Spike may be a black lab, but on the inside, he may also be a little green. A new study finds that dogs exhibit jealousy over their owner having contact with other dogs. This news may not come as a surprise to multiple dog owners who have had their pooches fighting over lap space in the past. However, instead of just ascribing human emotion to their dogs, there is now actual factual proof of it.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California in San Diego, tested 36 dogs of various breeds including dachshund, Pomeranian, Boston terrier, Maltese, pug and over half of the participants being mixed in breed. Small dog breeds were selected as they were easier to control in the case of violent outbursts. The test had the owners of these dogs interact with three objects in front of their pets. The first object was a toy dog that barked and wagged its tail. The owners were instructed to play with it like it was a real dog for one minute. The same was done with the second object, a jack-o-lantern pail. For the third object, the owners were instructed to read from a popup book as if they were reading to a child.
The results found that jealous dog behavior was more prevalent in some objects than others. Jealous dog behaviors exhibited including snapping at the object, pushing it out of the way, pushing or nudging their owners and trying to get between their owners and the toy. When their owners were playing with the toy dog, 78% of dogs tried to push their owner, compared to the 42% that did so with the jack-o-lantern and 22% that did so with the book. Surprisingly, 25% of dogs snapped at the toy dog while none snapped at the other toys. This comes after 86% of dogs sniffed the butt of the toy dog suggesting that it seemed real to many of them.
"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," states lead researcher Christine Harris.
"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."