Many owners find that their dog is sometimes able to show signs of jealousy. The fact that dogs are jealous of a potential social rival shows that they are aware of themselves, according to a recent study.
Dogs can be jealous at the sight of a rival
Dogs can be jealous of a situation they are not in. For example, this can happen when a handler has petted another dog other than his own in his absence. In reality, this form of jealousy could have its origin a supposed social rival, even if it is for example a fake dog like a soft toy or a simple blanket. Amalia Bastos is a doctoral student at the University of Aucklaud (New Zealand), expert in dog psychology. In a study published in the journal Psychological science on April 7, 2021, she and her team tried to figure out what goes on in a dog’s mind when something makes him jealous.
“Research has confirmed what many dog owners firmly believe: Dogs exhibit jealous behavior when their human companion interacts with a potential rival”, said Amalia Bastos.
Very meaningful experiences
In humans, the feeling of jealousy is in connection with self-awareness. Most jealous people thus suffer from a lack of self-confidence. If dogs are capable of expressing jealousy, does that mean that they are aware of themselves? As part of this work, the researchers conducted exercises with eighteen dogs. The animals witnessed a scene in which their owners stroked a fake dog, a fleece blanket or a cylinder.
The peculiarity of these tests was that the researchers had put in place a barrier between the real dog and its owner. However, this barrier only masked what the master was stroking and not the master himself. So the real dog would see its owner stroke something without knowing what it was. Another test consisted of mimic an imaginary caress by addressing a single cylinder.
Using a dynamometer, scientists found that dogs tended to more pull on their leashes when it was a fake dog. This allowed the researchers to conclude that the notion of social rival was supposed to be the trigger for dog jealousy. This also made it clear that the cylinder was not identified as a rival. Moreover, this jealousy can arise at the sight of such a rival, but also by smelling the smell from another dog.