Research Shows that Dogs Do Get Jealous

Research Shows that Dogs Do Get Jealous

Anyone who owns a dog knows that on the odd occasion their pets can get quite jealous. This sort of canine behaviour typically occurs when their owners pay a little too much attention to someone else's dog. Some of our canine companions even get possessive and jealous when there's food or toys around and do their hardest not to let another pooch anywhere near them even though they would not be interested in the objects if another dog was not around.

It is quite common for our canine friends to show this type of jealous behaviour but it is only very recently that studies have proved that our lovely, loyal canine friends do feel jealousy when there is another dog, person or even child around who is getting more attention from their owners than they are.

A Variety of Dog Breeds Used in the Research

For a long time many people including vets and animal behaviourists did not feel very comfortable thinking that dogs (and other animals) felt the same human emotions as people do which included jealousy, but now it seems our pooches really do get quite possessive and therefore will show this very human emotion namely - jealousy. The studies were carried out by the University of California in San Diego and included a variety of dog breeds being used in the research which included the following:

  • Belgian Malinois
  • Chihuahua
  • Boston Terrier
  • Dachshund
  • Maltese
  • Havanese
  • Pomeranian
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Pug
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Welsh Corgi
  • Shih Tzu
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Several mixed breeds

In total, there were 36 dogs involved in the study with most pooches weighing less than 35 lbs and which did not stand much over 35 inches high. This meant only smaller to medium sized breeds were used in the research. In order to evaluate whether a dog was indeed showing signs of jealousy, these pooches were first studied in their own home environments before being introduced to an animatronic (robot) dog that barked, whined and wagged its tail just as a real dog would do.

How the Research was Conducted

Dog owners were asked to interact with the robot"" dog much as they would do with a dog they might meet in a park or elsewhere. Researchers then studied each individual dog's reaction to the fact they were not the centre of attention . Being ignored by their owners whilst they played with the animatronic dog bought out clear signs of jealous behaviour in the pooches being studied proving that dogs do indeed feel this type of emotion.

The dogs did everything they could to prevent their owners from getting close or interacting with the ""robot"" dog and they did so by barking and then trying to biteit. Owners were also asked to be totally absorbed by a book which played music and which had pop-up pages in it to see how their pooches reacted to the situation and found that this too triggered a jealous reaction in them.

Researchers found that canine jealousy is trigged by social interaction as well as animated objects much more so than where inanimate things were involved. Another interesting fact was that the majority of the dogs involved in the research first sniffed the robotic dog's backside before reacting to it, much as they would a real life pooch.

The findings of these canine studies are very similar to research carried out on 6 month old children who also demonstrated jealous behaviour when their parents paid lots of attention to a very realistic looking doll. The infants did not, however, show any signs of jealousy if their mother's read a book rather than pay any attention to them.

Is Jealousy in Dogs a Learnt Emotion or Part of Their Make-up?

The question is whether the jealous emotion is a learnt behaviour in dogs (and humans) or whether it is part of their biological make-up. Studies carried out by Harris and Prouvost lean towards the fact that ""jealousy"" is a primordial emotion that does indeed exist both in infants as well as other social species namely dogs.

It would be fair to say that most dog owners have known for a long time that their pooches show signs of jealousy in certain situations whether there was another dog involved or even people and children. If owners ignore their pooches and pay a little more attention to something else, dogs all too often show a jealous side to their characters in a variety of ways which includes whining, barking, growling and barking. They will also do everything in their power to get between their owners and the object of their attention. These recent studies have proved that dog owners were indeed right.


Dogs are great characters to be around and they bring their owners lots of pleasure. More research than ever is being done and the results of certain studies just reinforce what many people have known for a long time which is that our canine friends are more complex than we first thought they were and that they do indeed show many ""human"" emotions, one of which is jealousy.


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