether it’s jealousy, dominance, aggression, or anything else detrimental! That’s because attention-seeking behavior can lead to “jealousy-like behavior… that includes aggression in some cases, said Brian Hare, a director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center at Duke University.”
A few hints on how to prevent your dog from getting jealous?
• When you see inappropriate jealous-like behavior, give a simple “No!” command.
• Make sure that you don’t give inappropriate rewards. For example, if your dog is acting inappropriately, don’t reach over to cuddle, “baby talk,” or reward your dog with a treat. This is inappropriately rewarding your dog for that bad behavior!
• When in doubt, consult with a veterinary behaviorist if you’re noticing that this behavior is developing in your dog.
Now that this study has shown us that dogs do indeed show jealous-like behavior, make sure to show equal attention to both two-legged and four-legged! This is especially important when introducing newborn babies with family pets. When in doubt, consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist if you’re noticing any inappropriate behavior. The sooner you identify and treat it, the easier it will be to treat!
As previously published with www.pethealthnetwork.com