As humankind's faithful animal sidekick for tens of thousands of years, always on hand to offer a barrage licks and nuzzles at a moments notice, it's fair to say that our dogs really do love nothing more than to please us. But as generous as our caring canines are in doling out their affections, it turns out they're really none too pleased when we give a bit of ourselves to something other than them.
Most pet owners probably have noticed their furry friends acting a little put off when another pup is getting all their attention, but now rigorous scientific scrutiny has finally shown there is merit to those suspicions. Yes, dogs are totally the jealous type.
Up until recently, it was believe that that least becoming of emotions was experienced by humans alone, but according to a new study from the University Of California, San Diego, that's not the case.
In a series of experiments based on one originally designed to test whether babies get jealous (and they do), researchers videotaped how 36 dogs reacted when their respective owners were instructed to ignore them and instead dote their sweet attention on other objects: a stuffed-animal dog that moved and barked, a jack o'lantern or a book.
The dogs were twice as likely to intervene in their human's interaction with the stuffed animal as they were with the less-threatening-seeming pumpkin thing, and even less so when the owner was benignly reading the book aloud. Around a third of the dogs also tried to block out the fake dogs with their bodies, and a quarter even tried to bite at them -- all sure signs that they were feeling totally jealous.
Some of the dogs were so consumed with jealousy, says lead researcher Christine Harris, they became desperate.
"These weren't just aggressive acts they carried out. They tried positive things like being more affectionate to regain their loved one's attention, to try and gain their relationship back."
These findings suggest that feeling envious of a rival winning the attention of a loved-one is felt throughout the animal kingdom, though further studies will be required to prove just how pervasive that emotion really is.
But as unseemly as jealousy may be, Harris notes that when dogs don't appear to have a problem with their owners petting around (like a few dogs in the study), it might not necessarily be a sign of confidence in the relationship.
"It's possible these are not very bright dogs, who didn't even realize these items were something to be jealous over, or maybe they were very bright dogs who were not fooled by these inanimate objects. Another possibility is that the bond may not have been very strong with the owner."