It’s always fun to know that science verifies what one has always known.  Yes, dogs can become envious of affection lathered on another.  Even a stuffed animal can send a dog into attention envy.

Faux fido

Over three quarters of the dogs were likely to push or touch the owner when they interacted with the decoy.

The envious mutts were more than three times as likely to do this for interactions with the stuffed dog compared to when their owners gave their attention to other objects including a book.

Around a third tried to get between the owner and the faux fido, while a quarter of the put-upon pooches snapped at the dummy dog.

“Our study suggests not only that dogs do engage in what appear to be jealous behaviours but also that they were seeking to break up the connection between the owner and a seeming rival,” said Prof Christine Harris from University of California in San Diego.

“We can’t really speak to the dogs’ subjective experiences, of course, but it looks as though they were motivated to protect an important social relationship.”

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.

Jealousy, according to the authors, may have evolved in species that have multiple dependent young that concurrently compete for food and affection.

The argue that jealousy might give an advantage to a young animal that is not only alert to the interactions between its siblings and its parents but is motivated to intervene.

“Many people have assumed that jealousy is a social construction of human beings – or that it’s an emotion specifically tied to sexual and romantic relationships,” said Prof Harris.

“Our results challenge these ideas, showing that animals besides ourselves display strong distress whenever a rival usurps a loved one’s affection.”

The research has been published in the journal, PLOS One.

My dogs and cats most definitely own me.  🙂