A research paper recently published in PLOS ONE hints that dogs may feel jealousy in a similar way humans do. In this study over thirty dogs of fourteen different breeds were put in the situation of seeing their owners give attention to a stuffed, animated dog. They tended to growl more, some snapped or put themselves between their owner and the puppet.
The BBC article about the study states that “The researchers believe that the dogs understood that the stuffed dog was real. The authors cite the fact that 86% of the dogs sniffed the toy’s rear end, during and after the experiment.”
However, when the object of the owner’s attention was a bucket with a face painted on it the dogs did not react so vividly although they still were unsettled, and when the owners ignored them to read aloud from a children’s book only one had something to “say” about it, as reported on The Scientist.
The lead researcher of the study at the University of California in San Diego, Christine Harris, told The Guardian that the feeling of jealousy in dogs is considered of primordial nature and similar to that observed in babies. A previous work by Harris suggests that six-month-old babies show jealousy when their mothers pay attention to a realistic doll but not when they read a book.
Surely, dog owners won’t be surprised by this news since canine behavior as is seen on this video is quite common, but the researchers point out the fact that this is the first formal experiment testing jealous behavior in dogs.