“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” — Josh Billings How does your dog react when the two of you are out for a walk, and you stop to pay attention another dog? Does it bark, whine or push in between the rival dog and you? Dog owners know such behavior is nothing but jealousy. However, those with the titles behind their names have insisted that humans project their emotions and feelings onto their dogs.
New research into canine jealousy
From the University of Auckland in New Zealand, Amelia Bastos was the lead author of the published research findings in the journal Psychological Science. She says they learned that the jealousy dogs showed was even evident when they could only imagine or suspect that their owners were “two-timing” them.
Typical jealous behavior of human kids or babies
Human children and infants react with a typical approach response when they are jealous of their parents’ attention paid to other kids. They may cry, seek physical contact with their mothers, throw tantrums and scream. They may even attack the one stealing the mother’s attention. However, the most common reaction is to approach the mother to demand attention.
Previously, scientists rejected the idea that dogs showed human-like jealousy because they used different standards. They compared the dogs’ reactions with those that human infants and children show when jealous. However, the new research measured the canine jealousy on the urgency of their approach attempts.
The experiments to test jealousy
Researchers used realistically looking fake dogs and common cylinders covered in fluffy fabric. They put the dogs and their owners in a room where they also put the fake dogs and the fluffy cylinders. The dogs showed no reaction to them. However, the experiments proceeded to a stage where the dog owners petted the fake dogs through a fence-like separation. The dogs were clearly unhappy about it. This is where the researchers used a different measure for determining the urgency of the real dogs’ approach. They measured the strength of them pulling on the leashes that kept them away from their owners.
Even imagining made them jealous
For the next stage of the experiment, they put a barrier between the dogs and the fakes. The real dogs could not actually see their owners petting the dog, but they clearly used their imaginations about what seemed to be going on. Their pulling on the leashes to approach was as strong as before.
How did they react to the fluffy cylinders?
The cylinders looked nothing even close to dogs. The researchers used them as a control measure after every step of the experiments with the fake dogs. The results showed clearly that the dogs did not regard the cylinders as threats or rivals. They showed none of the urgency to approach and interfere when their owners pretended to pet the cylinders.
Judging by the force with which the dogs pulled their leashes to get the rival away from their owners, the researchers felt confident in their finding that dogs showed human-like jealousy. However, they mentioned that testing the validity of dog owners claiming their dogs to show guilt about doing something wrong will be more complicated.