“Yes. Yes, they do.” says science.
According a recent study by researchers Christine R. Harris and Caroline Prouvost at the University of California, San Diego, dogs exhibit behavior consistent with what we understand about human jealousy.
Their experiment was simple: 36 dogs were videotaped interacting with their owners in one of three tests. In the first test, the owners showed affection (e.g., “petting, talking sweetly”) toward a stuffed animal in the presence of their dog. In the next test, owners showed the same level of affection for a plastic jack-o-lantern pail. In the third test, owners read aloud from a children’s pop-up book which emitted melodious sounds.
The results were rather clear and not surprising to anyone who has owned a dog possessing even a tinge of a jealous streak within them. The study found the dogs’ tested reacted with “behaviors aimed at preventing or breaking up a liaison” between their owners and the object “which is the primary motivational state that accompanies jealousy and that distinguishes jealousy from other emotions such as anger.”
Dogs responded most vigorously and aggressively to tests involving the stuffed animal, often attempting to push their owner or the object, or simply trying to get in between the two.
Responses by dogs were less pronounced in the case of the jack-o-lantern pails or children’s books, leading researchers to believe either (a) dogs are less jealous of their owners’ interaction with obviously intimate objects, or (b) dogs are not big readers and/or fans of Halloween.
If you are interested in knowing more, here is the full study. Alternatively, you can always come over and watch my dog (Steve) bark, howl and whine at the TV every time anything with fur appears on screen, unknowingly confirming the veracity of the study’s findings with his adorable little jealous tantrums. Then, after his furry onscreen competition for my affection and attention disappears, he’ll come sit next to me for several minutes in order to feel reassured of his place at the top of my heart. He’s obviously very jealous and insecure (and hates baths), just like his owner.
Photos via: Brent Lee — Google — cocoparisienne