Could dogs get jealous? - SunStar

Could dogs get jealous?

A PSYCHOLOGY professor decided to study for the first time whether the human emotion of jealousy really happens in dogs. The nine-month study published in July in the science journal Plos One hints that it could be possible, but other experts aren’t so sure.

“While I will not say that dogs do not experience jealousy, this article does not prove that they actually do,” said Dr. Bonnie Beaver, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and a professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

DARK SIDE. A dog stands against the perigee moon, also known as a supermoon, in Madrid, Spain. Researchers, meanwhile, are wondering whether dogs have that dark side where feelings like jealousy lie hidden. (AP FOTO)
DARK SIDE. A dog stands against the perigee moon, also known as a supermoon, in Madrid, Spain. Researchers, meanwhile, are wondering whether dogs have that dark side where feelings like jealousy lie hidden. (AP FOTO)

Beaver also insists dogs lack shame. Despite what people think, the guilty look — head cowered, ears back, eyes droopy — is a reaction to people throwing tantrums over chewed-up shoes and accidents on the carpet, she said.

STUFF JEALOUSY IS MADE OF. A stuffed dog used in the pet jealousy experiment by emotion researcher Christine Harris, a professor of psychology at University of California-San Diego. (AP FOTO)
STUFF JEALOUSY IS MADE OF. A stuffed dog used in the pet jealousy experiment by emotion researcher Christine Harris, a professor of psychology at University of California-San Diego. (AP FOTO)

But Christine Harris, a professor of psychology at the University of California, San Diego, says her dog study supports the theory that there is a more basic form of jealousy.

She and a former student worked with 36 dogs, videotaping owners ignoring their pets while petting and talking sweetly to stuffed, animated dogs or jack-o-lantern pails. A pair of independent workers watched the videos for behavior like aggression or attention-seeking.

When people interacted with the stuffed animals, their dogs pushed or touched them 78 percent of the time; tried to get between the owner and toy 30 percent of the time; and snapped at the fake dog 25 percent of the time, Harris said.

There was much less of that behavior when it came to the toy pails. Forty-two percent of the dogs tried to push or touch them; 15 percent tried to get between them; and 1 percent snapped.

Harris believes the dogs saw the stuffed animals as rivals.

“When they see a loved one show affection toward another what appears to be a real being, they engage in real behaviors to try and draw the affection back to them,” Harris said. “That’s what you see in humans, too.”

Beaver said the study “opens up thoughts about what an animal might be experiencing.” But she’s concerned about calling it jealousy. A dog might be more interested because another “social being” is interacting with the owner, Beaver said.

Harris said she is not claiming a dog’s “internal experience” mirrors that of humans, because it’s impossible to know. (AP)

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