26 August 2019
Among themselves, and even with toys, dogs can be jealous creatures, according to a study. Photö: AFP
Among themselves, and even with toys, dogs can be jealous creatures, according to a study. Photö: AFP

Forget about the guilty look but dogs can be jealous

Seen this in your dog: head bowed, eyes droopy, ears cocked back?

The guilty look isn’t really what it looks like, according to a new study on canine behavior.

It’s the dog’s reaction to someone getting angry about chewed-up shoes and table stands, torn carpets or soiled linen.

A psychology professor at Texas A&M University studied human-like behavior in dogs after hearing stories about envy and jealousy among our canine friends, according to the Associated Press.

The study concluded that dogs have no shame (so forget about the guilty look) but they might be jealous creatures. The findings were published in a science journal.

“While I will not say that dogs do not experience jealousy, this article does not prove that they actually do,” said Dr. Bonnie Beaver, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and a professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

But Christine Harris, a professor of psychology at the University of California, San Diego, says her dog study supports the theory that there’s a more basic form of jealousy.

She and a former student worked with 36 dogs, videotaping owners ignoring their pets while petting and talking sweetly to stuffed, animated dogs or other objects.

A pair of independent workers watched the videos for behavior such as aggression or attention-seeking.

The findings:

1) When people interacted with the stuffed animals, their dogs pushed or touched them 78 percent of the time; tried to get between the owner and toy 30 percent of the time; and snapped at the fake dog 25 percent of the time.

2) When they see a loved one show affection toward appears to be a real being, the dogs try to draw the affection back to them.

3) With toys, the dogs tried to push them 42 percent of the time; tried to get between them 15 percent and snapped at them 1 percent of the time.

Beaver said the study “opens up thoughts about what an animal might be experiencing”, but she won’t call it jealousy. A dog might be more interested because another “social being” is interacting with the owner, she said.

On the other hand, Harris said she is not claiming a dog’s “internal experience” mirrors that of humans, because it’s impossible to know.

Well, some of us instinctively know how our dog feels the moment we’re in or out the door. We can tell when our friend is just happy to see us.  

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