Science

dogs and jealous, dogs and emotions, self awareness and animals

The Dark Side of Devotion: Your Dog May Be Jealous

March 18, 2009 12:21 PM
by Shannon Firth
Scientists previously thought dogs were only capable of the most basic feelings, but recent findings show that they are capable of secondary emotions, like jealousy.

Man's Best Friend Is Capable of Jealousy, Too

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Previously, scientists were under the impression that dogs, although capable of experiencing rage, lust and joy, could not experience more complex emotions, such as jealousy. But recently, the Daily Telegraph reported that scientists now have evidence that dogs do become jealous, and can feel other so-called secondary emotions including embarrassment, empathy and guilt.

In a study conducted at the University of Vienna, Dr. Friederike Range found that dogs responded positively across all situations, whether given a treat or not, except in situations where dogs saw another dog being rewarded for the task but received nothing themselves. In the experiment, Range had 43 trained dogs offer their paws to human experimenters. When the dog was denied a treat that other dogs received, he or she offered a paw less than half of the time. Such dogs also licked and scratched themselves, exhibiting signs of stress. The experiment may be suggestive of other scenarios where seemingly unfair attention is granted to another pet or person.

Range told New Scientist, “We are now testing for envy in wolves, and I would be surprised if we didn't find it.”

The Daily Telegraph also quoted Dr. Paul Morris, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth, who told The Sunday Times: "We are learning that dogs, horses, and perhaps many other species are far more emotionally complex than we ever realised.” Morris also told the Times that his studies of dog owners found nearly all dogs behaved jealously at the start of new relationships; in many cases, the dogs attempted to pull the owner away from a new partner.

Related Topic: Can dogs read your emotions?

A recent study from England’s University of Lincoln reported that certain canine behaviors, adapted over centuries of living with humans, suggest that dogs may be capable of reading human facial expressions.

Reference: Advice for dog lovers

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