Dogs Get Jealous, Too, Even for Hidden Rivals

photo of happy dog

April 16, 2021 — Sure, your pooch loves you and you love them. But do dogs also exhibit some of the negative side effects of deep love, such as jealousy?

A study published in Psychological Science says yes. The researchers found that dogs will go so far as to show jealousy even when they can only imagine their owners are interacting with a potential rival.

The researchers put 18 dogs into situations in which their human companion interacted with a fake dog or a fleece cylinder. The cylinder served as the control, the fake dog as the rival.

The dogs watched the fake dog be placed next to the owner. Then a barrier was placed to block the real dog from seeing the fake dog.

The dogs pulled hard on their leash when the owners appeared to stroke the fake dog behind the barrier. The dogs pulled with far less force when the owners stroked the fleece cylinder.

“Research has supported what many dog owners firmly believe — dogs exhibit jealous behavior when their human companion interacts with a potential rival,” said Amalia Bastos with the University of Auckland in New Zealand, who was the lead author on the paper.

In previous research, 80% of dog owners said their pets would display jealous behavior, such as barking and pulling on a leash, when they give attention to other dogs, the study said.

The new study said dogs are one of the few species that display jealous behaviors in ways that a human child might when their mother gives affection to another child.

“In humans, jealousy is closely linked with self-awareness, which is one reason animal-cognition researchers are so interested in studying jealousy and other secondary emotions in animals,” the study said.

Bartos said it’s too early to conclude that dogs experience jealousy like humans do, but “it is now clear that they react to jealousy-inducing situations, even if these occur out-of-sight.”

A 2014 study at the University of California, San Diego, found that puppies became agitated when their owners showed affection to a stuffed dog that had been engineered to bark, whine, and wag its tail convincingly.

This jealous streak only surfaced when owners were attending to the stuffed dog and not when they were occupied with random objects.

WebMD Health News


Psychological Science: “Dogs Act Jealously Even When They Don’t See Their Rival.”

Public Library of Science, news release, July 23, 2014.

University of California, San Diego, news release, July 23, 2014.

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