Dogs get jealous when they imagine their owner is fussing another pup

Even DOGS get jealous! Pups display envious behaviours when they merely imagine that their owner is interacting with another pooch, study finds

  • Scientists studied 18 dogs and their owners to see how jealous the dog gets  
  • They saw their human near to a fake dog and were then divided by a screen  
  • Even when the dog could not see their owner, they showed signs of jealousy 
  • This proves dogs have the ability to imagine their owner stroking another pooch and getting envious  

Dogs are devoted companions that offer unwavering loyalty to their humans, but new research has exposed the full extent of their inner green-eyed monster.  

Anecdotal evidence from owners is now backed up by scientists which have found pet pooches get jealous when their human strokes another dog.

But research has also found dogs can get jealous just by imagining their owner is fussing another dog, even when they can’t see the interaction.  

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 Anecdotal evidence from owners is now backed up by scientists which have found pet pooches get jealous when their human strokes another dog (stock)

‘Research has supported what many dog owners firmly believe — dogs exhibit jealous behaviour when their human companion interacts with a potential rival,’ said study lead author Amalia Bastos from the University of Auckland.

‘We wanted to study this behaviour more fully to determine if dogs could, like humans, mentally represent a situation that evoked jealousy.’  

Scientists are interested in studying jealousy in animals because it is linked to a degree of self-awareness, which is a complex cognitive trait not seen in all species. 

As part of a study, 18 dogs and their owners were recruited and taken into a room. In that room was either a fleece cylinder or a highly-realistic artificial dog. 

Twice as many flat-faced dogs were abandoned and sent to live at rescue shelters in 2018 than in 2014, a study has found.  

Brachycephalic breeds have a snout that has been purposely shortened via intense selective breeding and it has given rise to a host of health issues. 

They are regularly plagued with breathing issues, skin problems and eye conditions due to complications arising as a result of their shortened nose.

Experts believe that when these manifest in doggy middle-age, between three and four years old, owners struggle to cope with the demands and cost of treatment, forcing them to send their pets to rehoming centres.  

Research from Nottingham Trent University shows the number of flat-faced dogs at 16 Dogs Trust and RSPCA centres doubled in from 24 in 2014 to 48 in 2018. 

The pets, still on their leads, saw their owners stroke the fake dog and then a screen was put up between pet and person so the dog could not see the rival or their owner.

Researchers observed the canine behaviour at this point and saw that the pets pulled hard on the lead and expressed telltale signs of jealousy, such as making growls and appearing agitated. 

This, the researchers say, means that although the dogs could not see their human showering love and attention on a rival, they had the mental capacity to envision it and become jealous as a result. 

For the fleece-lined cylinder, the dogs were far less jealous, indicating their jealousy is reserved for only things they deem to be a threat.   

‘These results support claims that dogs display jealous behaviour,’ said Bastos.

‘They also provide the first evidence that dogs can mentally represent jealousy-inducing social interactions. 

‘Previous studies confounded jealous behaviour with play, interest, or aggression, because they never tested the dogs’ reactions to the owner and the social rival being present in the same room but not interacting.’

‘There is still plenty of work to do to establish the extent of the similarities between the minds of humans and other animals, especially in terms of understanding the nature of nonhuman animals’ emotional experiences,’ she adds. 

‘It is too early to say whether dogs experience jealousy as we do, but it is now clear that they react to jealousy-inducing situations, even if these occur out-of-sight.’

The full findings are published in the journal Psychological Science.

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