The latest scientific research says that there could be a darker side to your dog‘s soft puppy eyes that make you melt. Dogs might be cleverly disguised, green-eyed monsters.
Yes, I can sadly attest to this. I knew from day uno that my Yorkie with a Napoleon complex, Maya, was super jealous of our baby kitty, Missy. My family thought it was both normal and a little bit hilarious that Maya would lunge towards anyone who tried to pick Missy up.
In the event that we did pick kitty up, Maya would run around us, bark (really loudly), start shaking, scratch at our legs pleading “pick me up, pick me up!” and/or start eating (she’s an emotional eater). Sigh.
So, I’m super relieved that this research is out and I can rub it in everyone’s face that I’m not exaggerating or making things up.
Do Dogs Experience Jealousy?
As reported in BBC, jealousy isn’t unique to humans anymore. California researchers from the University of San Diego, Christine R. Harris and Caroline Prouvost, have shown that jealousy doesn’t require the complex cognitive abilities that we thought — there is also a more basic, or primordial, type of jealousy.
Anyone living with the joys of a jealous dog may already anecdotally know that dogs are capable of being jealous of other dogs, other pets, family members or significant others. Yet, this is the first study of its kind looking at the role jealousy can play in our canine friends.
Our culture likes to play the intense emotion off, but jealousy is a force to be reckoned with; across different human cultures, jealousy is the third leading cause of intentional homicides. Jealousy often requires a social triangle where someone or something is invading a relationship. The emotion is motivated by a desire to remove the threatening obstacle and reinstate the initial relationship. When people and packs depended on social bonds for food, protection, childcare, etc., protecting them meant life or death.
Other research has shown that the desire to protect our social bonds is apparent in humans as young as six months. Adapting the paradigm from that human infant jealousy study, the California researchers looked at 36 dogs. Video captured the dogs’ reactions when their humans gave affection to another lifelike stuffed dog, in their home territories.
All of the dogs were under 35 pounds or shorter than 15 inches. Researchers intentionally chose smaller dogs because they were easier to control (although, I’ve seen some pretty fierce small dogs). Apart from interacting with the stuffed dog toy that could bark and wag its tail, their humans also showed affection towards a jack-o-lantern pail and read a children’s book decked out with pop-up-pages and playing melodies.
The Dogs React
The researchers’ findings were published in the July 2014 journal issue of Plos One. Here’s how the 36 dogs reacted when their human and their territory were at play.
Surprise, surprise, the dogs were most engaged when their humans interacted with the stuffed toy dog; over three-quarters of the dogs pushed or touched their owners. Some also got in between their human and the toy dog and growled at the toy. While most of the dogs seemed less jealous over the inanimate jack-o-lantern, 40 percent did show aggression when their guardians interacted with the object.
This is a new type of science and new tools are being developed. Researchers can’t definitely say that they proved dogs are jealous — maybe the dogs were just distrustful of the other toy dog — but it is a start. Peeling off the layers of animal emotion will take more time, more tools and more tests.
Other Canine Emotions
Just for fun, here are a few of the other emotions that dogs may be experiencing per Cesar’s Way:
– A researcher from Sierra Nevada College found that dogs have a special exhalation that goes beyond normal panting — it could actually be a form of laughter.
– These four dogs who openly mourned their humans already tug at our heartstrings. In 1996, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals launched a project that found 66 percent of dogs exhibited four or more behavioral changes — little appetite, anxiety, under/oversleeping, depression, fear — after the death of a pet companion.
– Charles Darwin saw that dogs openly display joy by jumping and barking for joy.
Ever had a jealous dog? Got any tips for me and you-know-who on dealing with a jealous dog (please, help!). Let us know in the comments below.
Photo Credit: John via Flickr