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Dogs appear to become jealous of owners' attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Man's best friend - whether named Fido, Rocket, Rufus, Porkchop, Spike, or whatever - might want to be your only friend.

Okay, it's not that serious but a new study shows canine companions aren't too keen on their owners giving attention to others.

U.C. San Diego psychologists and professor Christine Harris found that dogs get jealous too, especially when humans give attention to other dogs. Even if they aren't real!

Harris and one of her former students recorded the behavior of 36 different dogs in their own homes. The dog's owners were given a picture book, a bucket for Halloween candy and a toy dog - that barked. They were then instructed to read the book aloud and give attention to the bucket and the toy dog like actual pets.

According to the study, the dogs paid very little attention to the book and the bucket but more than 75 percent of the dogs nudged and snapped at the toy dog when owners interacted with it.

Harris told U.C. San Diego's news center, "Our study suggests not only that dogs do engage in what appear to be jealous behaviors but also that they were seeking to break up the connection between the owner and a seeming rival. ... It looks as though they were motivated to protect an important social relationship."

Now, the study of dog behaviors similar to those of humans isn't particularly new. Time points to studies by Marc Beckoff, author and professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, that show dogs "exhibit altruism, empathy, and a sense of justice."

But Harris says the results from this study are particularly fascinating because jealousy was previously thought to require complex cognition - the kind that separates humans from other animals.

While one Forbes writer calls the study's methodology "pretty hilarious" and the results "common sense," she adds the experiments "suggest that there may be some biological underpinnings for jealousy among social animals."

But not everyone is convinced the findings show dogs actually feel jealousy.

Alexandra Horowitz, a cognitive scientist, told The New York Times, "What can be shown is that dogs seem to want an owner's attention when there is attention being given out; this study confirms that."

Despite the small sample size, the researchers hope their findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, will lead to further research on animals and social emotions.

Join the discussion

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leslie July 24 2014 at 7:21 AM

Anyone that has ever had a dog knows they not only can be jealous, they have more emotions and feelings than most people! The problem is, dogs understand people more than people understand them. Dogs rule!!! Go fetch your own newspaper!

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6 replies
Leonard Brown July 23 2014 at 11:41 PM

This should not surprise carefully observant pet owners.

We had Charlie, a shelter rescue Long-haired Dachsund/Cocker Spaniel mix. He was adorable and brightened up considerably when he realized how much he was loved.

One Christmas, he danced around each person sharing joy as presents were unwrapped, including a new sweater for our aging long-hair Silver Tabby. When we began cleaning up the paper mess and collecting presents to clear away the room, Charlie's demeanor abruptly changed. He walked around to the back of the tree. Laid down, put his chin on his outstretched paws and sighed heavily. I was struck with sadness and wonder. Asked my wife and she saw it too. She quickly wrapped a toy he had overlooked for a time, unwrapped it with him and his joy was quite obvious.

Charlie taught me that Christmas that he had a profound capacity for emotions. It made his adoration and devotion to us family members all the more precious. 15 years after his passing, I still miss him.

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4 replies
coopdabomb July 24 2014 at 7:42 AM

There is nothing better than a beer in your hand and a dog at your side

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3 replies
animal2605 July 24 2014 at 1:08 AM

For the skeptics, you either dont have dogs and never had, or you arent around them enough to know them. I have three of them and been around them my whole life. They have emotions and they can show them.All three are very smart and understand us very well. Sometimes though, just like little kids, they dont want too. Like when we go somewhere and cant take them with us. They still try their best to go with us and act upset when they cant. Yet, when we come home, there is no grudge. Just displays of how happy they are to see us..

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3 replies
Jo & Janell July 24 2014 at 3:19 AM

My mother in laws dog Cooper is very jealous of his Nana's attention. If she pets one of my dogs he will come over and push them out of the way so she pets him. Dog have a wide range of emotions.

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Erin July 24 2014 at 9:26 AM

Last night our five pound Yorkie charged, growling at the cat, who was trying to climb into my lap. I (gently) put him down on the floor immediately in response to this. He immediately hopped back up, but instead of coming to me he went and buried his head in a blanket. Jealousy and shame within a few brief moments. You'll never convince me that these animals don't have a broad array of feelings and emotions.

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2 replies
rwilliamhoward Erin July 24 2014 at 12:26 PM

All they lack is the vocal equipment and words to express them. You cannot live with any animal without being fully aware that they really DO feel. I'm a CAT person, and cats express the same. You just have to look a little closer. And you must EARN a cat's love.

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redchance Erin July 24 2014 at 3:24 PM

Of course, my CAT had no healousy issues, just entitlement issues. "You will WAKE UP WHEN I SHOVE YOUR LAPTOP ON THE FLOOR, DAMMIT!" and "OF COURSE I WILL SIT IN YOUR LAP WHEN YOU WANT TO USE THAT AFOREMENTIONED LAPTOP..." Oh. Maybe he was jealous of the laptop.

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tcellguru July 24 2014 at 1:49 AM

i only got out of the 7 grade and i can tell you that

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1 reply
chefmachinist tcellguru July 24 2014 at 4:41 PM

well, hell, son, I'm votin for you to be president!

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Linda Jones July 24 2014 at 1:59 PM

OMG, how much did these nutjobs spend to find this out? ROFLMAO

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2 replies
steelebook Linda Jones July 24 2014 at 9:15 PM

Yeah, Linda. What good is knowledge anyway, huh?

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TALK TO THE HOOF Linda Jones July 25 2014 at 1:02 AM

Anything to humanize their genetic mutations.

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jcbstz July 24 2014 at 12:17 PM

It took research to find this out??? good god, why don't these people search for something that common folks don't know. How many millions did we spend now to figure out that when you are a dogs turf. BE CAREFUL?????????????

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2 replies
cros9209 jcbstz July 24 2014 at 2:57 PM

Isn't that the truth ! I have known this for 30 years...Duh !

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captkerry jcbstz July 25 2014 at 4:16 AM

OMG I hope my tax dollars did not pay for this stupit study.

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FRAN July 24 2014 at 10:01 AM

Dogs jealous?? You betcha. My chihuahua pup Manolo (4 mos) is extremely jealous of our older chihuahua Tony. If I put out treats, he won't let Tony get any. I cannot give Tony any loving or he goes nuts. Both food dishes go down and Manolo will bounce from dish to dish not letting Tony eat. Manolo took over all Tony's favorite toys. If I call his name he comes, but if I call Tony he comes running like a bolt of lightning. Can't pet Tony without him nudging in and pushing Tony away. Dogs jealous?? You betcha.

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1 reply
Susan FRAN July 24 2014 at 2:01 PM

Little brat! he he he

I had the same issue with my cats. My older cat, Maggie, is 19 and the baby (Mei Li) was at the time, just maybe 4 months old. Finally, Maggie stood up for herself. She'd put up with enough. I made sure she knew I was proud of her.

The balance of power shifted then and became more even.

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