We all experience the feeling of jealousy at some point in life. In fact, it is considered a normal human emotion. But many pet owners often ask, “Do dogs experience the emotions of jealousy?”
Well, you might have observed your dog demanding belly rubs and all your attention, whining when you look at another dog or get green with envy at the dog park. These can sometimes be so embarrassing, and it’s not a great look even on a cute, fluffy pup.
What is Jealousy?
Jealousy, according to psychology, is a very complex emotion that relates to a wide range of feelings, including anger, fear of abandonment, humiliation, or even envy.
Psychologists view jealousy as an emotion that preserves important relationships and preserves valued social bonds.
It is commonly believed that Jealousy is experienced among humans, but the question remains, “do dogs experience jealousy.”
Do dogs experience emotions of jealousy?
The simple truth is that Dogs get Jealous. Although it may be in the same manner as humans, dogs experience emotions. If you observe your dog show signs of jealousy, approach him with some compassion and sensitivity.
One study conducted on 36 dogs in the University of California San Diego adopted a test that has been used on human infants to check whether dogs exhibit jealous behavior.
The research shows how the animals reacted when they were ignored by their owners who were paying attention to an animated stuffed dog. While these owners were attending to these stuffed animals, about three-quarters of the dogs touched or pushed their pet parents.
The dogs made several attempts to muzzle their way between their parents and the toy, and 42% of the dogs snapped at the pet. More so, 86% of the dogs sniffed the butt of the stuffed toys, indicating that they see them as real dogs.
The lead researcher, Christine Harris, said, “The main concern that you have when you’re jealous is to break the bond between your loved one and your rival. When these dogs make attempts to draw their owners’ attention away from the stuffed animals, it indicates that they’re having a feeling that is quite similar to human jealousy.”
This study supports the idea that jealousy does not necessarily require complex cognition and self-reflection. This primordial jealousy that is seen in dogs may have evolved as a means to secure resources, such as social bonds or food, and likely serve as a step towards the development of complex jealousy.
Dogs Jealousy vs. human jealousy
Dog jealousy is not exactly like human jealousy. Besides, it is not as complex as the jealousy that a human may experience.
One study conducted at the University of Vienna observed that while dogs are sensitive to being rewarded for the same action (every dog gets a treat), they do not really give any attention to equity (getting equal rewards.
Invariably, this means your pup may not get jealous if you give Fluffy more treats than them. All they want is a share of the action.
You see, dogs actually experience jealousy, but they do not have the kind of jealousy that humans have that makes them feel bad when they get a reduced share of any action.
Jealousy, as a secondary emotion
Scientists have separated emotions into primary and secondary categories. The primary emotions include joy, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust. These emotions are universal and may be commonly seen even in family-friendly movies.
Secondary emotions on the other hand require more complex processing and cognitive function, and they include shame, guilt, envy, and jealousy.
These secondary emotions require a sense of self-awareness, and many people initially believed dogs do not get jealous. But more recent studies have shown that dogs experience jealousy, and this has opened a wide range of possibilities in terms of the emotional capacity of our furry friends.
Dogs pay good attention in social settings
According to the study above, which was conducted at the University of California on 36 dogs, we see how dogs snapped, pushed and touched their owners, got between their owner and objects when the owner showed affectionate behavior towards the fake dog in a manner that they recognized.
This shows that the emotion is there, even when it may not be as complex as human jealousy. This study mainly suggests that dog’s jealousy is triggered by social interaction and not necessarily because their owners ignored them for an inanimate object.
Do dogs get jealous of your new spouse?
Yes, your pup may get jealous of the attention you’re giving your new spouse. However, this form of jealousy could indicate resource guarding.
One article published by the Association of Animal Behavior Professionals showed that when a resource is a person and there’s a competition for that person, we simply tag it as jealousy.
Well, it’s not bad for your trusted doggo to see your new spouse as a threat to their cherished resource. Think of it this way: You have a friend who gives you food regularly, plays with you the whole day, rub your tummy, and pay attention to you, and all of a sudden, they stop or reduce how frequent they do these things because a new friend is around. You’ll somehow feel jealous.
Why will your little pup not feel jealous? When you have a new spouse in the house whom you’re trying to impress with love?
The best thing to do is to take it slow and introduce your new spouse to your pup but in a safe manner. But try to show empathy as your pup will have to share their most precious resource with a stranger.
The jealousy between dogs and their mothers
The complex relationship between a dog owner, a mother dog, and her puppies is also one major aspect where jealousy tends to appear.
Basically, a canine mother does not keep that maternal instinct for her children as long as a human does. When the puppies get to a stage when they can survive on their own, the mother loses the maternal instinct. And at this stage, they can get jealous when their puppies receive a lot of affection from people in the house.
As a dog owner, you may try to give your canines’ equal care and attention- including mothers and puppies- but this can be difficult. The mother may start to see the pups as rivals and become jealous. And this can make them exclude the pups from the maternal nest the moment you divert attention from her towards the puppies.
Although this is quite common, it is strange that behavioral scientists tend to ignore it most time.
The simple answer to the question, “do dogs experience the emotion of jealousy?” is YES! Dogs get jealous, but may not be in the same manner as their human companions. However, dogs experience jealousy in their way and pay attention to their surroundings.
They become jealous when it involves resource guarding, social interactions, and cases of equity. When your dog kisses your face in fury or takes over your lap in a rage, don’t be too hard on them, instead, get compassionate and believe your pup is only human.