Many dog owners report that their dogs seem jealous when they interact with other dogs, exhibiting behaviors like leash-pulling, agitation, and vocalization. Is this similar to human jealousy?
Researchers at the University of Auckland wanted to see if our dogs demonstrate a similar type of jealousy to human children when their “parents” pay attention to rivals for their attention and affection.
In humans, a very young child will show jealousy with what’s called an “approach response” as they try to disrupt their parent’s interaction with a sibling or other rival.
The researchers sought to test this response in dogs. To do this, they had dog owners pet a realistic-looking stuffed dog as well as a large fuzzy cylinder in front of their dogs (they didn’t use real test dogs in order to rule out fear and aggression responses).
While the dogs acted normally when their owners interacted with the cylinder, they exhibited signature jealous behaviors when their owners interacted with the stuffed dog. They even showed jealousy when they knew the owner was petting the stuffed dog, even when it was out of their direct sight.
An article on the study says that dogs’ ability to feel jealousy is significant because, in human children, jealousy is linked to self-awareness. Animal cognition experts are interested in how animals like dogs experience secondary emotions, like jealousy and guilt.
Check out this video of the study in action: