Can dogs feel jealousy? The answer is yes, dogs can feel jealousy. Jealous behavior can be observed in a dog when new companions arrive or in a mother who has just given birth and feels that more attention is being given to the puppies, among other circumstances.
The behavior of a dog experiencing jealousy can manifest as nibbling, nervousness, getting between a person and another dog, attempting to hog attention, or even growling at the other dog. These behaviors can indicate that a dog is feeling jealous.
It was not always believed that dogs could experience jealousy, as they are part of what are called secondary emotions, which include guilt, shame, jealousy, and envy. Secondary emotions require more complex cognitive processes than primary emotions like fear, anger, surprise, and joy.
However, studies, including one by Friederike Range, have demonstrated that dogs can indeed feel jealousy.
In the study, two dogs were trained to perform a task, such as giving a paw. They were placed next to each other and commanded to give a paw. When they obeyed, one of the dogs was rewarded. The unrewarded dog displayed signs of distress and anxiety and stopped performing the task when commanded.
In a further stage of the study, the same test was conducted, but this time, both dogs were rewarded after performing the task correctly. The difference was that the rewards were unequal: one dog received a piece of bread, and the other received a sausage, which is assumed to be more delicious for dogs. Interestingly, in this case, neither of the dogs displayed jealousy and continued to perform the task without signs of annoyance or anger.
The results of this second phase of the study indicate that dogs indeed feel jealousy and envy, but in a less complex way than humans. Dogs do not analyze their companions’ results in as much detail as people who experience jealousy or envy. Dogs do not compare the effort and deservingness of others compared to their own.
Dogs’ jealousy appears to be more primal, serving as a mechanism to maintain and protect their emotional bonds and attentions. It’s a social mechanism to safeguard and defend what is theirs or what they enjoy and need.
It’s important to be mindful of these feelings that can cause discomfort and distress to our pets. One way to prevent jealousy is to treat them fairly (if you have multiple dogs) and to be cautious when introducing new pets or litters of puppies. Avoid making them feel displaced and promote equal treatment.
The behaviors of our furry friends never cease to amaze. As the popular saying goes, “they only lack speech!” and in reality, they do communicate with us through barks, gestures, and tail movements. Understanding their world and, above all, how they perceive the world, the extent of their olfactory capabilities, and other fascinating curiosities about our beloved dogs is crucial. Know, for example, how old your dog is in human years.